Describing the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid as the most powerful Panamera ever – which it is, by more than 100bhp –completely understates just how wantonly potent the range-topping model really is. It would be more appropriate to describe it as the third most powerful road car Porsche has ever produced, shaded only by the recent 911 GT2 RS and the 918 Spyder hypercar. Every version of the 911 Turbo, every 911 GT3 yet produced, the iconic Carrera GT and 959 supercars and even, if you’ll credit it, the 911 GT1 homologation special are all outgunned by this ultra-refined, super-civilised five-door.
The Panamera dynasty isn’t yet a decade old, but it’s already such a cornerstone of the Porsche model range that it feels as though it’s always been a part of it.
Perhaps the single biggest improvement Porsche has made with this second-generation Panamera over the 2009 original is the styling. There’s simply no denying it; the previous version was an ugly and ill-proportioned brute, not unlike a beached whale that has long since died and been left to fester and bloat over a number of weeks. You would have to be on the payroll to describe this new version as beautiful, but it’s certainly an enormous improvement.
The cabin, meanwhile, really is great to look at, just as it is to sit inside. It’s spacious, the build quality is more or less beyond reproach and, at speed, wind and road noise are hushed to near enough Bentley levels.
The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid takes the 542bhp, 4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 that powers the lesser Turbo model as a starting point – a starting point, incidentally, that makes the Panamera a spectacularly accelerative car all on its own – then augments it with a 134bhp electric motor. The total system outputs are 671bhp and 627lb ft.
It immediately feels faster than the Panamera Turbo and faster, too, than many of today’s supercars. This is a crushingly effective grand tourer, shrinking distances in a way only a handful of cars currently on sale can match. The ride is calm and composed and over a twisting stretch of road, it is far more agile and much better controlled than anything this size and weight as any right to be.
On top of all of that, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid also has a 20-mile electric-only range and it’s exempt from London’s congestion charge, too. But it all comes at a price. For one thing, the hybrid system means it weighs rather a lot more than the Turbo. In fact, the weight penalty is 315kg, which means it just isn’t as nimble or as agile as the lower-powered model out on the open road. And then there’s the monetary cost. At £137,140 (that’s just the list price; our test car was optioned up to a staggering £162,458) it’s £22,000 more expensive than the Turbo. Is it worth it? If you could make very good and very regular use of that 20-mile electric range, perhaps. Otherwise, though, the lighter, cheaper, more rewarding Panamera Turbo is comfortably the better overall package.
Engine: 3996cc, twin-turbo V8, petrol, plus electric motor