Armed with 671bhp, the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is among the most powerful cars currently on sale, in any sector. Which is all well and good, except that it's also ferociously expensive: the fastest Panamera costs £137,140. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, meanwhile, is the plug-in Panamera that you don't need a banker's pay packet to be able to afford.
Not that you would call it cheap. At £81,141 the 4 E-Hybrid slots neatly into the middle of the Panamera line-up. It matches a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor for a combined system output of 456bhp and a huge 516lb ft of torque.
The second-generation Panamera is an adept all-rounder. It's effortless and refined on the motorway, undemanding in town and even quite agile and entertaining out on the open road. You choose your preferred flavour of Panamera based on which of those qualities is most important to you, so while the Panamera Turbo is the most fun to drive, this 4 E-Hybrid is at its best in the city. It has an electric-only range of 31 miles and in that mode it's just about brisk enough to hold its own around town. With the V6 engine running, though, the 4 E-Hybrid is quick by any standards, sprinting to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds (thanks in no small part to four-wheel drive and a quick-shifting twin-clutch gearbox).
The batteries can be fully charged in a little under six hours via a conventional household plug, or by using the engine as a generator and through regenerative braking. The latter method is very clever because it recoups energy that would otherwise be lost into the atmosphere as heat, but it's a pity the brake pedal feels so fidgety and inconsistent when you apply any pressure to it. As the car switches between conventional and regenerative braking to slow itself down, the brake pedal twitches and nudges against the ball of your foot. Irritating, but hardly enough to ruin the driving experience entirely.
The thrashy, often harsh-sounding petrol engine is perhaps more of a problem, as is the occasionally clumsy integration of the electric motor with the V6. Plug-in hybrid cars are at their most convincing when you're not really aware quite where the power is coming from or how it is being recouped, but in the 4 E-Hybrid you're never left wondering.
It does have a fantastic cabin and it is refined and comfortable on the motorway, but out on the open road the extra weight of the hybrid drivetrain - something like 300kg over and above a comparable petrol-only Panamera - means it simply isn't as fun to drive as, say, a Panamera 4S.
The 4 E-Hybrid makes most sense for company car drivers who pay tax based on CO2 emissions. For them, it will be easily the most cost-effective model in the Panamera line-up. There is plenty to commend this car, not least its zero-emissions capability, but all things considered the 4 E-Hybrid is a long way from being the highlight of the Panamera range.
|Engine/power unit||Twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine, 2894cc, plus electric motor|
|Transmission||Eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox, four-wheel drive|
|Fuel economy||113mpg (claimed)|
|Emissions||56g/km CO2 (claimed_=)|
|Electric range||31 miles|