One of the more interesting aspects of high-end cars lately is the fact that some of them now plug into the power grid for energy. Of course the Tesla Model S is still selling very well, and the Cadillac ELR is a battery-powered electric with a gas engine to make more juice when you need it.
Porsche is now in the plug-in game as well. For 2014, the hybrid version of their Panamera is now the “E Hybrid,” which means it behaves more like an electric car for short distances and has a power receptacle on its rear fender.
The Panamera S Hybrid came out a couple of years ago and showed that Porsche was serious about getting into the hybrid game. But, getting into it with their own playbook: building a hybrid that was still a high-performance sedan.
With the E-Hybrid, the performance is still there. But there’s a much larger on-board battery, and the car can behave as a plug-in electric for shorter commute distances. This is now the only hybrid version of the Panamera, as there’s no longer a non-plug-in hybrid.
You can tell the new E-Hybrid right off the bat by the splashes of lime green paint in various places. The rear and side logos, the wording on the door sills, and the large brake calipers all wear it. Yes, lime green hardware glowing from behind the wheel spokes. Porsche wants to make sure you know that this is the “green” model – pun fully intended.
To take advantage of the E-Hybrid’s new battery arrangement, you can select different modes via buttons on the console. To drive around like an EV in full electric mode, you just select “E Power.” Providing there’s sufficient charge in the 9.4kwh battery, the car will glide along with the engine off, just like an electric car.
Porsche claims “up to” 15 miles of electric driving. I spent a week in the new Panamera S E-Hybrid, and after charging the battery fully on my 240v home recharging station, the display typically showed 12 or 13 miles available, which was pretty accurate.
But unlike some other plug-in hybrids, Porsche designed theirs to have the gasoline engine available for maximum power without having to press any other controls. The throttle pedal has a special “step” to its range of motion. You get to a certain level of resistance and you’re at the maximum you’re going to obtain from the electric drive alone.
If you press harder, the 3.0 liter supercharged V6 engine comes to life and helps the electric motor, big time. Maximum horsepower from the two systems combined is 416, and it scoots this relatively large vehicle along quite quickly.
And, also unlike other plug-in hybrids, you don’t have to rely solely on plugging in to recharge the hybrid battery. Another button called “E Charge” switches the system over to put maximum juice into the battery, like when you’re traveling down the freeway. So, conceivably, you could use your battery miles up on streets, hop on the freeway for a long drive, and then have more electric miles to use later on. Very clever.
This all plays out before you on a series of useful and simple displays. Or, don’t watch them at all and just let the car do the work on its own. I suspect that most buyers of this new Porsche will monitor things for the first couple of weeks, then lose interest once they learn that the car works well and pays off in improved fuel mileage (50 mpg “equivalent” in EV-speak) and carbon output.
It isn’t inexpensive to be conscious of your fuel consumption and ready for driving fun at the same time. Base price for the new Panamera S E-Hybrid is $99,000. And if you know anything about how Porsche prices their vehicles, that’s before options can really run the tab up.
But you’ll know this car when you come across it on the road. You might hear the electric motor whooshing it along rather silently. Oh, and you’ll see those splashes of lime green.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @ABC7DaveKunz, Facebook: ABC7DaveKunzT