CALL them twins with different philosophies on life. Porsche’s Panamera S Hybrid brings top-flight performance-saloon motoring to consumers with a green conscience, while its firebrand brother, the Turbo S, just wants to have as much fun as possible by going as fast as possible. These two models extend the ultra-successful Top 12-winning Panamera line-up in opposite directions.
Panamera S Hybrid
Porsche has made no secret of the fact that the Panamera S Hybrid is aimed primarily at the American market, where the double whammy of tax incentives and a desire to be seen as being green is making cars such as this very attractive.
In South Africa, however, marketing the Hybrid will be significantly more difficult. It comes with a cost penalty due to all the technology packed into the vehicle and local consumers are not yet entirely in the groove of turning green.
You would be right in pointing out that the excellent Panamera Diesel, at R766 000, is more worthy of a look if you’d like relatively miserly fuel consumption to be part of your Panamera experience. Of course, there is a performance (and specification) penalty, because the Diesel is about a second slower to 100 km/h. Then again, it uses only 6,8 litres/100 km compared with the Hybrid’s 8,52 litres/100 km. You pays your moneys and…
However, would this be missing the point? For consumers who would otherwise consider the similarly priced Panamera S with its 4,8-litre V8 engine, the Hybrid may make more sense. After all, the Panamera S’s performance figures (0-100 km/h in 5,2 seconds and a 285 km/h top speed) are not too dissimilar to the Hybrid’s (0-100 km/h in 5,93 seconds and 270 km/h), but the latter uses around 5,0 litres/100 km less fuel. And this is significant.
But enough philosophy; let’s get to the facts. The hybrid powertrain, largely borrowed from the Cayenne Hybrid, is a full-hybrid system – meaning you can drive on electricity alone for about 2 km – and sees a 245 kW supercharged 3,0-litre V6 engine mated with a 34 kW electric motor. You have to be very soft on the throttle pedal, though, to get far on electricity alone.
The combined output is 279 kW at 5 500 r/min but more impressive is the torque. The engine delivers 440 N.m from 3 300 to 5 250 r/min and the electric motor 300 N.m from zero to 1 150 r/min. The upshot is a combined figure of 580 N.m, 80 N.m more than the V8-engined Panamera, at a startlingly low 1 000 r/min.
The electric motor draws power from a 1,7 kWh nickel-metalhydride battery pack sited below the boot floor. All the Hybrid bits add 180 kg to the overall package, which obviously has an effect on performance. Then again, zero to 100 km/h in 5,93 seconds is not to be sniffed at and the top speed of 270 km/h makes it the fastest four-door production hybrid in the world.
Key to the vehicle’s low fuel consumption is its ability to sail. First introduced on the Cayenne Hybrid, sailing sees the car’s petrol engine switched off and decoupled from the drivetrain in certain conditions. For example, cruise at around 120 km/h, lift your foot off the throttle and sailing mode will be activated provided there’s a slight downhill gradient and the car is travelling at a steady speed. With the petrol engine entirely decoupled, there is no engine braking due to engine drag and therefore no resistance from the engine. You can sail like this for speeds of up to 165 km/h and for surprisingly long distances.
Another interesting element of the Panamera Hybrid’s tech package is its E-Power function accessed via a button on the facia. Provided there’s enough charge in the batteries and you’re not driving like a hooligan, E-Power extends the range that can be covered by driving on electricity alone. In this mode, the accelerator characteristics are changed so that commands for forward motion are implemented more moderately to prevent the automatic starting of the petrol engine, therefore saving more fuel.
From a powertrain perspective, then, the Panamera S Hybrid is impressive, even though – as with most hybrid vehicles – you’re going to have to drive carefully to achieve those economy figures.
On the road, the Hybrid feels faster than the figures suggest; the lack of any kind of lag at low revs and the presence of a very stable torque curve see it pack a monster punch. To accelerate from 80 to 140 km/h takes only 6,11 seconds. It also sounds intriguing at low revs, much like a horizontally opposed (boxer) engine. The powertrain is mated with Porsche’s impressive eight-speed automatic transmission, which sends power to the rear wheels. It is a lovely gearbox, except for two things. Firstly, the fiddly buttons on the steering wheel to change gears are unloved by many a motoring journo, but Porsche is adamant that buyers don’t care. Secondly, in sport mode, the responsiveness could be a bit sharper still.
Otherwise, besides its trick drivetrain and a few badges, the Hybrid is hard to distinguish from its siblings. Included in the standard-specification list is adaptive air suspension with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), the combination of which makes this supposed eco-warrior quite a lot of fun to hustle, although there’s no denying that the extra weight is noticeable.
For green-conscious buyers who like to be at the cutting edge of technology, the Hybrid will be very appealing primarily because it manages to achieve its eco credentials without much of a performance penalty. While it is unlikely to get a fair go in the South African market, it’s a vehicle with few vices and lots of character.
Panamera Turbo S
As we said in our initial driving impression of this vehicle in the October 2011 issue, the Turbo S is all about numbers. Its 4,8-litre biturbo V8 engine delivers a whopping 405 kW and there’s 800 N.m of torque on tap (in overboost mode). It is also ferociously fast (top speed of 306 km/h), tips the scales at a hefty two tonnes and costs an eye-watering R2 110 000. The question, however, is whether it is worth the extra outlay over its already impressive Panamera Turbo sibling, a car which is only 0,1 seconds slower to 100 km/h, 3 km/h down on maximum speed and which costs more than R300 000 less. What does the extra outlay get you? Quite a bit, actually.
But not when it comes to looks. There aren’t many external clues to the Turbo S’s status as the king of the Panameras. The one that arguably does the most for the car’s awkward looks is the fitment of 5 mm spacers at the rear, which make the 20-inch wheels fill the arches even more purposefully. By the way, those spacers are available as an option on all Panameras and they do wonders for the looks.
Among the other features are a standard sports exhaust, two-tone leather interior, embossed seats and a longitudinal/lateral G-force display in the instrument cluster. Buyers can also specify a new exterior colour (Agate grey metallic), but the blue of our test car is even more striking.
The differences between Turbo and Turbo S are therefore mostly related to trim, specification and, to some extent, powertrain.
To boost the power and torque, Porsche modified the engine-management software as a start, but there is also significantly revised turbochargers featuring titanium-aluminium-alloy turbine wheels on their hot sides that are 50 grams lighter than the ones used in the Turbo. This reduces the moment of inertia by 50 per cent, which means the torque is available faster and responsiveness is improved. It is worth noting that Porsche offers this upgrade for the standard Panamera Turbo at an eye-popping R274 410.
The Turbo S also gets the Sport Chrono Package as standard (R33 230 option on the Turbo), so the driver can select the sport and sport plus modes from the facia, as well as the excellent launch control system which plays such a big role in this big machineís mind-boggling sprinting ability.
Furthermore, the Turbo S gets PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), including PTV Plus (Porsche Torque Vectoring) as standard, which is a R77 260 option on the Turbo. PDCC and PTV Plus give the Panamera highly impressive levels of cornering grip. PTV Plus works by varying the torque distribution to the rear wheels and by employing an electronically regulated rear differential lock, which improves steering behaviour.
From behind the wheel, this model doesn’t immediately make a significantly different impression. And the steering feels surprisingly light at first.
Press the button labelled with the two exhausts and there’s a slightly deeper rumble. Start moving faster and the essence of the Turbo S comes to the fore. With everything switched to their maximum-attack modes, it responds with pure aggression to the twitch of a toe on the throttle pedal. It’s mighty fast.
We achieved a 0-100 km/h time of 3,8 seconds; to accelerate from 80 to 140 km/h took only 3,55 seconds.
How do these figures compare with the standard Turbo? Well, when tested for the February 2010 issue, the Turbo reached 100 km/h in 3,91 seconds and took 4,24 seconds to complete the sprint from 80 to 140 km/h. So, there is a difference, but not much. As with all Panameras, the ability to change in character from limousine to racing car is startling. The Turbo S comes with air suspension and in its comfort setting allows for a suitably supple ride, even with the large wheels. Criticisms? If anything, the ride probably turns a bit too hard/wooden when firmed up for the twisties, causing the wheels to occasionally lose grip and the traction control to interfere. And then there’s the weight and sheer size of the thing. But, overall, considering its talents at both ends of the dynamics/comfort spectrum, it is a technological masterpiece.
That said, the brakes could be stronger. Considering that the car’s anchors are so immense (390 mm in front, 350 mm at the rear), you would expect a better average emergency-stop performance than 3,02 seconds, but it is nevertheless enough to score a “good” rating. It is worth pointing out that one of the few things that you pay extra for with the Turbo S are ceramic brakes, which cost R143 180.
TURBO S SUMMARY
As with the sublime 997 911 Turbo S, there seemingly isnít enough of an upgrade here compared with the lesser model to justify the extra outlay. However, it comes down to the fact that some customers simply want the ultimate, whatever the cost. The Porsche Panamera Turbo S is just that.
However, a standard Panamera Turbo with a carefully selected list of upgrades – potentially PDCC (+PTV Plus), Sport Chrono Plus and ceramic brakes – is worth considering. In our opinion, the extra power isn’t extra enough, mostly because the standard Turbo has more than enough.