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2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid review

The range-topping saloon isn’t an ordinary Turbo S anymore – Porsche has mandated it as a plug-in hybrid, as well.

When Porsche launched the limited production 918 Spyder in 2013, it has sent a clear message that electrification of some sort will become part of all its high-performance cars.

To further underscore it mission, the Weissach boys have now made the range-topping Panamera not just an ordinary Turbo S but added it with plug-in hybrid technology under its E-Performance philosophy.

Called Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid in full, the luxury saloon’s technical credentials have been filtered down (in principle and not exactly the same in hardware terms) from the 918 Spyder hypercar. Expect the same to happen in the next-generation Cayenne SUV due later this year (and even the smaller Macan in the future).

The semi-electrified Panamera, not to be confused with the lesser 4 E-Hybrid using a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 as the internal combustion engine, receives the same bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8 from the Turbo version. 

And with the availability of an electric motor, the Turbo S E-Hybrid can either travel in CO2-less style for 50km or use that juice to boost performance while driving with the gas-guzzling eight-pot flat out.

Although the 680hp combined output for the Turbo S E-Hybrid (see graphic for details) makes this the second most potent Porsche ever after the 918 Spyder, it obviously isn’t the next fastest because that honour goes to the much lighter 911 Turbo.

But when driven around a race track, like how we did at the driving trials held in Canada this week, the Turbo S E-Hybrid manages to conceal its luxury saloon status in such a remarkable way making even the most potent models of the BMW 7-series or Mercedes-Benz S-class feel like leviathans in contrast.

As the year-old Vancouver Island circuit is a relatively short track with many technical corners, it was probably a good place to show off the agility of the Panamera flagship which comes with all kinds of chassis enhancements (key features being rear-wheel-steering, all-wheel-drive and carbon-ceramic disc brakes) to help make its point.

And it certainly does by feeling so easy to place the car around even the nastiest of chicanes. And with nearly 700hp available on tap, the Turbo S E-Hybrid feels virtually 911 fast.

But despite its time-crunching abilities, it doesn’t feel that intoxicating or feelsome to drive. Which isn’t surprising because this second-generation Panamera has been developed with far more refinement and driving comfort than in the preceding model.

And it’s when you get outside the track and head for public roads that the Turbo S E-Hybrid belies its intended handling prowess as a sports saloon. The main culprit is no other than the extra weight caused by the electrified components: the Turbo S E-Hybrid tips the scales by a whopping 315kg more than the Turbo.

Of course, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is quick when accelerating away from the traffic lights or when making overtaking manouevres. But you can simply feel the weight burden in the rear making it hardly any quicker than the Turbo, subjectively speaking.

Because the Panamera is a mainstream Porsche, it hasn’t been able to inherit the lightweight body technologies of the 918 Spyder. Even so, the Turbo S E-Hybrid feels as the briskest saloon available so far in its class, so it’s probably best that you haven’t graduated from the slightly more engaging to drive Turbo to get into this technological flagship.

And because the Turbo S E-Hybrid can’t attract hybrid taxes in Thailand (the petrol engine exceeds 3,000cc despite spewing out just 66g/km of that black stuff on the combined cycle) it will face the 50% maximum rate and be priced in its natural 20 million baht-plus territory.

Nevertheless, the Turbo S E-Hybrid marks a new chapter for mainstream Porsches with big performance in mind. For some people, that might be a statement of the latest in technology. 

Despite its agility around a race track, the Turbo S E-Hybrid isn’t that intoxicating to drive.

Bi-turbo V8 pulls cleanly from practically any engine speed – with extra boost from an electric motor.

Despite its plug-in ability, the Turbo S can’t attract Thai hybrid taxation.

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