2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on July 18, 2012

Long, lean, with a mean bite, this green light warrior shows its true colours at the pump. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

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The Panamera S Hybrid takes to winding roads with enthusiasm. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

Nothing on the road looks remotely like the Panamera. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

The devil's in the details, which for the S Hybrid results in strong performance and excellent fuel economy. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

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The Panamera interior is fabulous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

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Room for three very comfortable guests. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

All this grandeur, and it's practical too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 18, 2012

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Published on July 18, 2012

It's a rare occasion that Porsche gives me two vehicles in a row, let alone two radically different versions of its stunning new Panamera four-door coupe. Sure, they both look more or less the same, in silhouette at least, but after a week in the comparatively raucous Panamera GTS, a snarling beast of a sport sedan, piloting the eerily quiet S Hybrid seemed like reenacting a scene from inside one of those cool retro electric rides in Andrew Niccol's Gattaca.

Yah, solid black would have been more apropos than Crystal Green metallic if I really wanted to get into the sci-fi noir film's biometric character, but Ethan Hawke I'm not, let alone Jude Law, and Uma Thurman wasn't at my side, so I settled into this svelte ride and enjoyed it for what it is.

Luxury. And I'm not just talking supple leathers, rich woods, solid polished metals and deep carpets, the normal parlour club fare. True, while the Panamera offers such self-satiating stimulants to near sensory overload, it goes about pampering in a more pleasing way than simply stuffing itself full of overtly extravagant luxuriants like some overwrought grad limo. The Panamera achieves its luxury with equal parts style and substance. Just the right amounts of wood veneers and metal brightwork combine with high quality plastics and French-stitched leather surfaces, melded together in an artistically designed cabin that's really second to none. Of course, it's a Porsche so it's not merely a poseur.

It would be overly simplistic to slot the Panamera S Hybrid's personality into the oft-analogized Jekyll and Hyde category, as that doesn't quite hit the nail on the head… or more correctly, cane on the head. Truly, the S Hybrid would be Jekyll and the GTS, Hyde, because one shocks the system with an adrenaline inducing chainsaw through heavy metal exhaust note with the sport pipes engaged, while the other soothes the soul with satiating silence. Part of my own split personality wanted to hear a rabid bark from the tailpipe after pressing the Sport button on the centre console, but while the S Hybrid's throttle engaged more immediately and shocks tautened for better grip, no growl ensued.

But Hyde is in there. Quiet he might be, yet Porsche has infused a most entertaining hybrid drivetrain that's every bit worthy of the brand's performance-oriented legend. The numbers speak for themselves: 380 net horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 428 combined lb-ft of torque from as low as 1,000 rpm, resulting in a zero to 100 km/h sprint of 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 270 km/h. As far as hybrids go, this is seriously quick! Heck, as far as largish sport sedans go, such numbers are impressive. Then again, that aforementioned GTS snaps and snarls its way to 100 km/h in only 4.5 seconds and reaches a top speed of 288 km/h, and it's nowhere near as fast as the new Panamera Turbo S that'll achieve the same feat in a mere 3.8 seconds with a 306 km/h terminal velocity. Yah, once again the Jekyll and Hyde analogy doesn't seem to fit.

What the V8-powered Panameras can't do is deliver fuel economy numbers as endearing as the S Hybrid's, that car's secondary mission. The automaker claims 8.6 L/100km city, 6.8 highway, and 7.8 combined, and that's not too far off my own calculations that hovered between 9 and 10 L/100km of combined city and highway driving. The GTS? Not too bad at an optimistically estimated 13.3 and 8.5, whereas the Turbo S is rated at 14.1 and 8.6. These numbers are better used for comparison than anything you might expect to see. Rather, refer to U.S. EPA estimates that rate the S Hybrid at a metric converted 10.7 city and 7.8 highway, GTS at 14.7 and 10.2, and Turbo S at 15.7 and 10.2. The S Hybrid comes up smelling like roses.

Porsche uses a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, an electric motor, and a nickel-metal hydride battery combination to achieve these results, and unlike its 7-speed dual-clutch PDK-equipped siblings, a torque-converted 8-speed automatic applies shifts, with steering wheel paddles of course. An idle-stop system will shut the engine off when resting at standstill, and immediately restart when the brake pedal is released. To harvest kinetic energy those brakes incorporate a regenerative system that recharges the battery, as with other hybrids.

Top-line Panameras use all-wheel drive whereas the S Hybrid puts power down to the rear wheels, but I certainly didn't notice any lack of grip while hustling it through the corners. The S Hybrid comes with standard Servotronic variable-assist power steering along with an adaptive air suspension boasting load-leveling and adjustable ride height, a best of both worlds approach. For certain it's not as tautly strung as the GTS, which in the case of the S Hybrid pays off in ride quality. It's a nicer inner city car. Speed bumps, potholed alleys and steeply raked parking garages won't cause a fuss, while you can drive solely on electric power during those painfully slow commutes. When counter-flow or express lanes open up you've got ample power to merge quickly, but then again if you decide to ditch the main route altogether and to find a serpentine, scenic way home, you might just arrive a little late for dinner but with a big grin on your face.

Whichever way you drive you'll find the S Hybrid's amenities a cut above. Porsche Canada made heated front seats and a heated steering wheel standard fare for the entire Panamera range this year, joining a suitably long list of top-tier goodies that come standard across the line, highlighted by ultra-comfy 8-way powered partial-leather seats, navigation, an electric parking brake, power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, rear park assist, a power-closing trunk, Bluetooth, great sounding audio, and of course all the other convenience and safety items expected in this class. There are myriad options too, one my favourites being a new wireless internet access system. Internet access aside, the S Hybrid includes all items mentioned as well as everything featured in the V8-powered S, such as bi-xenon headlamps with automatic dynamic range control and adaptive lighting, while a hybrid drive display joins its unique hybrid drivetrain, plus oddly enough a rear wiper gets added to the standard Hybrid S mix.

The price? $111,085 including destination. The ability to silently roll up to your favourite nightspot feeling like the genetically inferior albeit brilliantly cool future astronaut Vincent Freeman? Priceless.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Four-Door Coupe, Porsche, 2012, Panamera S Hybrid, $99,999+,

Organizations: Porsche

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