2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

The 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid – Electrifying performance in a luxurious package

Hybrid automotive technologies have become an integral part of the marketplace as growing concerns for the deplorable condition of our environment and out-of-control fuel prices have manufacturers and consumers alike looking for viable solutions to alleviate some of the more immediate problems. As a company Porsche was late to the hybrid party, but you knew that once they hit the dance floor their product would take centre stage. Following in the footsteps of the Cayenne S Hybrid which debuted last year, Porsche has added the Panamera S Hybrid to its catalogue for the 2012 model year.  This luxurious green machine is the most fuel-efficient Panamera in the line-up.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

Under the Hood

It should come as no surprise that the Panamera S Hybrid shares the bulk of its powertrain with that fitted to its Cayenne sibling. The foundation for both systems is the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that Porsche pinched from the inventory of its corporate cousin Audi, who use this peppy power plant to motivate the popular S4 sports sedan.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

The system  is a parallel hybrid that allows the car to operate on electric power, the gasoline engine, or a combination of  both when the driver is looking for acceleration. The supercharged gasoline engine is good for 333-horsepower on its own accord, and 325lb.-ft. of torque. By adding the electric motor, horsepower climbs to 380 and torque becomes a potent 428lb.-ft.  Unfortunately, the Panamera S Hybrid is only available with an eight-speed, TipTronic S, automatic transmission, and not the super fast PDK. All-wheel-drive is also not part of this recipe, as this latest Panamera is only available in rear-wheel-drive form.

Performance and Handling: Driving Impressions

Acceleration is very quick for such a large car (0-100 km/h runs take a mere six seconds), but I didn’t get the opportunity to execute any hard launches due to inclement weather conditions and the fact that the car was rolling on brand-new winter tires. This is too bad because the car was loaded for track fun as it was equipped with paddle shifters,  Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), and the Sport Chrono Package.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

The car seemed more than content to putt around at 100 km/h in eighth gear at a very low 1,900 RPM. However, acceleration is instantaneous when you find the need to pass a slower vehicle or avoid a dangerous situation. The transmission will drop to second gear to get the party going and then quickly cycle through the successive gears before settling back to a comfortable cruise in eighth gear. Passing is not a concern in this car. I should point out that the six-cylinder Panamera 4 that I tested last year felt anaemic and overburdened during similar manoeuvres, which made me uncomfortable.  I did not experience that in this vehicle. In fact, I had the utmost confidence in its abilities and predictable handling.

With a twist of the key the car comes to life, but not with the roar of a conventional Porsche automobile. Instead, at the touch of a console-mounted button, the car will operate in “e-power ” mode on electric power alone for the first couple of kilometres up to a speed of 85 km/h. This will no doubt help you save some money at the pump as like all Porsches, the Panamera S Hybrid sips the good stuff. Once the power reserve is exhausted, or you exceed its speed limitation, the gas engine will come on with purpose.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

Now here is the cool part about driving this car. I have a local driving route I like to take test vehicles on as it provides me with a wide range of road surfaces, invigorating sections to explore handling, and a nice mixture of hills, highways and byways. Typically, this test circuit takes me about two hours to complete, as long as I don’t stop for photo opportunities. On the day I explored this route in the Panamera S Hybrid it took the full two hours to complete as I was behaving. The cool thing is that for a large portion of that time I was running under electric power. That’s right, the gasoline engine was taking a break. This occurs when the car is operating at higher cruising speeds, such as on the highway, or descending a long hill. When the driver lifts his or her foot off the accelerator this signals the system to disengage the engine and enlist the battery packs to feed the drivetrain and maintain the car’s momentum. Porsche refers to this unique event as “sailing,” and it really is neat to behold. The car is very quiet, and as long as you don’t hit the pedals, will continue until the battery packs are depleted. During my two hour drive, the Engine Off Time screen display revealed that the car had been in “sailing” mode for 36 minutes.

Interior Styling

The Porsche Panamera S Hybrid is basically the same car as a Panamera S when it comes to both packaging and equipment levels. However there are a few noticeable changes, including the addition of a special system status screen to allow the driver to monitor how the parallel hybrid system is working at any given time.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

The Panamera is a four-seater, much like its corporate cousin, the Audi A7. What this means is four very lucky individuals get more room to stretch out. The front seats have been designed for spirited driving as well as comfort. The two rear seats mimic the fronts, which gives the passenger cabin an even more exclusive look. My test vehicle featured  top-quality leather over most of the seating (and panel) surfaces with bold exposed stitching and perforated inserts to help control heat dissipation. Distinctive black wood trim complemented the dark interior.

The car features the same waterfall  center console as the other Panamera models with what at first seems like a zillion buttons, but after some time behind the wheel you realize that the complex array is actually quite simple. In short order you will intuitively know which part of the geography to reach for when you are looking for a certain function. There are also controls on the headliner for proximity sensors, Home-link, sunroof controls and various cabin lighting.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

The car’s shifter features a comfy grip, and manual shifting can be executed via the side shift gate or by using the paddle controls.

A Bose engineered premium audio system was on board to tickle the ears, and the company’s latest navigation system worked very well. The center armrest features a 12-volt power port as well as an auxiliary input as well as a USB port for connecting portable electronic devices. I find that the Bluetooth system utilized by Porsche works better than that in most cars and I had no problems connecting my BlackBerry to the system and sound quality and functionality was top-notch.

All the gauges and most of the controls are easy to see and reach from the driver’s position. The majority of gauges in the instrument cluster feature black faces, but the tachometer has a gray face. This centrally mounted gauge also acts as home to a secondary, digital speedometer, a gear position indicator, and a full arsenal of warning lights. The use of highly visible LED illumination for this information is excellent. A “Hybrid” graphic is also featured on the face of the tachometer, but also has its own gauge in the driver information center that tells you what is happening with the system’s various functions.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

My only gripes pertain to the strange placement for the window controls and the lack of rear visibility. Window and mirror controls are placed in an odd location on the driver’s door panel, right where your knee hits, and require you to place your wrist at a strange angle. Visibility is great out the front and to the side, but the rear-view can be blocked when you have a passenger in the back seat as they tend to lean in to communicate with the front occupants, and by the wide pillars and relatively small rear window. Luckily there are park assist sensors and an available rear-view camera system to facilitate backing manoeuvres and parking.

The car was well-equipped for the Canadian climate as it had heating elements in the seats, and an exceptional heating and ventilation system.  Porsche’s three-mode, adaptive air suspension is on board as standard equipment which gives users the ability to raise the car at the touch of a button if you find the need to clear snow or shallow road debris, or conversely, to lower the car to allow for more efficient ingress or egress.

My test vehicle also included paddle shifters and the Sport Chrono Package which places a stylish lap timer in a perforated recess at the center of the dash. When operating the car in Sport (or Sport Plus) mode seventh gear becomes your ceiling as the engine mapping and gearbox become optimized for high-performance rather than fuel efficiency.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

There is plenty of cargo room in a Porsche Panamera as the rear seatbacks fold forward to extend the size of the cargo area. You should have little problem squeezing four sets of golf clubs into the hold with the seats in place, as long as you remove the cargo screen. Surprisingly for this day and age,  there is only a single glove box, but there are various bins and cubbies spread throughout the cabin.

Styling

The Panamera’s exterior styling is very unique and is not for everyone, but I must admit that I had lots of passersby comment on the car’s obvious style.  The same cannot be said for the colour. The press car was cloaked in Crystal Green Metallic, a colour which would probably look great on a traditional executive sedan but for some reason  looked out of place on the curvaceous Panamera. It seemed too mature for the Panamera, and kind of reminded me of a color that would be featured on a bridesmaid’s dress.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

Since you are buying this car to be a good environmental citizen there are several hybrid badges on the car’s exterior, including script on both front doors and on the rear hatch.

2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Review

Conclusions

I understand the concept of a luxury hybrid vehicle, and why someone may want to own one. It offers you, as the owner, the ability to deflect some of the pointed fingers and wave a “green” flag to express to your neighbours that you are doing something positive for the environment, albeit behind the wheel of a high-performance automobile. The good news is that the engineers at Porsche managed to make the driving experience so similar to that of the traditional version of the car that it is easy to forget that you are in fact, driving a hybrid automobile.

Learn more – the new Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

CONS:

  • Porsche purists still gripe about Panamera styling
  • Only has seating for four passengers
  • Lacks the rumble of the V8

Technical Specifications: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid

Base Price (CAD MSRP): $108,700

Price as tested: $127,295 (with optional equipment, $1,115 destination charge, and $100 A/C tax)

Type: 5-door, 4-passenger luxury sedan.

Engine: 3.0-litre DFI supercharged V6 with electric motor assist (Parallel Full Hybrid drive system)

Horsepower: 333 @ 5,500 (Gas only); 380 @ 5,500 (Hybrid combined)

Torque (lb-ft): 325 @ 3000-5250 rpm; 427 @ 1,000 rpm (Hybrid combined)

Transmission: 8-Speed Tiptronic S with Auto Start Stop function capabilities

Brakes: Disc/disc

Top speed: 270 km/h

Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.0 s

Fuel economy [L/100 km]: City 7.6 L (37.2 mpg); Hwy  6.8 L (41.5 mpg)

Russell Purcell is an award-winning automotive journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. His passion for automobiles was sparked at the tender age of six, when a family friend gave the wide-eyed first grader a ride to school in a track prepared Porsche 911 RSR. He continues to fan the flames by building an impressive library of automotive related books as well as a vast collection of interesting automobilia and motoring artefacts. Russell is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and is active on Twitter as RoadTestRuss.