The long car with the long name goes a long way toward making hybrids a whole lot of fun.
“Wow. This thing is massive.” Those were my thoughts upon encountering the 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive for the first time. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the extended-wheelbase Porsche in the wild before (much less parked in front of my own residence), but if I have, I’ve never noticed how incredibly long it is.
Of course, not all Panameras take up so much road – the Executive gets a 5.9-inch-longer wheelbase, with all of that space benefitting the rear seats. And motivating this limousine with the soul of a supercar is a new-for-2021 powertrain option for the Panamera lineup, the 4S E-Hybrid. It occupies a very unusual space in Porsche’s hierarchy of trim levels, boasting a stellar 552 horsepower and 553 pound-feet that beats out the 2020 Panamera Turbo’s 550 ponies, as well as the 473 hp from the updated 2021 Panamera GTS. So, more powerful than a Turbo, electrified, and bigger than the Ahmanson Theater? What a weird (and weirdly lovable) car.
The Electric Boogie
The Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is the third model in Porsche’s range of plug-in luxury sedans, joining the 457-hp base model and the range-topping 662-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid. Mated to the same twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 found in the non-hybrid Panamera 4S (where it makes 440 hp and 405 lb-ft) is a 134-hp, 295-lb-ft electric motor integrated into the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Electrons flow from a 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery, shared with the rest of the E-Hybrid family and upsized from 14.1 kWh on 2020 models.
Combined system power peaks at a rather lusty 5,750 rpm and lasts until 6,800 revs, but not to worry – full torque comes on board between 1,400 and 4,500. That means that no matter the driving conditions, matting the throttle results in some commendable hustle. This particular example is missing Porsche’s sports exhaust, which is a shame, but even without it, the 2.9 sings a lovely song when revved out (though down low it’s a bit gravelly).
No matter the driving conditions, matting the throttle results in some commendable hustle.
Porsche claims a sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 3.6 breathtaking seconds, and a couple romps using the standard Sport Chrono package’s launch control bear that number out (I wasn’t foolhardy enough to verify the Panamera’s 185-mph top speed). The quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission cracks off shifts with neck-snapping severity, while all-wheel-drive traction and electrified torque shove this limo forward harder than the Royal Albert Hall ever could.
It’s not all about power in the 4S E-Hybrid, either. With the rear-axle steering that comes standard on all Executive models, this Nimitz-class aircraft carrier on wheels is far nimbler than expected. Scratch that, it’s nimble, full stop. With the mode switch set to Sport or Sport Plus, the chatty steering telegraphs every millimeter of the road surface to the driver’s palms – I could damn near feel pebbles passing under the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Speaking of, grip is abundant, while the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus differential shuffles rear-axle power from side to side as needed to reduce understeer.
Meanwhile, optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport features active, electromechanical anti-roll bars that imbue this 5,161-pound sedan with flat cornering, both reducing driver fatigue and increasing grip and confidence. Combined with optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes featuring unusual and lovely Acid Green calipers, the suspension setup provides complete and utter control, even if you (or your chauffeur) get in a little too deep.
Gliding In Silence
When it comes time to sit back and relax, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is only too happy to oblige. After a full evening of back roads in Sport Plus, the battery was nearly fully charged – the mode provides lots of electric boost in zesty driving, but it also maximizes regenerative braking. That made it a great time to twirl the steering wheel–mounted drive selector to E-Power, which locks the gas engine out up to about 60 percent throttle application.
In E-Power, the Panamera glides along as only a modern luxury EV can, nary a whisper emanating from the tailpipes. And even up to that throttle threshold, the electric motor produces enough torque for reasonable around-town driving – you won’t win any stoplight drags, but you also aren’t being a lane-clogging eco-weenie either.
When it comes time to sit back and relax, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is only too happy to oblige.
There’s also a Hybrid drive mode with Auto, E-Save, and E-Charge modes – the first hands off power between the gas engine and electric motor seamlessly, the second prioritizes the gas engine to retain charge, and the third ramps up regenerative braking to actively recharge the battery. Optimizing the E-Save and E-Charge modes on the highway to keep the battery topped up for urban driving – where it’s most effective – yielded an indicated average of about 26.5 miles per gallon. Leaving the system in Hybrid Auto mode produced 24 mpg, while hot backwoods action gave 18 mpg. Not bad, and far better than the similarly powerful Mercedes-AMG S63.
Though quite efficient given the power on tap, the Panamera 4S still isn’t a phenomenal plug-in. Fully charged, the battery boasts an indicated EV range of about 30 miles, but I’d bet the real-world figure is closer to 15 or 20 miles. Honestly, it’s better to think of the 4S as a peerless luxury sedan rather than a wild-haired ‘bahn-burner – think Concorde, not F-18.
Business Class For The Road
Viewed in that light, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid excels, especially in Executive spec. Legroom in the rear seats is prodigious, even without the passenger seat moved forward. This particular tester wore its lovely Truffle Brown paint with pride, paired to a two-tone Luxor Beige and Saddle Brown leather interior. And Porsche continues its streak of perfectly screwed-together cabins here as well – every surface, from the carpets and headliner to the dashboard and seat faces, boasts soft materials and tight manufacturing tolerances. Even hidden areas, like the front seatbacks and inner console, wear soft-touch materials or genuine leather.
The spacious rear cabin boasts two individual bucket seats, separated by a large center console with its own infotainment screen, fixed armrest, and deployable tray tables – christened in my time with the car via a trip to Wendy’s, naturally. Support in all four seats is perfect, and in this highly optioned test car, each position features massage, heating, and ventilation.
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Unfortunately, it’s in relaxed driving that the big sedan’s only obvious drawbacks appear. The beautiful, optional 21-inch wheels yield a somewhat gritty ride, exacerbated by the aggressive rubber’s unconscionable roar at freeway speeds. The rear seats are most susceptible to aural intrusions, perhaps a side effect of the Panamera’s hatchback shape (a conventional sedan would likely insulate more noise from the rear tires). And in sedate city driving, the grabby ceramic brakes and regenerative function are difficult to modulate smoothly.
On balance, though, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is a wonderful luxury car, giving its owner something to look forward to when the road gets snaky while also providing a comfortable and quiet interior when it’s time to relax. But exactly how well-heeled that owner needs to be is still in question. The 2020 Panamera 4S Executive starts at $116,300, but applying the E-Hybrid premium isn’t a simple task – on the base 2020 Panamera 4, it costs $12,000 extra to get a plug, while the 2020 Turbo S E-Hybrid is a whopping $34,700 more than a gas-only Turbo.
Using some armchair mathematics, it’s hard to see a 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive costing less than $130,000 when Porsche finally announces pricing, and as highly optioned as this particular car is, we’d be surprised if it costs less than $180,000 as equipped. That’s a lot of cash, but there’s really nothing like a luxury-minded Porsche. The twee color combination, wood interior trim, and massive rear cabin suggest something akin to a coachbuilt Vanden Plas, while the lime-green accents and strong performance scream 918 Spyder. Perhaps the value proposition holds up best when considering you’re really getting two cars in one.
Gallery: 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive: First Drive
2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive