You know, stoked as I am to drive the 620-horsepower Porsche Panamera Turbo S that my pal Craig Cole just tested, for a daily driver, it's kind of overkill. I've always believed Porsche's slightly more sedate Panameras are the real honeypots of the lineup, and that's only reinforced by the all-around goodness of the new-for-2021 4S E-Hybrid.
Hybrid power isn't new to the Panamera range, of course. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid versions will carry on for 2021, and yes, you can (and should) get them in Sport Turismo wagon guise. Every electrified Panamera has 27% more battery capacity now, up from 14.1 kilowatt hours to 17.9, which should result in a bit more EV driving range, though official EPA numbers aren't available just yet.
For the 4S E-Hybrid, the fun starts with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, which on its own produces 443 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The aforementioned battery brings another 134 hp and 295 lb-ft to the party, and through the magic of you-can't-just-add-the-numbers-together hybrid math, the 4S' total output is a healthy 552 hp and 553 lb-ft. That puts it smack dab in the middle between the 4 E-Hybrid (457 hp) and Turbo S E-Hybrid (677 hp). In fact, with 552 hp, the 4S E-Hybrid is just as powerful as the outgoing Panamera Turbo. Funny how it all just works out, huh?
2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive: Ultra-premium plug-inSee all photos
Now that the names and numbers are out of the way, I need to talk about this Panamera 4S E-Hybrid. It's the Executive version, which is 5.9 inches longer than a standard Panamera. All that length is added between the wheels -- specifically, between the B and C pillars. This directly results in a whole lot more legroom for rear-seat passengers, which get two individual, adjustable chairs with a console between 'em, since that's how fancy executive types roll. Also, kudos to Porsche, because this one's painted brown. Truffle Brown is a new color for 2021 and it looks awesome with the E-Hybrid-specific Acid Green badges and brake calipers.
What else is new for 2021? All Panameras come standard with the previously optional SportDesign front fascia, and these sharper lines really work on Porsche's big four-door. Ever-so-slightly redesigned taillights span the width of the rump and some new 20- and 21-inch wheel choices are available. Inside, the Panamera is largely the same, with super comfy seats, a backlit center console control panel, digital displays inside the gauge cluster and a 12.3-inch touchscreen running the easy-to-use Porsche Communication Management infotainment software. There aren't really any big tech updates to speak of, save for the addition of standard lane-keeping assist and traffic-sign recognition. Even so, Porsche continues to offer a boat-load of driving aids, including its excellent InnoDrive function, which combines adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping and steering assist for easy-peasy highway driving.
Specific to the 4S E-Hybrid, Porsche says it made a few small tweaks to the steering and braking systems for 2021. The former is tweaked to provide better response and improved levels of communication, but honestly, without driving the new car back-to-back with a 2020 Panamera, I can't really feel a difference. That's not a demerit, by the way -- Porsche's steering tuning is some of the best. Turn after turn in the Panamera, I'm reminded that the people responsible this car's steering are the same ones who make sure sweethearts like the 718 Cayman and 911 Carrera don't stink.
As for the brakes, Porsche engineers tell me some software tweaks result in better, more progressive pedal feel, especially during the transition between regenerative and mechanical braking. Once again, the difference isn't hugely noticeable, and though I can't exactly feel the handoff from electronic to physical braking, the pedal can still be a bit grabby at slower speeds.
Like Porsche's other E-Hybrids, the 4S starts up in the fully electric E-Power mode. Again, the 2021 Panamera's EPA electric driving range estimates aren't finalized, but the 2020 4 E-Hybrid is rated at 14 miles, so the updated version with its larger battery should do a little better. It's kind of cool to run quick errands with the engine shut off, but I think most people will do better with the car's Hybrid Auto mode, which defaults to EV driving under light throttle applications and wakes up the V6 when needed. Switch over to Sport or Sport Plus and the engine stays on all the time, and as an added bonus, sends supplemental energy back into the battery so you can recharge it on the go. Consider it motivation to use the sporty settings and have more fun. Live a little, you guys.
Besides, in its sport modes, this thing is a riot. With 552 hp and all that instant electric torque, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Executive can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds (the shorter-wheelbase car will do it in 3.5). That's pretty impressive considering this variant weighs 5,161 pounds, but its straight-line get-up is only the beginning. The standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive dampers keep the Panamera controlled and composed at all times, reducing body roll in corners but never at the expense of a smooth ride. Staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (275/35 front, 325/30 rear) wrap 21-inch wheels and offer huge amounts of grip. But again, PASM does a fantastic job of ironing out the road underneath you while the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission seamlessly and quickly swaps gears. In the city, on the highway or along a challenging mountain road, the Panamera is a peach.
As it should be, considering it's hardly cheap. Official 2021 model year pricing data isn't out yet, but a 2020 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid starts at $105,150 and the top-shelf Turbo S E-Hybrid is way more expensive, at $189,050 (both prices include $1,350 for destination). Considering the 4S E-Hybrid splits the difference between the two, I'm going to guess it'll come in somewhere between $150,000 and $160,000 -- you know, right about where the $154,350 Panamera Turbo currently sits.
That means the 4S E-Hybrid will be one of the more expensive Panamera offerings, but it's also the best of all worlds. It's super quick, comfy as heck, rewarding to drive and you can park it in one of the hybrid-only spaces at Whole Foods. Yeah, the Turbo S has more power. But I can't imagine ever needing more than this.