The first generation Panamera struggled to find fans, but that had nothing to do with its performance, comfort or quality. Rather, this was a book judged by its cover. Its bulbous rear was likened to many an unflattering animal and that seemed to dampen people's enthusiasm for an otherwise top quality motor.
The new Panamera, however, is far from ugly. It looks like an elongated, refined, front-engine take on Porsche's iconic 911 -- and that's no accident.
A makeover would have been enough to make the second-generation Panamera far more desirable, but a spin in the latest e-Hybrid shows that Porsche has given it more than a nip and tuck. The 2018 Panamera is beautiful, inside and out.
Porsche has form with hybrids, from the 919 Le Mans-winning hybrid racer to the 918 hybrid hypercar, and not to mention the previous generation of e-hybrid Panamera. Those are all solid bases for the new car, so what has all that fieldwork contributed? For one thing, it can cover most morning commutes with enough power to travel roughly 30 miles in EV-only mode.
The electric motor gives a healthy 136 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That's enough to get the car to 37mph in 5.7 seconds, and on to 86 mph under electricity alone. Should you want to stretch the car's legs, there's a twin turbo, 2.9-litre V6 on standby to give you more go...
The V6 produces 330 hp and 331 torques on its own, giving the car a combined max power of 462 hp and 516 respectively. A sprint to 62 mph takes 4.6 seconds, and it'll top out at 173 mph, so it's hardly slow. But a high-tech hybrid isn't just about the speed, there's also MPG to consider. Porsche says the e-Hybrid will manage 91 mpg as well. That's on the European cycle, so numbers will differ in the US.
As this is a performance hybrid, there are a number of modes with which to play. Four modes manage your electricity - Hybrid Auto (the car chooses the most efficient way of getting around), E-Charge (the V6 produces a bit more power than needed to charge the battery), E-Hold (keeps the battery in reserve so you can use it only when you want it), and E-Power (fully electric drive). Sport and Sport Plus are reserved for proper performance.
Considering there's so much power on offer, it's no surprise that its 0-62 time feels rather brisk. The torque on offer in Sport Plus forces you back in your seat in a manner that feels rather alien for something so large, so heavy (4,784 lbs) and so quiet.
Throw it in to a corner and the Panamera handles nicely, though it's not quite as smooth as other cars in its class -- its weight does make itself evident mid-corner. While the steering feels great, a typical Porsche trait, the new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox is often confused. This can result in a car that's not quite ready to react as quickly as you'd like when you'd like it to. That is, unless you have it in Sport Response -- a mode that gives 20 seconds of the full beans -- then you're guaranteed to have some fun.
The brakes do a reasonable job of balancing regeneration and traditional braking. There is a lot of mass to bring to a halt from higher speeds. Under the road-testing conditions we had, the car's battery recharged remarkably effectively under coasting and braking without it feeling too grabby. Some firm pressure was needed on the pedal when unexpected conditions presented themselves, but for what is essentially a grand touring car, the stoppers felt more than adequate.
Sitting in the new Panamera's cabin is a joy. The instrument binnacle mimics Porsche's traditional five-dial layout, but only the central rev counter is analog -- the two dials on either side are displayed on 7.0-inch screens, and can be used for a number of functions. They're pretty smart, which means that Porsche can keep its traditional dial layout, but also use the real estate for useful things like a giant GPS screen.
Speaking of giant screens, the center console is a massive 12.3-inch, super sharp display. You can control pretty much everything through there, from your music to what kind of massage you want as you silently cruise along. It's cool, but smaller passengers may have to lean forward from their driving position to hit the options on the far side.
While the old Panamera's center stack was coated in buttons and blanking plates, the new one sports a super glossy touch display. Buttons, when pressed, give a haptic buzz to let you know you've pressed them. And it works well. In fact, the whole set up makes the rest of Porsche's range look outdated, even though the 911 underwent its own refresh this past year.
In all, the e-Hybrid is a great car. Yeah, if you want the amazing fuel-economy figures, you'll make a few compromises to the overall drive. But once you're used to using the car, most of those complaints will fade away. And it doesn't look like a bloated hippo any more. Bonus.