2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid review: Plug-in with power and poise
The all-electric Porsche Taycan is a hot ticket right now, but don't sleep on the plug-in hybrid Panamera . Porsche's range of electrified Panameras offers a taste of EV life with the reassurance and convenience of a gas-fed powertrain, and for 2021, an excellent new variant joins the lineup: the 4S E-Hybrid.
The 4S E-Hybrid slides in above the standard Panamera 4 Hybrid but well below the absolutely bonkers Turbo S E-Hybrid. Like the others, you can get the 4S E-Hybrid in long-wheelbase Executive and wagony goodness Sport Turismo body styles, or just stick with the standard liftback tested here.
In fact, the regular ol' Panamera looks better than ever, thanks to the now-standard SportDesign front fascia and redesigned taillights. All sorts of 20- and 21-inch wheel designs are available, and there are a whole bunch of colors, including favorites like Papaya, Copper Ruby, Aventurine Green or the Gentian Blue seen here. Of course, you can choose to order off the menu and get your own special color combo (for a hefty price), just make sure it doesn't clash with the E-Hybrid-specific Acid Green badge accents and brake calipers.
Inside the Panamera, not much changes for 2021. This Porsche is comfy as heck, with supportive seats, great fit and finish and logically arranged controls. The backlit center console will pick up every smudge your fingers can lay down, and if you look at it in direct sunlight, you'll see the unlit icons for the options you were too cheap to buy. Speaking of which, while lane-keeping assist and traffic sign recognition are standard fare for 2021, Porsche's other goodies -- including InnoDrive, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist -- remain optional.
The Panamera uses Porsche's slightly older infotainment software, housed on a 12.3-inch touchscreen in the dash. This system is plenty robust, with high-res graphics, bright colors and crisp fonts, and it quickly responds to swipes and taps. Wireless Apple CarPlay comes standard across the Panamera range, but this car will need an infotainment update before Android Auto is available. Soon, friends. Soon.
All electrified Panameras have 27% more battery capacity for 2021, which means the 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery can provide longer electric driving range, even if the EPA only says the 4S E-Hybrid will go 19 miles on a full charge. Thankfully, you can recharge the battery while driving -- best done on the freeway in Sport and Sport Plus modes -- and all told, you should get about 50 mpge if you plug in regularly.
On its own, the 4S E-Hybrid's 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 makes 443 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough oomph for a car the Panamera's size. Factor in the battery's electric muscle and the 4S E-Hybrid's total system output is 552 hp and 553 lb-ft, which is enough to get this big boy to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. For reference, that's 0.3 seconds quicker than the electric Taycan 4S with the performance battery.
All Panamera models are happy to be tossed around, and the direct steering and balanced chassis make the 4S E-Hybrid a joy to drive on winding roads. Even better, the Panamera is an absolutely serene highway cruiser, especially so when you leave it in Hybrid Auto mode and let the engine shut off while coasting. Standard adaptive dampers help keep the ride smooth and supple, and there's barely any noise or chatter from the Michelin summer tires wrapping my tester's 20-inch wheels. Performance options like rear axle steering and torque-vectoring for the all-wheel-drive system improve the Panamera's handling chops, and you can even add Porsche's ceramic composite brakes, if you feel like plunking down an extra $9,860.
The brakes, unfortunately, are the 4S E-Hybrid's only dynamic weakness. Despite Porsche engineers telling me they made software tweaks to ease the transition between mechanical and regenerative braking, the on-road experience remains a bit wonky. There's inconsistent pedal feel and the brakes can be grabby at low speeds. My buddy Andrew Krok noticed this when he tested the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, too.
Even so, that's a small blemish on what is an otherwise flawless package. The Panamera 4S E-Hybrid does everything well -- it's quick, comfy, fun to drive, and thanks to its liftback design and folding rear seats, it's pretty darn functional, as well. It's not the most impressive plug-in Panamera -- that honor goes to the 690-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid -- but the 4S is all the car you'll ever need day to day. Plus, the Turbo S E-Hybrid costs more than $190,000. Yikes.
Not that the 4S E-Hybrid is what I'd call cheap, with a starting price of $114,650 including $1,350 for destination. Add niceties like rear-axle steering, sport exhaust, heated steering wheel, 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger (for quicker electricity intake), Bose surround sound system and a few other goodies, and you get to the $135,510 as-tested price of the car pictured here.
The Panamera is the only car in its class to offer a plug-in powertrain and the 4S E-Hybrid is a mighty fine option for the EV-curious. But considering the electric Taycan is now outselling the Panamera by a factor of four to one, this electrified half-step might not be the best of both worlds it once was.