As a name, the Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is a clunker. But as a car, it's absolutely brilliant. That's it. That's the lead.
Let's break the name down before we suss out what's new. 4S is the trim level, denoting its position above the base 4 but below the hotter-to-trot GTS and Turbo variants. E-Hybrid lets you know that there's a plug-in hybrid powertrain under the body. Sport Turismo, my favorite part, highlights the fact that it's a wagon. Throw it all together, and you have a name so dense that it defies SEO headline character counts.
The 4S part, which is a new addition to the E-Hybrid lineup for 2021, is plenty potent in its own right. A 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 forms the first half of the equation, producing 443 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on its own. That then hooks up with a 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery (up from 14.1kWh in 2020-and-before variants) and an electric motor to produce a net 552 hp and 553 lb.-ft. The 4S E-Hybrid can act as a pure electric vehicle for a stint, or it can operate more like a traditional gas-electric hybrid, blending power sources for a balance of efficiency and fun.
If you were worried about Porsche's foray into hybrids, it's safe to say you can embrace it wholeheartedly. I certainly do. The Panamera 4S E-Hybrid's powertrain is fabulous, helped in part by a litany of vehicle modes that change how the car generates, directs and conserves power. Leave it in the default Hybrid Auto and it'll use electric power at lower speeds and under light throttle. If I want to charge the battery on the highway for later use in the city, where it's more efficient, I can put the car into its Charge mode -- or I can throw it into Sport Plus, which not only charges the battery but also delivers maximum motive force as needed. That mode can be a little intense in daily use, but that's fine, because I can adjust the air suspension stiffness independently.
The sheer number of mode combinations can be daunting at first, but as I experience each, I realize it just means more people can micromanage the car's systems to create a setup that works for specific needs or wants. Detroit roads are bad, for instance, so it only makes sense that I'd want a smooth suspension (but still have enough power to get the hell off those roads as fast as legally permissible).
Under pure electric power, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is a near-silent delight. The interior is quiet, save for a hint of electric-motor whirr, which changes pitch ever so slightly as the seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission makes its way up or down. The feds say the Panamera's lithium-ion battery is good for about 18 miles on a single charge, but I am able to cruise for 23 -- including a highway with a 75-mph traffic flow -- before the V6 kicks in. You may never need to plug the car in if you balance the modes correctly, but if you do plan on using a wall charger at home, I'd recommend opting for the $840 charging upgrade, which doubles the vehicle's potential charging power from 3.6 kilowatts to 7.2.
If I'm feeling a bit sprightlier, the 4S will happily play along. The V6 sounds great as it rips its way up and down the tachometer, and the extra low-down boost from the electric motor means there's just a mountain of torque waiting in the wings at every possible moment. The air suspension does a great job eliminating body roll on tree-lined switchbacks, and combined with a slightly tweaked steering system that still feels as excellent as it did before, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid has zero problem pretending it's much lighter than its portly 5,042-pound curb weight suggests.
My only real complaint comes from the brakes, which Porsche tweaked via software for 2021. The automaker says the feel is more progressive now, but the transition between regenerative and mechanical braking is still plenty obvious and a little janky for my taste, preventing me from stopping as smoothly as I'd like.
While the Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is a wagon, it doesn't really add that much practicality. There's tons of room to access the cargo areas on both variants, since the regular Panamera is technically a hatchback, and the longer roof only adds 0.7-cubic feet of capacity for a net 15.0 cubes. Both will handle groceries, pet food and just about anything you can shove back there, but it's worth noting thatsome space is occupied by the E-Hybrid's portable charger case, should you choose to bring it with. That roof also adds $4,000 to the base price of a non-Sport Turismo Panamera, but it looks a thousand times cooler, so I think it's worth the 3.5% MSRP bump.
The rest of the 4S E-Hybrid's interior is pretty sharp, in part because of my tester's beautiful (and, at $3,790, expensive) Marsala red leather interior. The real aluminum trim brings some unique tactility into the equation, although the usual gloss-black stuff still covers the backlit center console and its manifold integrated buttons, all of which pick up visible fingerprint smudges like nobody's business. Maybe the rich have more effective hand soaps, I don't know. The 14-way power front seats are supportive, and while the rear seat is technically a bench with three seatbelts, whoever's stuck in the middle has to straddle a surprisingly wide center console. But at least there's more headroom than I'll ever need.
I'm a big fan of Porsche's in-car tech. The 12.3-inch touchscreen running the Porsche Communication Management infotainment system is easy to read, and while the menus are dense, it doesn't take long to get used to navigating between the manifold feature pages. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, too, which is great. The gauge displays flanking the tachometer bring some information closer to the road, and steering wheel buttons make it plenty easy to pull up the data I think is most relevant. On the safety front, Porsche made lane-keeping assist and traffic-sign recognition standard, and if you plunk down $4,550, you get the full complement of modern driver-assist systems, as well as a surround-view camera. Parking sensors are standard, though, to make sure the bumpers stay un-bumped.
There's one easy way to know if a particular Porsche is a hybrid or not: the brake calipers. If they're lime green, as they are on my tester, then you're likely fixated on an E-Hybrid variant. Other than a couple small E-Hybrid badges and a second flap for charging, it looks like any other Panamera Sport Turismo. All Panameras have been upgraded for 2021 with Porsche's SportDesign front fascia, which looks great. Otherwise, you know, it's just a big Porsche.
It might take some complex financial maneuvers to slide the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo into your driveway, though. It'll cost no less than $118,650 including destination for one of these green machines, and Porsche's vast library of a la carte options can send that price to space faster than a Falcon 9. That's the case with my tester, which carries an out-the-door price of $140,210. Oof.
Yet, nothing else really holds a candle to the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. It's absolutely brilliant in execution, whether it's the way the powertrain functions or how gorgeous that full leather interior is. It looks great, it drives great, it's just… great.