In terms of incompatible, non-comprehensible concepts, it’s right up there with the idea of ‘clean’ coal, justice for all, and a non-vengeful politician. Yes, we’re talking about the concept of a hybrid-powered car that’s fun, fast and desirable to own.
Anything is possible, of course, as Tesla has shown by shocking us with electric cars that are truly like a bolt of lightning. But hybrids? Thanks to flag-bearers like the execrable Toyota Prius, they’re about as exciting and brag-worthy as regular bowel movements.
Yes, combining a battery-powered electric motor with a fossil-fuel-sipping engine will deliver you fabulously low fuel-economy figures, and a green glow of self-righteousness, but for a driving enthusiast or a premium-brand fan, they’re as deeply invigorating as catching a bus. Until now.
It should come as no surprise that Porsche – which recognises that the electric future is coming but will fight against the silencing of its superb engine the way an old author rages against the dying of the light – has come up with a hybrid that people might actually want to buy.
What is surprising is just how far it has taken the idea, creating a car – the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid (apparently it takes almost as long to say the name as it does to recharge its batteries) – that sits at the top of its particular model range as the supreme performance vehicle of its kind.
Porsche has found a way to harness the clever-dickery of combining battery power with old-school mumbo, not just for incredible fuel efficiency but to add extra boost and stupid acceleration.
And if you think that indicates that Porsche thinks hybrids are the way of the near future, and will keep internal-combustion engines relevant for at least a little longer, you’re right.
Porsche has found a way to harness the clever-dickery of combining battery power with old-school mumbo, not just for incredible fuel efficiency but to add extra boost, and stupid acceleration, to traditional cars.
In the case of the Panamera, Porsche already had a Turbo version, powered by a very angry twin-turbo V8 engine that makes 404kW and 770Nm, and can roar its way to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds, which is very fast indeed for a giant (5m long, 2m wide) executive saloon that has two sporty seats in the front, and two more exactly the same in the back to make rear passengers feel special and involved.
The S E-Hybrid, however, adds elec-trickery into the mix, and takes total power to 504kW and torque to 850Nm, all of which is available to help you turn other cars into blurry objects from just off idle right up to its screaming red line, because electric motors are good like that.
It also enables you to hit a top speed of 310km/h, launch yourself from zero to 100km/h in a Lamborghini Huracán-matching 3.4 seconds, and to accelerate from 100km/h to 200km/h, which comes in handy so often, in just 8.3 seconds, almost a full second faster than the boring old petrol-only Panamera Turbo.
And, thanks to the fact that you can run it in a very clever, very green EV-only mode for up to 50km (long enough for the average commute to work, and back again) at speeds of up to 130km/h, it’s also able to claim a theoretical fuel figure of just 2.9 litres per 100km, compared with the Turbo Panamera’s 9.4L/100km.
It seems unlikely that anyone will ever achieve that figure, of course, because if you’re the kind of person who’s willing to spend A$460,100 on a machine that can – damn the torpedoes, and damn economy figures – fire you at the horizon with a combination of maximum electronic boost and wild V8 power, whenever you switch it to its sportier modes, it seems unlikely you’ll spend too much time running it in silent mode.
Sure, it’s nice to know it’s there, and whenever you have a new passenger on board you’ll spend a minute or two showing them how clever it is, but the rest of the time you’ll be wanting to hear that enthusiastic, ecstatic V8 you paid most of that money for.
The trade-off for all that stupendous acceleration and tech trickery, is, of course, weight. Hybrids might suddenly be interesting, but they’re still heavy, with all their batteries and motors and on-board chargers, which is why it might be a little while yet until we see a hybrid Porsche 911.
The hybridisation of the Panamera Turbo adds almost 300kg (taking it over 2.3 tonnes) and, while this certainly doesn’t blunt its performance, it does add the kind of weight penalty you can’t fail to notice when you’re throwing it at corners, or changing direction quickly.
Obviously, something this big, spacious, luxe inside and passenger cosseting is not about ultimate cornering ability, but what is amazing is how well it copes with all that weight, and size, and still delivers a truly Porsche-like level of joy in the bends.
The steering is excellent, the ride quality supreme, and, combined with its stupidly fast powertrain, it’s a car you can have some serious fun on a racetrack with. Not that any owner will ever do so. What owners will do, with much enjoyment, is shock their friends by telling them they’ve bought a hybrid, and it’s a Porsche. And that they love it.