I’m driving the 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid on a two-lane road on Vancouver Island just north of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and I’m looking for some added acceleration to pass another car. There is a little button on the mode dial on the steering wheel called the “sport response” button. I push it down with my thumb. A few exhilarating seconds later and I’m thinking that button should be called the afterburner switch. Any lingering doubts I had that a plug-in hybrid might not be fast just vanished with the car in my rearview mirror.
The Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is an all-wheel-drive, four-door sedan, but its exterior design and engineering spells 911 sports car as it accelerates to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds with a top speed of 192 mph. Its power comes from a combination of sources: a V8 turbo engine producing 550 horsepower and an electric motor with 136 horsepower that can provide up to 31 miles of silent running if need be. An air suspension system keeps the ride smooth, lowering the car at speed for better aerodynamics.
The mode dial on the steering wheel is super handy because it lets me easily toggle through the different driving options. There is a sport and a sport+ mode as might be expected in a Porsche. But this being a hybrid, there is also an e-power mode for electric motor only driving and a hybrid auto mode that lets the car automatically switch between the electric and gas engines for maximum efficiency. There also are two additional modes: e-hold, which allows the driver to conserve electrical energy—for zero-emissions driving in a city, for example—and e-charge, which allows the gas engine to produce more power than needed for driving to recharge the battery. Both modes are controlled via the 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the center console that presents the abundance of easily-accessed performance data that Porsche owners typically crave.
In this big data hybrid, that includes information like the amount of electrical energy being used and the amount of electrical energy being recovered through recuperation by the engine. There is nothing timid about the energy recuperation process, either; it works most effectively when the car is in the sport+ driving mode when the gas engine is fully engaged. Charging time for the lithium ion battery is between 2.5 hours and 6 hours depending on the voltage connection.
I’m beginning to wonder if this car is smarter than me when I discover that the adaptive cruise control is essentially an electronic co-pilot that can use navigation data to instruct the engine and 8-speed transmission when to accelerate or brake over the next mile and a half of road, taking into account corners, gradients, speed limits and traffic conditions. Certainly, it sees into the future better than I can.
The science fiction writer William Gibson’s famous quote comes to mind: “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.” At this moment, I’m sitting comfortably in the future.
Starting at $184,400; porsche.com.