Shut your eyes, picture what a four-door Porsche 911 sports coupe might look like and you won't be a million miles away from the reality of this Panamera. It's an unusual look that won't be to everyone's taste, but the low, lean shape certainly does grow on you. The raised profile of the front wings is of course a brand trademark, but it can't in this case be matched by the kind of flat bonnet you'd get in one of the company's sportscars because here of course, the engine must be in the front, hence the power bulge. As ever, this model takes Luxury saloon segment conventionality and puts it through the paper shreader. Cars of this kind aren't supposed to be hatchbacks, nor are they supposed to only offer four seats. This one though, thinks differently, just as Porsche hopes its buyers will.
These people will certainly be folk who liked the original version of this car, for this revised first generation model looks hardly any different - at least at first glance. Peer a little closer though and the differences become clearer. At the front, there are larger air intakes that are even bigger on the V8 models, as well as smarter bumpers and sleeker bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights.
Move to the side and owners of the original MK1 design might note the more swept-back windscreen that extends the silhouette, the sharper profile lines and larger glass area. Asian markets got a long wheelbase bodyshape but Porsche never thought there'd be enough take-up for it here. As usual, colour-contrasting brake callipers give away the nature of the engine beating beneath the sculpted bonnet.
At the rear, Porsche aimed for a lower stance and a wider look by widening the rear screen, increasing the size of the LED light clusters and lowering the number plate to a position just above the level of the model-specific tailpipes. As with the original model, the detailing is superb: take the way the wider rear spoiler opens upwards and outwards in two parts - a beautiful touch.
And inside? Well if you think that the exterior changes made to his post-2013 model are difficult to spot, you'll find it even harder to notice any of the updates made to the driver-centric cockpit. Which mean that if you're used to the original version of this design, you'll be provided with more of the same - a Porsche sportscar that also happens to be a super-luxury saloon. Which means that, as before, the low-slung seating layout with its perfect positioning and almost infinite adjustability really is quite similar to a 911's, while the tall centre console that runs down the middle of the cabin hems you comfortably in, fighter aircraft cockpit-style.
It extends right to the back of the car, firmly defining this car as a four-seater and enabling the designers to create purpose-built sports chairs at the back rather than an indented bench upon which at higher cornering speeds, occupants would be quickly rolling about. Back here, these aren't the compromised pews you'd expect to find in something professing to be a four-door sportscar, instead offering standards of head and legroom not really that far off Mercedes S-Class or a BMW 7 Series saloons. The seats are even positioned a little more centrally than those ahead, so you get a decent view of the action going on up-front.
As you might expect, this E-Hybrid version really suffers in practicality terms, given that its battery pack is housed beneath the boot floor. Here, you'll have only 335-litres to play with - or 1,153-litres if you flatten the rear seats.
There haven't been any reported issues with the hybrid powertrain and we wouldn't expect you'll get any - in the short term at least. Check for parking damage and kerbed alloys and make sure all of the electric functions work. Check for a fully stamped-up service record and do an HPI check to make sure the car you're looking at is legitimate. Tyres are pricey, so do check that your Panamera isn't in need of new boots. Inconsistently-worn tyres will also hint at alignment issues. Virtually all Panamera models will pass through Official Porsche Centres, so you can normally buy with confidence, albeit without expecting a screaming bargain.
(approx based on a 2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid) An air filter costs around £36. An oil filter costs about £12. Brake pads sit in the £40 bracket for a set. A water pump will cost around £800. Wiper blades cost in the £6 to £14 bracket. An ignition coil will be about £30.
Porsche has a long heritage in hybrid power. Founder Ferdinand Porsche actually invented the hybrid principle back in 1900 and was the first to build such a car, the Lohner Porsche Mixte. The brand's modern adoption of this technology is rather more recent though, with the original petrol/electric version of this Panamera launched in 2010.
Unlike, say, Honda's original hybrid models which worked only with a combination of petrol and electric power, this model uses the Parallel hybrid approach, which means that if necessary, both power sources can work separately from each other.
So what's it like? Well, take a seat behind the wheel and it all seems pretty standard - until you slot the car-shaped ignition key into its slot and start to look a little more closely at the distinctive green-needled instruments ahead of you. An interactive Energy flow diagram you can select on the crescent-shaped dial to the right shows you whether the power source up-front is being provided by battery, engine or a combination of both. More informative though, is what the brand calls an 'E-Power' meter, found in place of the usual speedometer to the left of the central rev counter. The original Panamera Hybrid hardly ever delivered much all-electric capability: this car is very different - in a way you can carefully monitor via that E-Power instrument dial. Frugal use of the throttle will see its needle rise from its 'Ready' position into the 'Efficiency' section of the dial. When you come off the gas or brake, it'll shift downwards into the 'Charge' section as energy recuperation kicks in. Use heavier acceleration and the green pointer will sway upwards into the percentage 'Power' section, culminating in the red 'Boost' segment at the top during kickdown.
Back in 2013, this S E-Hybrid Panamera variant was crucial for the Porsche brand, not only because of the interest in Hybrid power in Porsche's core US and Chinese markets but also because of the lack of a really powerful conventional diesel alternative in a range that really needed it. Given that the 4.2-litre V8 TDI unit the company used in its Cayenne SUV from this era wouldn't fit beneath the bonnet of a first generation Panamera, buyers in this model range seeking high performance with high frugality really needed another option - and this was it.
This S E-Hybrid used much of the hi-tech cleverness developed for Porsche's 918 Spyder hypercar. Primarily, that meant the adoption of Plug-in technology, so owners could charge this car from the mains. Plus the previous Panamera S Hybrid model's ancient nickel metal hydride battery was, with the S E-Hybrid, replaced with a hi-tech lithium-ion unit with over five times the storage capacity. That meant owners of this improved plug-in derivative could expect a decent electric-only operating range: to be specific, somewhere between 11 and 22 miles, depending on speed and conditions - which was quite a step forward given that the original version wouldn't go much more than a mile or so before its engine cut in.
But the petrol/electric Plug-in Panamera doesn't only focus on frugality. Its battery boosts performance too, aided by a 95bhp electric motor that's over twice as powerful as that of the old 'S Hybrid' model. What wasn't changed was the 333bhp Audi-sourced 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine it was paired with, the two working together to create a combined system power output of 416bhp, accessed via four selectable operating modes - E-Power, Hybrid, E-Charge and Sport. Unless the temperature's below freezing or you've forgotten to charge the car up, you'll always be starting off in electric-only 'E-Power', in which near-silent guise the car is capable of an impressive maximum speed of as much as 84mph. When the battery range is used up or you need to use the kickdown for rapid acceleration, the car will automatically switch to petrol/electric 'Hybrid' mode, a setting you might also want to switch to early if, for example, you want to save the battery charge for some city driving later on in your trip. Mind you, that may not be necessary thanks to the clever 'E-Charge' option which can charge that battery as you drive. Finally, there's the 'Sport' mode which harnesses the power of the petrol engine with the full boost of the electric motor to spirit this two-tonne luxury sports Gran Turismo to 62mph in just 5.5s en route to 168mph.
Enough with what lies beneath the bonnet: we need to talk more about the driving experience. This was always intended to be a more dynamic choice in the Luxury segment, a four-door sportscar that happened to be able to seat a quartet of passengers in comfort. Porsche's perspective was that if that was the case, it was hardly reasonable for buyers to expect it to ride like a Rolls Royce. Behind the scenes though, their engineers put a lot of work into getting the ride of this car a little closer to customer expectations in this sector. Hence a range of suspension tweaks which meant that this Panamera's ride at low speed over poor surfaces proved to be significantly better than it was before.
This may well be the first thing you'll notice when getting behind the wheel of a post-2013 first generation Panamera, particularly if you come to it familiar with the previous version. When it comes to ride quality, the S E-Hybrid model starts out with an advantage in the standard fitment of the clever Adaptive air suspension system that was optional on lesser Panamera variants. This automatically keeps the vehicle level constant, regardless of the load distribution. Plus there's a manual lift function enabling you to raise the body by 20mm to reduce the risk of grounding. The system works in conjunction with the PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) electronic damping control system that offers 'normal', 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' settings to vary the ride from cosseting to clinically precise. The driver-orientated 'Sport Plus' setting is even cleverer if you've the air suspension fitted: select this mode and the ride height automatically drops by 25mm and the springs harden.
If that's something you're likely to be activating very often, then there are three other options you really need to be looking for. The first is a feature almost all original Panamera buyers chose - the Sport Chrono Package that gives even sportier tuning of the engine and chassis set-up. When fitted with the PDK gearbox, it quickens its shift times and offers F1-style Launch Control for quick getaways. Some original owners also added PDCC 'Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control' to limit cornering roll and got themselves an electronically regulated rear differential lock for extra rear wheel traction. Further cornering vim can be encouraged by a Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system that works through the twisty stuff to counter both understeer and wheelspin by lightly micro-braking whichever front wheel is threatening to lose grip. As a result, the car's kept planted through the tightest turn and you're fired on from bend to bend. It's the Panamera way.
You won't be buying any super-luxury boardroom-class saloon or hatch on economic grounds, least of all this one. If you simply want a more cost-effective way to run a Panamera, then the diesel version provides that in a much simpler form. It can't match this S E-Hybrid model's performance though, it's exemplary refinement or its hi-tech appeal.
This Panamera S E-Hybrid model is a devastatingly effective statement of its brand's technological know-how from the 2013-2017 era. It offered then - and offers now - a glimpse into the future of just how efficient powerful luxury sportscars could be. Porsche-style.