Porsche Panamera 2018 review: 4 E-Hybrid
Porsche's drive towards electrification continues, and the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid represents an interesting fast GT/luxury-limo mash-up that stands apart from the usual suspects.
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This is usually the part where we bang on for a little bit, trying to put the car in question into some kind of context before we really get stuck into the pressing question at hand - is it actually any good?
But we won’t waste time with all that here, so let me break this one down a little more quickly for you: Porsche now has an electric car, the very fast and very clever Taycan (that's Thai-Khan, btw). And for a company built on a long history of conventional horsepower, it's a Very Big Deal.
So can the Taycan lead the electric charge for Porsche? Let’s find out.
|Porsche Taycan 2020: Turbo|
There are only two Taycans for now, the Turbo and the Turbo S, with those titles obviously referring to trim levels and electric power outputs rather than any conventional engine mechanics.
While specification is still being locked down for Australia - the car is still around 12 months from arriving locally - our international test cars arrived with 21-inch alloys, sports seats, leather-trimmed interiors (with wood or carbon-look inserts, LED matrix headlights, twin-zone climate, standard navigation and Apple CarPlay.
The dials in the driver’s binnacle are replaced by a 16.8-inch curved screen, which can be viewed in"Classic", "Map", "Full Map" or "Pure" modes, while a rev counter has been fittingly replaced by a power meter.
You'll find a 10.9-inch display in the centre of the dash, which is equipped with Apple CarPlay, and which can be joined by a (largely unnecessary) third screen in front of the passenger.
The Taycan's key controls have been digitised, too, with an 8.4-inch haptic-touch panel below the dash home to the climate control settings and a "handwriting" input for the navigation system. And then, should you tick the four-zone climate option, there's another touch panel for backseat riders to control their own climate options.
So then, how much? Local pricing hasn’t been confirmed, but we do know that in the USA, the Taycan Turbo starts at US$150,900, while the Turbo S requires a US$185,000 investment.
We’d expect the Turbo to start above $200,000, and the Turbo S to push closer to (or over) $300,000.
Like a lot of the bigger members of the Porsche family, it’s all about the angle. Front-on or rear-on, it looks very good, with its tunnel-style headlights that seem to grow out of either side of the bonnet.
Side-on, though, I think it loses something in the translation, and like it’s somehow slightly out of proportion. Anyway, beauty and beholder and all that. Let’s not dwell, shall we?
Commendably, the Taycan doesn’t look a million years away from the Vision E concept revealed back in 2015. The rear-hinged back doors are gone (Porsche says it had to include a b-pillar for structural rigidity, and once they did, the idea would be largely pointless).
Still, the Taycan is a powerful and premium-looking product from Porsche, and one that doesn’t stray too far from the traditional playbook. In fact, charging flaps aside, you might be hard-pressed identifying it as an EV at all.
There’s the continuous light strip at the rear of the car, with a Porsche logo in glass letters, and a heap of active aerodynamic features, like the front flaps and the spoiler at the rear, the former taking care of cooling the electrical equipment, as well as the brakes.
Inside, though, the Taycan does move the German brand’s interior game forward, in that it no longer looks like the cabin has been covered with glue and thrown into a deep bin of buttons.
Instead, almost everything is digital, from the curved display behind the steering wheel to the secondary control screen - that sits below the multimedia screen in the middle of the dash - and gives you access to the the air-air-conditioning settings and volume controls.
The truth is, though, that while this abundance of tech makes the interior feel a far more modern space, it actually doesn’t make it any more user friendly, with tasks that take milliseconds when using button or wheels taking significantly longer when trying to access menus through a screen, some of which are true touchscreens while others offer haptic feedback.
One more point on the interior. The Turbo we drove felt far more premium the the Turbo S, which swapped the latter’s basic-looking grey trim for a tan leather wrap, and the carbon fibre elements for more expensive looking woodgrain. So spec your Taycan carefully, folks.
Let’s talk dimensions first, because that will help put the size of the Taycan into some perspective. Porsche’s first EV measures 4963mm in length, 1966mm in width (not counting the mirrors) and around 1380mm in height - and weighs around 2.3 tonnes.
That makes it shorter, skinnier and lower than the Panamera (5049mm/1937mm/1423mm) with the Taycan technically falling into the C-Segment sedan class.
Like most cars with a raked roof, how much space you get depends on where in the car you’re sitting, with the sloping roofline eating into headroom in the backseat. I’m 175cm, and the top of my head was touching the roof lining. Porsche has pulled off a clever trick in incorporating “foot garages" between the battery pack and the rear electric motor, which does give some more headroom.
Up front, though, the cabin feels plenty spacious, thanks to the higher roofline and shoulder space between passengers. Here you’ll find two cupholders, slim door pockets, and media connections hidden in a bin that separates the front seats.
There’s twin USB ports under the back seat, and the separator between window seats (this is a true four-seat vehicle) is filled with two cupholders and a grippy storage space.
The glovebox, though, is tiny, but there’s a combined 447 litres of storage under the bonnet and trunks.
Ah, now we’re getting to the juicy stuff. There is no traditional engine/transmission combination here, of course. Instead, the Taycan offers up great big bucketloads of electric power on command.
There’s two “continuously excited” electric motors at play here, one housed at each axle, though the latter can be decoupled to allow the Taycan to motor in FWD only to maximise range.
Those motors produce a combined 460kW in both the Turbo and the Turbo S, but you can unlock more power (in a 2.5-second blast) when engaging launch control. How much extra power, of course, depends on how much you spend.
The Turbo will give you 560kW and 850Nm (enough for a sprint to 100km/h in a brisk 3.2 seconds. But engaging launch control in the Turbo S ups those outputs to a staggering 560kW and 1050Nm, dropping the sprint time to a lightning-quick 2.8 seconds. The quarter mile time is impressive, too; 11.1sec in the Turbo and 10.8sec in the Turbo S.
Helping with those times is the fact that the gearbox at the rear axle is actually a two-speed unit, with first gear used purely for acceleration, and only when Sport or Sport Plus modes are engaged.
Porsche also debuts an 800-volt architecture, which it says reduces charging time and allows for more sustained performance by reducing heat loss. And its this that allows for the Taycan’s “repeatability”, especially when it comes to launch control starts: “You can do it as long as you want,” says Porsche’s Mayk Wienkotter. “We say more than 10 times, but we’ve found it’s mostly the driver who gives up first.”
How much power you use - and how quickly - depends on how fast you choose to drive, of course, but the Taycan Turbo’s 93.4kWh battery will deliver a WLTP range of between 381km and 450km, while the Turbo S serves up a little less, at between 388km and 412km. Power consumption is listed at up to 26.7kWh per 100km in the Turbo, and 25.7kWh in the Turbo S.
Its maximum DC (fast) charging capacity is 270kW, which should see you going from five to 80 per cent charged in around 22.5 minutes. That’s under “optimal conditions” however, but we found were able to add about the same amount of charge in round 35 minutes.
You can also plug your Taycan in at home (in fact. There’s a seperate AC charge point on the opposing flank to where you find the DC port), with Porsche saying it will take around nine hours to recharge to full using an 11kW power source.
It probably doesn’t need to be pointed out at this point, but the Taycan is fast. Even the Turbo can make it feel like your eyebrows are trying to exit your face, but a flat-footed, launch-control-enabled sprint in the Turbo S is truly other-worldly.
Plant your foot and you are genuinely thrown into the seat back (don’t believe me? Watch me bounce off the seats in the video review…), the scenery blurring outside the windows while, in the cabin, a vaguely futuristic sound - which is kind of like someone playing a water jug - wafts around the interior, growing in volume as you collect speed.
But blisteringly fast straight-line acceleration is a known party trick of EVs (insert Tesla’s Ludicrous mode here) and so it’s really no surprise the Taycan is such a beast off the line.
Far more impressive, and surprising, is the way it feels so complete, from the direct steering to the handling and grip, the ride to the braking (part artificial, of course, and part mechanical). It all works as one to produce, and there’s really no other way to say this, a Porsche-ness that contributes to a properly enjoyable drive experience.
The three-chamber air suspension delivers a superb ride, whether in its most comfortable settings or in Sports or Sports Plus mode, and it adds to a feeling of wafting comfort that makes the Taycan feel very liveable, even if you don't push it to the limit.
But should you present it with the right winding road, the Taycan will positively flows up or down it, propelled on this tsunami of torque that feels always on and inexhaustible. The power is prodigious, yes, but the fact it’s delivered in this instant, lag-free way is what gives you the feeling you’re less driving up a road and more being propelled by some epic and invisible force.
The grip is ferocious, the body roll non-existent, but you can’t quite shake the thought that Taycan is hiding some 2.3 tonnes of weight under its body work, and so you do find yourself occasionally backing off as you rocket to a corner, you brain struggling with the physics of how something this big, and this heavy, could possibly make it around a bend. But make it round it does, again and again and again.
Still, you can’t help but notice there are no gears to change yourself, or exhaust note to measure, and so there is an inescapable sense of something artificial lurking in the drive experience. It's like the Taycan is doing all so easily that it lacks excitement and involvement.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
The Taycan isn’t expected to arrive in Australia until late 2020, and so pricing and specification is still being determined. But there is some clear EV-specific safety stuff on offer. For one, sensors detect an accident or an airbag deployment, and automatically cut the high-voltage current.
There’s a total eight airbags, and two ISOFX attachment points in the window seats in the back, and there’s a long list of active safety tech, including a reversing cameras, lane keep assist, AEB, active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and a parking assistant.
The Taycan is yet to be officially crash tested.
No word on Australian specifics yet, but you can expect the Taycan to be covered by Porsche’s three-year warranty, with the battery covered for eight years.
It’s a Porsche, but not as you know it. Not just a good electric vehicle, the Taycan is also simply a good vehicle, and one in which blistering pace is joined by the kind of driving dynamics destined to put a smile on your face.
It's the best EV I've driven to date.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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