Porsche Panamera Hybrid: Will It Carry the Green Torch?

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I don’t doubt Porsche anymore. Porsche could debut a shiny red bicycle with training wheels at the Geneva Auto Show this week, slap an MSRP sticker on the sucker, call it the new 911 Carrera and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Not after last summer.

Back then, the company took the motorsports world by storm with their GT3R Hybrid that utilized a revolutionary flywheel technology to generate electrical power to the front wheels of the race car--a car that nearly won the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in its first competition (a busted flat-six combustion engine forced retirement just two hours from the finish). It was an achievement that turned the perception of hybrid engines on its head, particularly in racing, but ultimately its magnitude would soon be felt in showrooms and on public roads.

Not long after, Porsche announced that the concept hybrid supercar 918 Spyder would enter production, and that the hybrid Cayman S coupe would also see daylight. The Cayenne S Hybrid reached our shores last November.

Environmental fad? Marketing ploy? I think not. These are all products stemming from the research and development poured into that bright orange GT3R last summer. Who knew that car companies still used racing for anything practical?

In just a few days, Porsche will continue their hybridization when they unveil the 2012 Panamera S Hybrid, powered by the same engine in the Cayman S Hybrid. While a hybrid engine will do nothing to save that monstrous rear end, estimated figures indicate improvement in both performance and fuel economy. Together, the gas V-6 and electric motor will combine for 380 horsepower and as much as 34 mpg.

Here in Southern California, where two of the most popular vehicles on the road are the socially trendy Prius and the rolling status-mobile Panamera, combining the two and dropping them into showrooms is like throwing chum into shark-infested waters. It will not be hard to sell out. But ultimately, that isn’t the goal. At least not immediately.

This is hybrid technology for the masses. Porsche is not placing all of its hopes on a one-model messiah like the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf, opting instead for continued development of the engine/drivetrain system for all of their vehicle platforms. The recent production hybrids unveiled by Porsche are likely stepping stones toward their ultimate goal of perfecting this technology. If the GT3R introduced new ideas to the world of hybrid motorsports, their Panamera S Hybrid could pose an outright challenge to the rest of the auto production industry.

And since the name of this site is FutureCarReports.com, it’s worth mentioning that they’re also planning fully-green electric vehicles in the not-so-distant future. Who would have though that a performance sports car company would be the one to lead the hybrid revolution?

I wouldn’t bet against them.

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