2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid first drive review: the 918 Spyder distilled

The 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is an intensely busy machine.

There’s nothing raw or visceral, two words nearly synonymous with Porsche, about this four-door hypercar, and yet it feels every bit the flagship it is intended to be. After on- and off-track drives around Victoria, British Columbia, it has forced us to rethink our notion of what makes a Porsche a Porsche.

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With the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, Porsche has distilled the 918 Spyder’s plug-in hybrid technology into a sedan/hatchback intended for the masses—the masses with upward of $200,000 to drop on a leather-lined four-seater, that it is. This flashiest of Panameras doesn’t render the 918 Spyder a relic, but its 680-horsepower, 626 pound-feet of torque powertrain hardly makes it a slouch.

Electric boost for days

Porsche quotes a believably fast 0-60 mph sprint of 3.2 seconds, but that’s only a portion of the story. Response from the skinny pedal is electric car-grade instantaneous, only with a lot more jolt. Here, a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 cribbed from the standard Panamera Turbo pairs to a 14-kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor. An updated version of the automaker’s 8-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission optimized for hybrid use shuttles power to all four corners. In this case, “hybrid” doesn’t denote eco-friendliness, although the rich can get richer by stopping for gasless often. Official fuel economy figures aren’t out yet, but Porsche estimates about 31 miles of electric-only range.

To a certain extent, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid drives just like its brethren—except that it’s intergalactically fast. Even in Normal mode, it rockets forward when the throttle pedal is mashed, its 8-speed gearbox firing off imperceptibly fast shifts. The Panamera’s standard 16.5-inch ceramic composite brakes bring things to a halt in similarly neck-snapping fashion, although there’s a bit of a dead zone before they grab hold. That’s something we’ll chalk up to the regenerative braking system that helps feed the battery.

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On a tight circuit near Victoria, we put the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid in Sport+ mode and hustled our way behind a 911 Turbo S driven by a pro. The big four-door’s ability to hustle belies its 700 pounds of extra battery and feature girth. There’s a hint of on-center deadness to its meaty, three-spoke steering wheel, but otherwise this four-door admirably mimics a much smaller car. Yet it transitions well and there's more feedback from this tiller than anything the Panamera competes against, not that it really has a direct rival. Tesla's Model S and BMW's 7-Series seem the most logical, but neither is quite on par with the Porsche.

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