A 380-hp hybrid that manages only 22 mpg in the city and costs at least $97,125 sounds like Marie Antoinette's answer to global climate change. Porsche mostly makes up for the ridiculousness of this concept, though, with a level of execution few automakers can marshal. Just take a look at the Marsala-colored leather cabin. It combines the purpose of a drivers' car -- clear gauges, a small steering wheel, and the best bucket seats in the industry -- with the elegance and comfort of a luxury car -- leather and real metal everywhere, along with plush carpets and incredible attention to detail.
That execution carries over, for the most part, into the hybrid powertrain. At its heart is a supercharged, 333-hp 3.0-liter V-6, which we already know and love from several Audis. A 47-hp electric motor is mounted between the engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission. That it makes for a reasonably fast car is no surprise -- the Hybrid does 0-60 in 5.7 seconds. But what impresses me is how quick it feels at low speeds, where the extra weight -- some 400 pounds more than a base V-6 Panamera -- and the added complexity of the engine and motor interaction should slur the reaction time. The one thing you do give up is auditory pleasure. The 3.0-liter sounds fine, but it has none of the menace of a V-8 Panamera, let alone the flat-sixes that reside in "real" Porsches.
The most amazing thing about the Panamera, though, is the way it grips asphalt through a turn. I've noticed this about every Panamera I've driven, but this one, with its sticky twenty-inch summer tires, seemed to generate its own gravitational field as I literally accelerated through an exit ramp. The steering isn't quite as communicative as in the best Porsches, but is leagues better than what's in most large cars -- and its weight and precision are just about perfect.
None of this excuses what is in my opinion a rather confused exercise in product planning. But if you do happen to have $100,000 and want a sporty large sedan that saves some money at the pump, you can do no better than the Panamera S Hybrid.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
It used to shock us when Porsche built vehicles that didn't hue to the two-door sports-car formula that made it famous, but if the sales success of the Cayenne and the Panamera has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't underestimate Porsche's product planners. So even though the Panamera Hybrid S might seems likes the answer to a question that nobody was asking, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that there is indeed a market for this car.
Other than the fact that the Hybrid S gets 30 mpg on the highway, this car has the same things going for it as other Panameras. Sports-car-like handling, a responsive engine, first-rate materials and build quality, and the allure of the Porsche brand are all present and accounted for in this car. It also comes with the over-buttoned center console, which always throws me for a loop but which, were I to own this car, would likely become second nature with repeated use.
My next-door neighbor was particularly smitten with the the Panamera - not because it's a Porsche, but because it's a hybrid. Perhaps Porsche is on to something with this car after all.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
It's interesting Amy's neighbor swooned over the Panamera because of its hybrid driveline, apart from the Hybrid script on the car's hatch, there's virtually no way to tell a Panamera S Hybrid from a standard, eight-cylinder Panamera S. There's not even a special hybrid wheel: the base 16-inch units are as you'd find on any other Panamera S, although you can add any wheel available on any other Panamera (in this instance, 20-inch, 911-style alloys, which add an extra $3300 to the price of this car).
The same can be said of the Panamera S Hybrid's interior. Apart from a menu or two within the gauge cluster and navigation screen and a switch to put the car into extended electric operation, there's little that truly differs. The Panamera's cabin is no less inviting or luxurious than its non-hybrid siblings, and it's no less customizable either. Our car was fitted with sumptuous maroon leather on both seating and trim surfaces, though if you so desire, you can also outfit the same hide on the door sills, steering column, center stack, rear view mirror, and so on in the same material (you'll pay dearly to do so, of course).
Perhaps all this subterfuge is fitting, since the Panamera S Hybrid doesn't drive much like a hybrid. Acceleration is surprisingly quick, and the application of the electric motor is virtually seamless. Despite spending most my weekend with the Panamera on the open highway, I still had plenty of opportunity to see that transition in action: the engine can shut off completely under deceleration at speeds up to 120 mph (I only broached 75, officer; honest). The only trade-off? You do lose that delectable sound of the Panamera S' 4.4-liter V-8.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor