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Driven: Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo Is a Monster

Drive faster, we’ve got a planet to save!

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, California—Three takeaways from my first drive of the freshly updated 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo wagon: First, I've never tested a car with a longer name. Second, going 0-60 in less than 3.0 seconds is a lot less dramatic than you might think. Third, driving like a maniac may be the best thing you can do for the environment.

Three seconds to 60 in the 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

What's it like to accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds? In the most expensive and most powerful of Porsche's Panamera offerings, it's something of an anticlimax. Select Sport Plus mode, floor the brake pedal first and the accelerator second. The revs jump to 5,000 rpm and a blue banner on the dash tells you Launch Control is engaged. Side-step the brake and there's a very un-Porsche-like thud (which I suspect is the sound a seat frame makes when it slams into a human spine), and you're away. In less time than it takes to read this sentence, you're at 60 and gaining speed rapidly.

This is about as quick as you'll ever "need" to accelerate in a four-door car, but you'd never know it. There's no tire squeal, no scrabbling for traction, no tail waggling. One moment you're sitting still; the next moment you're handing your license and registration to a cop. Accelerating this quickly is sheer lunacy, but in the gentlemanly confines of the top-of-the-line 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo , it takes on a surreal air of normalcy.

You'd think Porsche might bake-in a little more theater, since swiftness is the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid's calling card. With a twin-turbo V-8 and electric motor delivering a combined 690 horsepower and 642 lb-ft of torque—an increase of 10 hp and 16 lb-ft versus last year's Turbo S E-Hybrid that is part of the 2021 facelift—this is the quickest Panamera you can buy. It's probably quicker even than Porsche says; after all, the company claimed 0-60 in 3.2 seconds for the pre-facelift car, and our colleagues at MotorTrend timed it at 2.8. When you're accelerating that quickly, one tenth-of-a-second looks just like the next.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo: Scotty, Warp Power Now or We're All Dead!

This was especially disappointing for me because I spent so much time prepping for my lightspeed run. Porsche advised that best performance is achieved when the newly enlarged 17.9-kWh battery is charged to 80 percent of capacity or better, but the Turbo S E-Hybrid arrived with only 75 percent. I had just half a day with this German-spec Panamera, not enough time to plug in, so I hit the highway and set the car to charge mode, which is supposed to juice up the battery.

Forty minutes of freeway and city-street driving netted me a mere 5 percent. I began to wonder, and not for the last time on the day, how seriously Porsche takes this whole hybrid thing. The Panamera has a string of LEDs that show you rate-of-charge, and charge mode was only netting me one of those little lights, while braking to a stop would get me three or four. Brainstorm: I found a hill, drove up slowly and rode the brake down the other side. Bingo! Within minutes, the Panamera's battery was at 90 percent, and I was ready to rock and roll.

I found a deserted patch of road for a couple of launch-mode runs, and—well, you know how that went. My plan was to follow my launch-mode shenanigans with some curvy-road driving while the battery was still full-ish, so I left the car in Sport Plus mode (stiffest suspension, loudest exhaust, twitchiest throttle and tranny calibration) and turned into the twisties.

Storming the curves in the 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo

How was it? Disappointing—the Panamera was wallowy, imprecise, and it plowed into understeer at surprisingly low speeds. Nah, I'm just kidding. It's the top-of-the-line Porsche Panamera, so how do you think it was? Magnificent, of course. Sport Plus uses the stiffest of three suspension settings, and the resulting ride is firm but never jarring, active but not busy. Grip is outstanding, though I could feel the front end jump around a bit on some mid-corner bumps. Big as it is, the Panamera fit nicely into the narrowest roads on my route, and if I pushed a little I found it would rotate in true 911 tradition. (Engine or battery hanging out behind the rear axle—what's the difference?)

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid wasn't the most perfect twisty-road car I've driven, but I don't think it was trying to be. After all, Porsche makes some of the best-handling cars in the universe, so the Panamera has nothing to prove. What it needs to be is perfectly-at-home on these challenging roads, and it was.

And as for starting with a good charge on the battery, it turns out I really needn't have worried. By the time I finished my first sinewy salvo, the battery was at 97 percent, or 7 percent higher than when I started. In Sport Plus, the electric motor augments the gas engine when you open the throttle wide, but with the V-8 developing 563 hp on its own, you rarely need to do that. All the hard braking, though, generates plenty of electricity—enough, according to the Panamera E-Hybrid's display, to net me an extra three miles of all-electric driving.

Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo: Driving Fast for the Good of the Planet

This was an epiphany of majestic proportions: The harder I drove, the higher my all-electric range went. What a perfect excuse! Don't shake your fist at me, Mr. Prius-driver-who-I-had-to-pass-on-a-double-yellow-because-you're-poking-along-at-25-mph-on-the-best-damn-road-on-the-planet—I'm not speeding, I'm generating electricity. Out of my way, Slowzenheimer, I've got a planet to save!

With 50 or so miles of curvy-road driving under my belt, and with the state-of-charge meter showing 28 electric-only miles and the trip computer indicating an average fuel consumption of 12.1 mpg, I figured I'd done my part for the environment and it was time to try hybrid and the electric part of the Panamera's equation.

The 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo (gawd, that's fun to write—I feel like I'm addressing royalty) has both hybrid- and electric-drive modes, and in the latter it can drive on pure battery power at speeds of up to 87 mph. Pressing the accelerator more than halfway or so wakes up the gas engine, but if you're judicious with the throttle, it's possible to accelerate to freeway speeds and stay there without the engine. I was able to merge onto the 101 freeway and cruise for a couple of exits without burning any hydrocarbons.

The 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid as a Hybrid

However, I didn't want to burn right through all of the precious electricity I'd worked so hard to generate, so I dove into the suburban streets and switched the Panamera to Hybrid Auto mode. Here the car makes judicious use of battery power, launching from a stop on electricity, then starting the engine to assist with acceleration and shutting it off as you decelerate. It's a bit jarring when the engine starts, but if you crank up your tunes on the Burmester stereo and let your mind wander, the transition feels like a harsher-than-normal shift from the dual-clutch transmission.

I stopped for a quick lunch break. I have a hard-and-fast rule against eating in press cars priced more than $38,000, with all Hyundais and Kias permanently exempted. But as there's a pandemic on, I decided to ignore the rule and scarf down my fast food while evaluating the Panamera's back seat, thereby killing two birds with one fatty, cholesterol-laden stone. For those unfamiliar with the  Panamera's back seats, they are meant to feel a lot like the front seats, with individual buckets designed to hold occupants in tightly. Legroom is good, but the backrest angle is a little too reclined for my liking. The front seat is the better place to be, and carbohydrates consumed, I endeavored to occupy it once again.

Cruising down Victory Blvd., a string of green lights ahead of me, I was delighted to see the Panamera Hybrid was now cruising at 45 mph or so on battery power alone, because my first impression was that it was a bit too eager to fire up the engine in Hybrid Auto mode. It was then I realized I wasn't in Hybrid Auto mode—the Porsche had surreptitiously slipped into all-electric mode which, it turns out, it does every time you start the car. Well, that's annoying. Wouldn't it make more sense to start in Hybrid mode and let the driver decide when to use battery power?

Good Fuel Economy but the Braking Needs Work

With the car back in Hybrid mode, I found that with battery augmentation I was getting around 35 mpg in city driving, which seems decent enough to me. That said, the average Panamera owner makes three-quarters of a million dollars per year. I have no idea what it feels like to have such a generous income, but I imagine you might not be too concerned with plugging in the PHEV Panamera each night for a few lousy mpg. Then again, said buyer would have already dropped the better part of $225,000 on their car (hard to say for sure as Porsche has yet to announce 2021 pricing), so maybe they're a little more concerned with coin than I'm allowing.

They might be concerned by the brakes, though. Porsche reshaped the 2021 Panamera Hybrid's master cylinder to give longer travel and more precision, but there's still a noticeable change in braking rate as the car switches from regenerative to friction braking. As you're cruising to a gentle stop and drop through 15 mph or so, the car tries to stop short, and you have to ease off the brake far earlier than you would normally. It takes practice to make smooth stops; I got my technique down, but later when I hopped into our Four Seasons Hyundai Veloster N, I nearly rear-ended the car ahead of me at the first stoplight I came to.

As my half-day drew to a close, I had one last experiment to conduct. I switched to all-electric mode and drained the last two miles from the battery as I headed to my secret Studio City test strip. Would having an empty battery make a noticeable difference in the 0-60 run? Sport Plus mode, floor the brake, floor the accelerator, dump the brake, thud

Even without a juiced-up battery, it still felt plenty quick and a little anticlimactic. But, you know what, it might have felt just a smidge slower. Time to head back to the curvy roads to generate a little more electricity. All for the good of the planet, of course.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo Highlights

  • Top-of-the-line model in the Panamera lineup
  • Improved hybrid system offers more power
  • Chassis reworked for broader spread between Nomfort and Sport modes

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo Pros

  • Ridiculously quick
  • Comfortable for commuting, and great fun on a curvy road
  • Sport Turismo model looks like a dream wagon

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo Cons

  • Brake-pedal feel needs work
  • Back seat isn't the most comfortable
2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo Specifications
ON SALE Spring 2021
PRICE $195,000 (base) (est)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/ 563 hp @ 5,750-6,000 rpm, 567 lb-ft @ 2,100-4,500 rpm, plus electric motor/134 hp, 295 lb-ft @ 100-2,300 rpm; combined 690 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 642 lb-ft @ 1,500-5,550 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD wagon
EPA MILEAGE TBD
L x W x H 198.8 x 78.2 x 56.4 in
WHEELBASE 198.8 in
WEIGHT 5,311 lb (est)
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec
TOP SPEED 196 mph