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posted on 2020-09-22 22:01:00 .
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It takes a lot of time and money to design and then produce a new vehicle, so the longer the car stays on sale, the more time there is to recoup that investment. Eight years is about the lifespan of a new model, which unfortunately is long enough for customers to get bored.
Enter the midlife refresh. The idea is as simple as it sounds—halfway through a model’s lifespan, it gets treated to a makeover. There are always things that can be tweaked to make production easier, to satisfy customers, or to take advantage of some new gadget or gizmo that showed up in the meantime.
Such is the case for Porsche’s Panamera sedan, which emerges fresh from the styling department with a sharper new face, a subtle tweak to the taillights, and of most interest to our audience, a 27-percent bump in battery size for the plug-in hybrids in the model lineup.
In days of old, Porsche would have assembled a selection of its face-lifted sedans in one spot and let us journalists have a couple of hours in each. In our new, socially distanced nightmare, the company has taken another approach, bringing a 2021-spec Panamera 4S E-Hybrid to me in DC for a couple of days instead. It’s actually a new addition to the plug-in Panamera lineup, slotting in between the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid.
So, what’s the difference between the 4 and 4S?
About 90hp (or 67kW), courtesy of an uprated 2.9L twin-turbo V6 which offers 434hp (323kW) in the 4S. The electric motor remains the same 134hp (100kW), 295lb-ft (400Nm) as in other Porsche hybrids, like the Cayenne we reviewed yesterday. The motor is again situated between the internal combustion engine and the eight-speed automatic ZF transmission, which drives all four wheels.
Thus, combined power and torque is a hefty 552hp (412kW) and 553lb-ft (750Nm), which goes some way to explaining why Porsche has decided to drop the non-hybrid Panamera Turbo—also with about 550hp—from the lineup.
The other change for 2021, which also applies to the other two plug-in Panameras, is a bigger lithium-ion battery. It’s now 17.9kWh, up from 14.1kWh, and arrives programmed with new energy deployment and regeneration strategies that should translate to a real-world increase in fuel efficiency, as well as a meaningful bump in its electric-only range. Improved cells mean that the new battery doesn’t occupy any more room than the outgoing unit.
The official EPA numbers won’t be determined until closer early next year when the new Panameras go on sale, but my test car averaged 23.4mpg (10l/100km) over 270 miles.
The combination of a Euro-spec car (therefore the wrong connector for public chargers) and no outlet by my parking space at home complicated things. But a 30-minute, 18-mile (30km) drive in Sport Plus mode brought the battery to a 50-percent state of charge, which was enough energy to get me back home again without firing up the internal combustion engine. (Another tweak is that driving in Sport Plus or E-Charge mode, both of which use the V6 as a generator to charge the battery, will only bring the 4S to 80-percent SoC instead of 100 percent.)
Like a panzer
Despite more than 550hp to play with and 3.5-second 0-60mph time, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid doesn’t feel like a particularly fast car. You notice it when you initiate a steering input or apply your foot to the accelerator from a standstill.
The car doesn’t so much hesitate when you tell it to do something, but it feels heavy, like it’s forged from tungsten rather than a mix of high-strength steel and aluminum. This is a common trait among all the Panameras I’ve driven, one not shared by the similarly heavy Cayenne or Taycan, which leads me to conclude that Panamera customers like it like that.
Pricing, like EPA efficiency ratings, won’t be announced until Q1 2021, when 2021 Panameras start arriving in the United States for customers. So I can’t tell you how much you’d save by picking the cheaper Panamera 4 E-Hybrid over the 4S E-Hybrid. That would be my pick, perhaps with the savings spent adding some options. (I’d actually recommend the Cayenne SUV if you need a plug-in hybrid Porsche, and the Taycan if you can live with a battery-electric vehicle.)
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin
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