I figured it was a matter of time until I got to test a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV). After all, the technology needed to make such a system work is right up our alley here at Car Tech Tell. What surprised me was that my first PHEV experience would come not in a Prius Plug-In, but in a Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid.
Let’s consider for a moment that the 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid delivered to us carried a sticker price more than $20,000 higher than my house did when I bought it just four years ago. My poorboy sensibilities kicked in almost immediately, and I became very cautious about where and how precisely I parked the car.
Cue heart attack when I was walking out of a local Dollar Tree — let the unintentional, hipster irony of parking a $130,000 Porsche at the Dollar Tree sink in for a moment — and heard a loud “CRUNCH!” sound. A woman in a minivan had backed into the truck parked just a couple spaces laterally from me.
Almost immediately, I heard her pleading with the truck’s owner not to report the incident because she had no insurance — a violation of state law and common gosh-darn decency. Relieved to see it wasn’t our test 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid that got crunched by the minivan mauler, I remarked to my wife that the uninsured woman narrowly missed making the biggest parking lot boo-boo of three of her lifetimes. We gingerly scooted out of the narrow parking lot under EV power before the truck owner could change his mind and ask us to be a witness for him in court.
Reportedly, the 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid has an EV range of up to 21 miles with a fully charged EV battery. We never quite saw that much range indicated on the dash. The car was delivered with about 19 miles of EV range showing, and that number went down throughout the week despite my plugging the car into a standard 110-volt outlet on the front of my (less-expensive-than-a-Porsche-Panamera-S-e-hybrid) house each night. I suspected 110 charging would be slow, and this seemed to confirm that suspicion. The Porsche Universal Charger system included in a handy, heavyweight travel bag in the cargo area had provisions for hooking it up to a 220-volt outlet, if I had one available. Reportedly, 220-volt charging would have recharged the car’s 9.4-kWh battery much faster, leaving me with a fuller charge every morning.
The 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid makes 95 horsepower in EV mode, which was plenty enough to motivate the car in city traffic. After my first morning commute in the Porsche was made totally in EV mode — draining me from an indicated 18 miles of EV range to just 6, even though my commute is about 9 miles in length, thanks to hills aplenty — I started a strategy of saving the EV batteries for in-town commuting, where I reasoned fuel efficiency would likely be at its worst. This seemed to work very well, and I watched my trip computer-indicated miles per gallon hover in the low 30s by mid-week.
It was refreshing to be able to utilize EV mode in town without making the car feel castrated, as is unfortunately the case with Toyota hybrids I’ve tested. Most Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive products can’t exceed 24 or 25 MPH in EV mode, and if you press the throttle too hard, they’ll automatically switch back to normal hybrid mode. Plus, the battery life is much shorter. I’ve never been able to wring more than a mile and a half, give or take a few tenths, out of a Hybrid Synergy Drive’s battery pack in EV mode. In all of these shortcomings, the Toyota hybrids become almost a traffic hazard in town.
Not so for the 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid. It has plenty of power to keep up with normal traffic flow in town. Should you accidentally leave the car in its “E-POWER” mode after hitting the highway, you’d be forgiven for not noticing. I got on the nearest four-lane divided highway and pushed the car all the way up to 75 MPH before I realized the centrally-mounted tachometer in the gauge cluster was pegged at zero RPM. Very cool.
I was going to track my fuel economy numbers in the 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid, but a thought occurred to me: When you’re spending six figures on a hybrid, you’re probably not worried so much about spending $50 more per month in premium fuel. After all, you have the means to pay for the dino juice. For most of the folks who buy $130,000 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrids, I would wager the EV capability is more of a luxury and status feature than a fuel-saving measure. Based on the conversations I had with curious onlookers during the test week, I can say the car makes an impression on people based on its looks, but they’re always flummoxed when they realize the car is approaching them in relative silence in EV mode.
Not only did the 2014 Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid afford me my first test drive in a PHEV and my first test drive in a car that carries a six-figure price tag, it also allowed me to make use of a public EV charging station for the first time. More about that in a later post.
Disclosure: Porsche provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.