The 2013 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid is both an outstanding sport sedan and an impressive hybrid — but at this price, you'll have to really want green credentials to choose it over a Panamera Turbo model.
Unlike the cars themselves, reviews of Porsche vehicles tend to be boring and predictable: gushing prose over how amazing it is to drive, how its handling is incredible, how it's faster or more visceral, etc. And there's a reason those reviews are all so similar: Porsches are generally fantastic driver's cars. Yet the Panamera hatchback sedan, Porsche's first four-door that isn't an SUV, doesn't get the universal praise heaped upon the 911 or the Cayman, largely due to its awkward styling. Throw in the first-ever hybrid version, introduced for 2012 and carried over almost unchanged for 2013 (see them compared), and some questions will be raised — such as, does putting a hybrid powertrain in an unusual-looking sports car make it more or less appealing? Is there a buyer out there for a $100,000 four-door hybrid-electric Porsche? Why would Porsche even make something like this to begin with?
The "why" is actually fairly simple: All automakers are required to meet increasingly stringent emissions standards for carbon dioxide in Europe, Porsche's home market. Failing to meet them means hefty fines; the Panamera S Hybrid is therefore the cleanest Porsche ever sold, emitting only 159 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. Those numbers mean absolutely nothing to most Americans, but they're fairly important to the Europeans. So now we know why such an animal exists, but the questions remain: Is it any good? Is it worth its massive price tag? And if you're going to spend more than $100,000 on a Porsche sedan, why wouldn't you get a GTS?
Love it or Hate it, It Looks Like a Porsche
Walking up to the Panamera, you realize just how massive it really is. Pictures don't capture how long and wide this car is, as its shape still bears a resemblance to the old Porsche 928, if not quite the current Porsche 911. The more one lives with it, however, the less offensive the shape becomes. I say the car looks as only a four-door Porsche can. If it looked more like the dead sexy Aston Martin Rapide or a frumpy BMW 7 Series, people would complain that it didn't look like a Porsche. Love it or hate it, it is absolutely unique and will never be confused for any other car on the road — something many luxury-car owners seek in a high-end sports car. The only exterior clue that this is a hybrid is the discreet chrome "hybrid" script on each fender.
Saving the Planet, one $100,000 Sedan at a Time
"Hybrid Porsche" seems like an oxymoron. Hybrids are generally thought of as frumpy, slow little econoboxes with odd styling and buyers more dedicated to efficiency than speed — basically, everything that runs contrary to how most enthusiasts view Porsche as a brand. But Porsche has crafted something rather unique: Yes, it's a hybrid, but it's equipped with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine from Audi, the same one that sits under the hood of the Cayenne Hybrid and many Audi sport sedans. It's mated only to Porsche's eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, which is not a bad gearbox, but isn't the quick-shifting wunder box that Porsche's seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is. Being a hybrid, there are two sources for power: the V-6, producing 333 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque, and an additional electric motor assist that produces a system total of 380 hp and 428 pounds-feet of torque.