2021 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Review: An Overlooked Olympian
The Taycan EV grabs all the headlines, but the electrified Panamera is no slouch.
Porsche's been on a headline-grabbing run for a while now. Whether it was for those track-ready GT cars or the Taycan electric sedan, the German automaker's been busy delivering a bit of the same-same and lot of the new-new. In the midst of all this glitzy newness, however, it'd be wise not to overlook one of the automaker's less-shouty staples, one that aims to provide a near-perfect balance of sportiness, luxury, and practicality: the 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid.
As you already know, the automotive market has been dominated by SUVs and crossovers in recent years, and things are no different at Zuffenhausen. Porsche sold more Cayennes in 2020 than 911s and 718s combined, and then it went on to sell even more Macans than Cayennes. Then there's the Taycan, which in its first full year on dealership lots managed to surpass the Panamera in total sales.
It's easy to forget Porsche already makes a great sedan. After all, most of the advertisements you ever come across feature either a 718 driving down a coastal road or a 911 GT3 burning rubber on a race track. Think about it this way: the Panamera is the Olympic winner of the family. It's great at what it does, but when faced with NBA and NFL stars as siblings, it doesn't get as much attention or wind up on as many magazine covers. Frankly, this is a crime.
Porsche recently loaned me a 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid for a few days to take on a brief family trip, and as such, I stuffed its trunk with suitcases, its back seat with kids (and loads of snacks), and its front seats with parents desperate for some time away from the daily routine. With four doors, four seats, a decent-sized trunk, and a hybrid powertrain under the hood, this Panamera seemed like the perfect choice to explore a new metropolis—and get where I needed to go quickly, if that situation were to arise.
2021 Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid: By the Numbers
- Base price (as tested): $89,750 ($118,600)
- Powertrain: 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 | 17.9 kWh battery | 8-speed dual-clutch automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 455 combined @ 5,400 to 6,400 rpm
- Torque: 516 lb-ft combined @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
- 0-60: 4.2 seconds (est. with Chrono package)
- Top Speed: 174 mph
- Seating capacity: 4
- Cargo volume: 14.2 cubic feet (43.8 with rear seats down)
- Curb weight: 4,967 pounds
- Range: Up to 31 miles
- EPA fuel economy: 51 mpge | 23 mpg combined (gasoline only)
- Quick take: A sleek sedan that can be as sporty or as efficient as you want it to be.
The Panamera feels like it's been with us forever now, but it's only about 10 years old. When it launched, Porsche's lineup did not include a sedan, although it came close a couple of times. Purists were predictably pissed, but then again, just anything everything that isn't an air-cooled, manual 911 pisses off a Porsche purist. In those days, the Panamera had a shape that vaguely resembled an eggplant, but its looks have thankfully improved in recent years. And it's been quite successful. As of 2021, Porsche currently offers 21 (!) versions of the Panamera, all the way from the base model to the top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.
Pricewise, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid slots between the non-hybrid Panamera 4 Sport Turismo and Panamera 4S, though you can consider it the base hybrid Panamera model. After it comes the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Executive. Visually, Porsche's hybrid models set themselves apart with the use of cool, neon-green exterior detailing on their brake calipers and badging.
For 2021, the Panamera family received a number of discreet styling enhancements to bring it more in line with the rest of the Porsche lineup. The rear now resembles the full-width taillight of the 911—also known as a heckblende—while the front is slightly more aggro thanks to the "SportDesign" fascia, which was previously optional. Inside, the steering wheel design is new, and all Panameras, regardless of trim, get lane-keeping assist and traffic sign recognition as standard.
Under the hood, however, the changes are a little more noteworthy for the 2021 model year. Gone is the 3.0-liter V6 engine that powered previous Panameras, and in is a new 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 325 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. In 4 E-Hybrid trim, the electric motor and battery bring an additional 134 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque for a total of 455 hp and 516 lb-ft. Meanwhile, the 17.9-kWh battery can propel the nearly 5,000-pound sedan for up to an estimated 31 miles before the V6 needs to ignite.
When it comes to outright performance, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid doesn't exactly set the tarmac on fire like the 4S E-Hybrid and amped-up Turbo S E-Hybrid do with their 555 and 690 respective outputs, but it's certainly no slouch. Under acceleration, it feels quick on its feet due to the electric jolt from the battery, and it continues to pull strong at highway speeds.
Think of the perfect family ride. Chances are you thought of an SUV or maybe even a pickup truck, right? I don't blame you. I've hauled my family on short and long trips alike in dozens of SUVs and pickups, and they're excellent. However, I'm here to tell you the Panamera also excels at hauling kids and stuff, and it's a lot more practical than I expected it to be.
It all starts with a spacious cabin and comfortable seats. A sloping roofline doesn't always offer space and comfort, but in the case of the Panamera, one isn't sacrificed for the other. By adding the majority of vital controls to the flat console surrounding the shifter, Porsche was able to push the dashboard further toward the front and create more legroom, especially around the knees. If you're six feet tall or more, you'll appreciate this.
Then there are the seats themselves, which are nicely bolstered but without feeling too intruding on the thighs or ribs. They're similar to the ones I recently experienced in the BMW M5 Competition, yet softer and rounder around the edges. Upfront, eight-way power seats feature heating and cooling, but you only get heating in the rear.
The back seats are divided by a center console that features two vents, a cubby for storage, two USB-C power outlets, and two pop-up cupholders. There are also buttons for the heated seats and for controlling the rear sunroof (there are two sunroofs). These are comfortable enough for kids and average adults, but folks taller than six feet will likely feel cramped. Porsche does offer the option of a bench in the back instead of the two individual seats, which is perfect for families looking to sporadically fit three bodies in the rear.
Trunk space is just a notch over 14 cubic feet. And I know giving measurements like this isn't helpful, so here's a picture. As you can see, the space is long, deep, and provides enough space to haul groceries, weekend gear, or in my case, four carry-on suitcases and a couple of backpacks. And that hatch-style trunk opening made loading and unloading everything a breeze.
On the Road
There's one way to sum up the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid: Smooth. One turn of the ignition and nothing happens. It's silent. In the default Hybrid Auto mode, the Panamera mostly cruises on battery power until you either really lean on the accelerator or you run out of battery juice. Whichever comes first.
On city streets, the Panamera felt docile but with a sense of purpose, like it was chilling but could pounce at any moment. Regardless of the four driving modes (E-Power, Hybrid Auto, Sport, Sport Plus), the steering wheel communicates plenty of feedback and feels assertive at every turn. There's never any guessing of what the front wheels are doing whether you're driving around town, cruising on the highway, or even crawling around a parking lot.
In the case of the car Porsche loaned me, rear-axle steering only enhanced its driving characteristics, making the car feel more maneuverable regardless of the speed or setting. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to do any backroad or track driving to test the car's agility during my few days behind the wheel, but that's not to say the Panamera didn't make a good impression.
In electric mode, the Panamera is quick, quick, quick. Not just in terms of acceleration off the line, either. Even on the highway, it sped from 50 to 85 mph in hurry and without triggering the V6 (maximum electric speed is 87 mph). Unlike most other hybrids where the slightest touch of the accelerator wakes up the gas engine, the E-Hybrid system lets the driver have more freedom with the pedals before resorting to sipping gasoline. The result is a driving experience that's very close to that of a full EV.
Even in the hybrid-centric modes, the Panamera's regenerative braking is very light and, I'd dare say, almost unnoticeable. In Sport mode and higher, none of these hybrid driving characteristics are felt, allowing for a more purist driving experience.
Things become drastically different when Sport or Sport Plus are activated. The exhaust makes all kinds of cool brash sounds and even backfires under deceleration. This highlighted the playfulness of the excellent eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which not only is quick-shifting up or down but also seems to know just how long or short you want to hold a gear. The entire drivetrain, even with the added complexity of the hybrid implementation, felt like a tight and cohesive unit that made the Panamera a delight to drive.
Lastly, there's the adjustable Porsche Active Suspension Management—or PASM—which, much like the transmission, seems to deliver the right amount of performance at any given moment. Crappy downtown streets, speed bumps, and uneven highway lanes; they're nothing but minor inconveniences to the driver and occupants. At higher speeds or on sportier driving modes, the Panamera's suspension lowers itself nearly an inch from its normal setting and hunkers down for optimal handling. Otherwise, it raises 0.8 inches (1.7 from Sport) for comfortable ingress and egress as well as clearing everyday obstacles like ramps, driveways, and parking bumps.
As solid as the 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is, it's not without its quirks. For starters, the front USB-C ports, wireless charger, and lone 12V power outlet are inconveniently hidden inside the armrest. If you want to charge your phone, you either have to route the charging cord out of the console and shove your phone in the cupholder (if it fits) or stash away your phone into the tiny console so it can do so wirelessly. Either or, it's not the cleanest nor most practical solution.
The two cupholders up front, too, are weird. Each one is a different size and neither works well with non-mainstream containers like a Hydro Flask or the like, being either too small or too big. Lastly, the steering column adjustment lever is located under the steering column somewhat far from the driver, making it hard to reach and uncomfortable to operate. Most, if not all of Porsche's rivals place this on the left side of the steering column where it's easy to reach. It's a poor design that's somewhat salvaged by memory seats.
There are a ton of powerful, six-figure luxury sedans on the market that all boast decent trunk space. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid's cargo volume is slightly more spacious than the Mercedes-AMG GT Four-Door, which offers 12.7 cubic feet. The rivaling BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe edges the Porsche with 15.5 cubic feet.
But I'd consider the biggest counterargument for the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is the electric Taycan. The two have essentially the same trunk space, are both sedans, and offer impressive range, but the Taycan benefits from the "cool factor" of being Porsche's brand-new, cutting-edge EV. In that same vein, folks who look to Porsche to satiate their thirst for speed buy a 911. Folks who look to Porsche for practicality and speed buy a Cayenne (also because SUV). Everyone has their eye on the other models because they're fast, they're practical, and they're the newest Cool and Fast Things.
But in the days I spent with the Panamera, I found it to also be fast, practical, and plenty cool in its own way. It was easy to get in and out of, it had just enough room for four of us to carry all of our junk (comfortably), and it wasn't overly sporty to the point that the kiddos and wife got all carsick and stuff. As much as I would've liked to hit some windy country roads, sticking to the hustle and bustle of a happening city made me appreciate a different aspect of this Porsche.
If you feel like terrorizing your neighbors, simply activate Sport Plus and let the exhaust do the talking. If you feel like commuting to your kids' school silently—and as long as said route is less than 31 miles—you can glide there without using a drop of fuel, just like you can in a Taycan (though the base Taycan boasts a 200-mile range).
But many people aren't ready to make the full-EV jump just yet. That's where cars like this hybrid Panamera stand out, blending the benefits of driving a short distance in electric-only mode with the peace of mind that if you do deplete the battery, you can always just fill up at a gas station.
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