Powerful and agile, the 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid (Base MSRP: $95,000) barely loses a step compared with gas-powered Panameras, reviews say.
It's faster than the 2012 Porsche Panamera S V6 (Base MSRP: $75,200 to $79,800), but slower than the comparably priced 2012 Porsche Panamera S V8 (Base MSRP $90,300 to $95,200) -- although, of course, the hybrid gets better gas mileage than either one, and with heftier torque than the V8.
If you're in the market for a Porsche sedan, "the S Hybrid makes a compelling case to skip the Panamera S entirely," says David Undercoffler, car critic for the Los Angeles Times.
Autoblog.com's Damon Lavrinc agrees that it's "a legitimate alternative for V8-averse luxury buyers."
Car critics have never been crazy about the Panamera's sedan-with-a-hatch styling. "It's polarizing because, well, have you seen the thing?" say Edmunds.com editors, who call it downright "unattractive." In an early Panamera review, Autoblog.com's Michael Harley observed that "it looks like the unlikely five-door offspring of an illicit tryst between a Porsche 928 and a Chrysler Crossfire," although the look grew on him.
But plenty of buyers seem to like it just fine: Porsche has sold 50,000 Panameras since the model launched three years ago, Autoblog.com notes.
Inside, "there's no mistaking the Panamera's interior for anything but a Porsche," Edmunds.com says. "Styling cues from the Porsche 911 echo throughout the cabin." Because there's no one-stop controller (like BMW's iDrive), "there are more than 80 buttons and knobs littering the cockpit," Edmunds.com adds. Fortunately, testers there find the buttons logically laid-out and -- eventually -- intuitive to use. "Some might even find the multitude of controls preferable to shuffling through on-screen menus."
Comfy seats impress Edmunds.com testers when they slide into the Panamera. It only seats four, but "these passengers can be full-sized adults," editors say. "All four seats are similar in appearance and comfort. These well-formed seats provide excellent levels of support when cornering as well as plenty of comfort during long-distance touring." You can get them heated and cooled, but that's optional.
Standard features include leather seats and steering wheel, eight-way power front seats with driver memory, a 10-speaker audio system with 7-inch color touch-screen display. "Like all hybrids, the Porsche is filled with enough colorfully animated charts, graphs and diagrams to make the original Tron look like it was done on an Etch-a-Sketch," says Michael Febbo at Motor Trend. That 7-inch screen, for example, displays bar graphs tracking your fuel efficiency and a diagram so you can watch the energy flow from the battery to the engine and wheels and back again -- "some intellectual nerdtastic tech to help keep you entertained on your otherwise boring commute." Porsche also offers a lengthy list of options, like ruffled leather upholstery and electric sunshades for the backseat.
Luggage space is down about 4 cubic feet from the regular Panamera -- you get 11.8 cubes with the hybrid -- but the 60/40 split rear seats fold to open up a 40.7-cubic-foot cargo bay, thanks to the hatchback lid.
Testers thoroughly enjoy driving any Panamera -- including the hybrid.
"That's a hybrid?" writes Undercoffler at the Los Angeles Times. "If it weren't for the badges on the side and rear of the car, it would be hard to tell this Panamera has any more eco cred than its brethren."
Motor Trend's Febbo agrees. "On the track it feels like any other Porsche," he says. "The steering is telepathic, body movements are controlled to near perfection and it does exactly what you want." And it's fast: Porsche says it'll hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but Febbo and Edmunds.com both make it a half-second faster -- which is a tenth of a second behind the fastest hybrid you can buy, the Best Reviewed 2012 Infiniti M35h (Base MSRP: $53,700).
The Panamera S Hybrid gets the same powertrain as the 2012 Porsche Cayenne Hybrid (Base MSRP: $69,000) SUV. A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 and electric motor generate 380 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are mandatory on the hybrid (other Panameras offer optional all-wheel drive).
Like any hybrid, the Panamera S Hybrid can glide away from a dead stop silently, on electricity alone. But Porsche can also shut off its engine and "sail" at high speeds, up to 103 mph thanks to its standard "coasting" feature. "The transition is utterly and completely seamless (we could barely hear the engine at part throttle to begin with), and there's nary an ounce of lag or drivetrain shutter as the V6 restarts," says Damon Lavrinc for Autoblog.com. "It's easily the most fluid, refined changeover we've experienced in a gasoline-electric vehicle."
The speed-sensitive steering "takes the prize for directness and communication," Lavrinc says. In fact, except for a brief grabby feeling when you first press the brake pedal (it quickly smooths out and the brakes stop the car magnificently), critics can't find much to nitpick about the way the Panamera S Hybrid drives.
The hybrid Panamera gets 25 mpg overall, according to the Environmental Protection Agency -- 4 mpg better than the V6 Panamera and 6 mpg better than the V8. It beats most other luxury hybrids, too, although not the 29-mpg Infiniti M35h.
In an 1,100-mile test in and around Capetown, South Africa, Car and Driver's Juergen Zoellter bests that EPA figure, getting 27 mpg overall at an average speed of 53 mph. In a shorter 268-mile test, the Los Angeles Times' Undercoffler gets 23.6 mpg, going 45 mph on average.
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
No Porsche Panamera has been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All Panameras do come equipped with the usual standard safety features: antilock brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and curtain airbags -- plus rear side airbags and front knee airbags. Blind-spot detection is optional.
We found no reliability predictions for this new model. The 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid carries a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.
NHTSA Safety Ratings
IIHS Safety Ratings
1. Mac Format
Editors here cover the Panamera Hybrid as part of their full report on the entire Porsche Panamera lineup. They test all of the Panameras, comparing their speed, handling, fuel economy, features and more.
Review: 2012 Porsche Panamera Hybrid, Editors of Edmunds.com, Nov. 17, 2011
2. Car and Driver
The "highly impressive, desirable" Porsche Panamera S Hybrid posts an average 27 mpg over Car and Driver's 1,100 mile test. It's not as efficient as a Fisker Karma, Juergen Zoellter notes, "and it certainly isn't going to win any beauty contest against it."
Review: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, Juergen Zoellter, May 2011
The hybrid Panamera is "a legitimate alternative for V8-averse luxury buyers," Damon Lavrinc says. Even with the added hybrid-powertrain weight, it's powerful and just as agile as a gas-powered Panamera, he says.
Review: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, Damon Lavrinc, May 19, 2011
4. Motor Trend
In Motor Trend's track test, the hybrid Panamera sprints to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds -- half a second faster than Porsche claims -- with "world class" handling. With "all of the flavor, all of the fun" of the regular Panamera, Michael Febbo says, it's "the best hybrid to bother with."
Review: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid First Test, Michael Febbo, April 2, 2012
5. Los Angeles Times
A serene highway cruiser and fairly athletic on winding roads, the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid strikes the Los Angeles Times' car critic as a good trade -- less horsepower, but better torque and gas mileage than the regular Panamera S.
Review: Saturday Drive: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, David Undercoffler, March 31, 2012
At 25 mpg overall, the 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid gets better fuel economy than most super-luxury cars -- but not nearly as good as more economy-minded hybrids.
Review: 2012 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, Environmental Protection Agency