The small crowd of protesters made up for its size with intensity, brandishing signs and shaking fists as we approached. Vancouver Islanders are renowned for their NIMBYism – after all, this is the birthplace of Greenpeace. But to be fair, not many of us would be happy with a new racetrack in our backyards, either. As if in solidarity, a local in a battered pickup blasted by us, bellowing its indignation. Ironically, we glide through the gates of the Vancover Island Motorsport Circuit in complete silence, travelling solely on electric power.
The Turbo S has returned once more to head up the Porsche Panamera lineup – but this time, with a twist. To demonstrate their faith and commitment to electro-mobility, Porsche‘s new range-topping Panamera is a plug-in hybrid. While alternative power-source vehicles are usually offered as moderately-powered, low-volume alternatives, in this case Porsche has slapped the E-Hybrid badge on the ne plus ultra of the Panamera fold.
Porsche takes the already hairy-chested, 550-horsepower 4.0L twin-turbo V8 of the Panamera Turbo, and stuffs a 136-horsepower electric motor between it and the eight-speed, dual-clutch PDK transmission. With a mind-boggling 680 horsepower and 626 lb.-ft. of torque, the Turbo S E-Hybrid boasts genuine supercar power – but with an overall fuel consumption rating (Euro Cycle) of 2.9 L/100 kilometres. It can travel up to 50 kilometres on electric power alone, has a top speed of 310 km/h, and blasts from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds.
Rolling out of pit lane, we can’t help notice the 918 Spyder parked trackside, as if keeping a benevolent eye on its progeny. But Porsche’s first hybrid supercar is a sleek and low-slung sports car bred for the racetrack; by comparison our Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is a massive luxury liner weighing nearly 700 kilograms more.
The track’s infield is a gently rolling swell of golden grasses, obscuring the fact that this is a highly technical, if somewhat small circuit. It would be far better suited to the tiny Cayman than the Brobdinagian four-door I’m piloting. There’s only one reconnaissance lap and my mind’s as busy as my hands around this convoluted 2.3-kilometre race course, with its 19 turns and rapid changes in elevation. Fortunately for us, but probably not so much for the protesters, we’re able to lock out the electric power while on track, as that range would be consumed in a hurry. The big V8 has a magnificent bellow (sorry, neighbours) that quiets to a satisfying rumble at idle.
A car this size shouldn’t be able to handle this well in these tight corners, but it does thanks to a raft of technology standard for this model. Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system continuously assesses the road surface and adapts accordingly at each individual wheel, and the three-chamber air suspension provides a range of flexibility and road clearance, depending on which drive mode’s selected. Dynamic Chassis Control adds an electronically controlled rear differential and brake-generated torque vectoring, for better turning agility.
Stomp the pedal and you’re rewarded with eye-watering, breath-snatching thrust, slammed into the seat back as the combined torque is channelled instantaneously to all four wheels through the transmission. Porsche engineers claim the new compact gearbox shows a 28 per cent improvement in friction loss over the previous version, using a more efficient map-controlled, multi plate clutch to distribute power rather than a torque converter. Hybrid-exclusive brake calipers finished in Acid Green with massive carbon ceramic rotors could probably stop a runaway freight train, and using them to haul the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid back down to legal speeds after a passing manoeuvre is an exercise in overkill.
Over the patchwork logging roads that run through the many small villages of Vancouver Island, we experimented with the different driving modes rather than leaving it in the more frenetic Sport Plus – whose firmly sprung suspension settings proved too punishing over such ragged pavement. There are three hybrid settings in addition to the drive modes: E-Hold conserves the electric charge until needed, E-Power enables the car runs solely on electric power up to 140 km/h, and E-charge, which uses engine and regenerative braking to replenish the battery.
E-Hold mode should prove especially attractive to markets such as China, with heavy emissions restrictions in urban centres. A luxurious four-seater with supercar power and the ability bypass those restrictions by switching to electric power is the perfect solute for wealthy businessmen unused to compromise.
Date Posted: July 31, 2017