It’s well known amongst my friends and colleagues that I need a good dose of coffee to function properly in the morning. And that’s on a normal day when my alarm clock hasn’t gone off - as it has today - at 4.30 am. Since I’m not exactly a morning person, I need a little something extra to kick my brain into gear. 690bhp will do nicely.
That’s the total combined output on offer from the recently updated Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid (here in Sport Turismo form, just to make the name even longer). But it’s not only the power itself that gets the synapses sufficiently firing - it’s the delivery too. Supplementing a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is a 134bhp electric motor that supplies its 295lb ft of torque instantaneously.
As I discover when firing myself up the slip lane onto the A14, this setup doesn’t entirely kill all of the turbo lag, but it comes close to doing so. And when both motor and engine are in full swing, the acceleration feels savagely intense.
This isn’t, however, the quickest Panamera to 62mph. That honour now goes to the exclusively petrol-powered Panamera Turbo S, which produces a more modest (but still absurd) 621bhp, but does so without the heavy motor and battery combo. The E-Hybrid now has a bigger pack to lug around, too, with the old 14.1kWh unit ditched for a new one 17.9kWh electric beefcake. And so, the E-Hybrid requires an extra tenth of a second to hit benchmark speed, completing the task in 3.2 seconds.
That isn’t the kind of performance you’re likely to find insufficient. If anything it’s too much - it’s frustrating how soon I have to lift after applying full throttle. What bothers me much more is how the few hundred additional kilos of ballast affects the car laterally. A couple of hours down the road, this will come into play.
I’m on my way to Anglesey for a date with a very different kind of Porsche, the new 992 911 GT3. I have a stop on the way to try out the MST Mk2 ‘Ford Escort’, the location of which means Google Maps is sending me straight through the middle of Snowdonia National Park. And that means some incredible roads are laid out ahead over the increasingly undulating scenery.
On the fast sweepers, the Turbo S E-Hybrid feels perfectly happy. The steering is quick, consistent and natural feeling, I’m not left wanting for traction, and lateral grip is supplied in abundance. Shooting out of corners while deploying nearly 700bhp is also hilarious fun.
As the road gets twistier, though, the Panamera is no longer in its element. That effortless feeling to the way it was changing direction earlier starts to slip away as the 2.4-tonne weight figure becomes much more obvious. Modern air suspension may be very clever, but there are limits to what it can do. The brakes are - thankfully - up to the task of scrubbing off speed, but there are still times at which I’m wanting for just a bit more bite.
My efforts are rewarded, however. Having rinsed through half of the E-Hybrid’s battery pack on the boring dual carriageway and motorway part of the journey, it’s back up to nearly 80 per cent thanks in large part to the regenerative braking system. This leaves plenty of juice left for the Panamera to seamlessly switch off the V8 whenever it deems necessary. So, we’re now saving fuel while wafting around in near silence. Relaxing.
Stop off in Pwllheli completed, the E-Hybrid and I head over the Pont Britania bridge and onto the Isle of Anglesey, missing out on the usual view thanks to the typically Welsh (i.e. wet) weather. Thankfully, there’s an overnight stay between now and my first laps in the GT3, giving time for ‘Trac Môn’ and its tricky corners to (hopefully) dry out a little.
The next morning, the Turbo S E-Hybrid gets its photocall with a Shark Blue GT3. The two cars might share the Württemberg crest on the bonnet, but otherwise, they’re chalk and cheese. The GT3 is purely powered by combustion, has a manual gearbox, and weighs nearly a tonne less. The 911 is also a much more bespoke car - it’s mostly Porsche’s own bits. The Panamera, on the other hand, uses a platform and engine you’ll find in a dizzying array of other VW Group cars, along with all sorts of other borrowed components.
Inevitably, then, they drive very differently. But the same ideals are there - when you’re behind the wheel of each of them, you get a real sense of the people who made it giving a damn about driver enjoyment. If anything, getting that feeling across in the heavier car that uses fewer bespoke parts is the more impressive achievement, however staggeringly good the GT3 might be to drive.
The Turbo S E-Hybrid has one final trick up its sleeve, clocking an indicated 34mpg on the way home, despite long motorway trips not generally being a PHEV’s strong suit. For something with nearly 700bhp, that’s bloody good going.
Having spent hundreds of miles and about 10 hours in this thing over two days, I still don’t think it’s the best Panamera. The company car tax breaks associated with these kinds of cars mean it’s destined to be just as popular as the last one (70 per cent of Panamera buyers go for hybrids), but leaving financial incentives to one side, the Turbo S PHEV is one of the weaker cars in the line-up. It’s too heavy and compromised, and from a pure performance perspective, the whole hybrid thing doesn’t make much sense - the faster, petrol-only Turbo S proves this.
But as a technical achievement, this thing’s pretty incredible. And yes, it’s a Porsche through and through.