[Test drive] Plug-in Porsche proves it’s more than just green
So when this reporter got behind the wheel of a plug-in hybrid version of Porsche’s all-new Panamera on a track in Inje County, Gangwon, last month, anxiety and tension filled the air. The rain was pouring down and the course ahead seemed to be too challenging.
But soon, the anxiety turned into excitement and tension melted into blood-pumping thrill. Even if it is a hybrid model on a wet road, a Porsche still drives like a Porsche.
The Korean unit of the German carmaker ran a media test drive session in August in Inje County, Gangwon, to demonstrate the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, the new eco-friendly version of the company’s sport sedan.
The session consisted of a winding course around Mount Seorak in Gangwon and a circuit course at Inje Speedium. The Panamera 4, a 4S and the latest 4 E-Hybrid were all available for reporters. The fully revamped 4 launched in Korea earlier this year, the 4S launched here last year, and the 4 E-Hybrid went on sale in early August.
“The 4 E-Hybrid marks the beginning of Porsche’s road to e-performance,” said Michael Kirsch, the managing director of Porsche Korea, prior to the test drive. “Electrification doesn’t mean making a sacrifice, but in fact, it is the opposite. Plug-in hybrids are a bridge to technology for pure electric driving.”
The exterior of the hybrid Panamera is the same as the gas version, except for a green logo that says “e-hybrid” on the door.
The first test drive was a 40-kilometer (25-mile) course full of narrow, curvy and hilly roads.
The Porsche’s luxurious vibe surprised this reporter, as its crimson-colored leather seats and spacious cockpit impressed. A large 12.3-inch touch screen that displays fuel usage and the electric battery status added a futuristic demeanor to the car. The dashboard also features a charmingly low-tech touch - an analog clock.
Despite its low center of gravity, the Panamera offered excellent visibility.
The car felt a little heavy at first, due to its electric battery, but this eventually contributed to a stable feeling.
The 4 E-Hybrid is based on the Panamera 4S model, which is equipped with a gasoline V6 engine. With the electric motor, the hybrid can generate a maximum of 462 horsepower. On its electric battery alone, the Panamera can travel 33 kilometers and generate a maximum of 140 horsepower.
There are four driving modes - Sports, Sports Plus, Hybrid and E-Power - that can be activated with buttons located on the bottom of the steering wheel.
The E-Power mode powers the car solely with electricity.
In Sports and Sports Plus, the car uses its petrol engine and recharges the battery at the same time. The electric-only range of 33 kilometers seemed to drop quickly as the car sped up.
In Sports Plus mode, which charges the battery more quickly than Sports, the battery status on the screen showed that the driving range was increasing. The charging speed was slow at first but quickly picked up as the engine warmed up.
The second drive at Inje Speedium was challenging, as the rain grew heavier, requiring more skill out of the driver.
Although the reporter wasn’t able to drive the Panamera on the track in electric-only mode, due to the short driving range, it was quick on the track.
Porche says the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid takes just 4.6 seconds to reach 100 kilometers an hour.
Even on a damp road, the Panamera remained neutral even though its speed didn’t fall under 120 kilometers an hour throughout the course.
On the main straight course at Inje Speedium, this reporter tried out Sports Response, which boosts the engine’s power for 20 seconds. With the press of a button and push on the accelerator, the car quickly shot out to reach a speed of 180 kilometers an hour as the engine growled.
The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid starts from 157.2 million won ($140,700) while its gasoline counterpart, the 4S, starts at 170.9 million won.
BY JIN EUN-SOO [email@example.com]