The 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is more than just a mouthful of a name. It's the ultimate Panamera, the most powerful one you can get, with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood. Yet, paired with that V8 is an entire plug-in electric powertrain, and it combines with the gasoline engine to produce a whopping 680-horsepower. It's a combination that defies convention. After all, hybrids are meant to be fuel savers, plug-ins doubly so, and adding this kind of drivetrain to a car with this kind of capability and price tag initially sounds ridiculous.

But that's old-school thinking. The reality is that, whether you like it or not, electrification is coming, big time. The auto industry is changing, and if a company like Porsche, known for high-performance cars, wants to stay known for that in the future, it needs to make electrified performance cars mainstream, and not just special-editions like the 918.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2018

Hybrid flagship

The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the flagship of the entire Panamera lineup. Starting with the Panamera Turbo and its 550-horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, Porsche adds a hybrid system with a 146-horsepower motor, one that's specifically designed to increase performance, not sip fuel. The idea is to use the electric motor as an electric supercharger, adding power to an already powerful car, yet without a fuel economy penalty, or at least much of one. Together, the combination results in not just more power than the regular Turbo, but more torque: 627 lb-ft, with the peak available starting at 1,400 rpm. It can also go about 30 miles on a full battery charge, and if you keep it charged and drive in the "E" mode, chances are you won't even hear that big V8 burble in your daily commute.

This promises to be a heck of a car, so imagine the excitement when Porsche told us we'd get our first taste of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid on a racetrack in Vancouver, Canada. And, then our disappointment that the track was tight, short, and that our entire exposure to the car would consist of only one 6-lap session. It's not the track's fault, as the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit is quite honestly a beautifully laid out course filled with sharp, tight turns. But it's not exactly high-speed, and wrestling the 5,000-plus pound Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid around it was not as informative as we'd hoped. The car grips, certainly, and the powertrain generates massive amounts of power and torque. Acceleration was superb, and the low center of gravity means the Panamera is surprisingly agile in quick left-right-left transitions. It's obvious there is a ton of potential here, but there simply wasn't enough room to stretch the Panamera's legs, and sadly, that was all the time we had with the car.

So, appetite whetted, not satiated. There's no doubt that the 2018 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is amazing technological achievement, as one would expect with a starting price of $182,000, or at an as-tested price of more than $212,000. We're anxious to drive it on our local roads and render a fuller verdict on the car's capabilities. However, on the Panamera's other mission, that of laying the groundwork for electrified performance, we can say this without equivocation: We've never been more excited to drive a plug-in hybrid.


 

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