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Can a Sporting Saloon be Sensible?

Can a Sporting Saloon be Sensible?

The new Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid can reach 173mph, yet it returns 113mpg.

One of the standard beliefs of the car business is that no vehicle can be all things to all people. A car is either luxurious or affordable, beautiful or functional, fast or fuel-efficient. The new Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, set for an official debut at next month’s Paris motor show, may do much to revise that logic, for it brings to market a package that is at once fun, as Porsches generally are, and sensible, as they generally aren’t.

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid makes use of a 330-horsepower, twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine, matched to an eight-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Wedged between them is an electric motor, which bumps total system output to 462 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

The performance figures are fairly impressive. On one hand, this plug-in petrol-electric hybrid will cruise for 31 miles — and as fast as 87mph — on battery power alone, and return a very impressive 113mpg (European cycle; US EPA figures are forthcoming). It’s not exactly a real-world number, but it is at least ballpark indication of the E-Hybrid’s potential. With the optional 7.2kW onboard charger (a 3.6kW charger is standard) and a 240-volt outlet, the 14.1kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack will gain a full charge in as little as three hours (or as long as 12 hours with a 120-volt household outlet).

On the other hand, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid is very quick. Porsche quotes a zero-to-60mph time (with the optional Sport Chrono pack) of 4.4 seconds — as quick than a 911 Carrera — and a top speed of 173mph. These figures are pack-trailing among Porsches, but among most other cars — and in particular most other petrol-electric plug-in hybrids — they are altogether scintillating.

Now, naturally, the Tesla Model S is, on paper, the spoiler here. Roughly as large as the Porsche Panamera (and, with wacky rear-facing seatlets in the cargo compartment, even more commodious), this is a stunningly swift automobile. The new Model S P100D with the fabled Ludicrous Mode option is, in fact, that quickest saloon on the planet, able to zap from zero to 60mph in 2.5 seconds. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid cannot compete with that; in fact, even the most brutish Panamera, the 570-horsepower Turbo S, can make the trip in a comparatively languid 3.6 seconds.

But Porsche’s hybrid saloon has something the Tesla doesn’t — or, more accurately, it lacks a certain stigma the Tesla must bear: range anxiety. For even though the new Model S P100D will cruise for a petrol-like 315 miles on a charge, its driver must still think carefully about where the car will be in relation to an electrical outlet when the electrons run low.

It may be difficult to believe, but the tech-packed Panamera 4 E-Hybrid — whose press release evokes Porsche’s recently departed £511,000 hybrid hypercar, the 918 Spyder, in nearly every paragraph — is actually the least expensive model in the Panamera range. It’s £79,715 starting figure is £9,000 less dear than the 4S and a startling £33,330 less than the range-topping Turbo. The Paris motor show kicks off on 1 October.