A four-door Porsche may sound blasphemous because the brand is associated with sports cars like the 911. However, Porsche has a history with practical performance cars because it codeveloped the Mercedes-Benz 500 E, an iconic sports sedan from the early 1990s. It also collaborated with Audi for the RS 2 and Volvo to create the 850 T5R. The 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is the latest addition to the automaker’s heritage of four-door performance cars and it’s proof that you can have nearly everything.
Available in three styles, you can get your 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid either as a sedan in standard or long wheelbase and as a wagon called the Sport Turismo. This year saw a refresh but you’ll need a magnifying glass to see the subtle changes. That’s not a knock on the Panamera because it looks sleek and has a clear lineage to the 911, 718, Cayenne, Taycan, and Macan with its oval headlights, full-width LED taillights, and rounded proportions. The Sport Turismo has a longer roofline and more conventional liftgate instead of a lift back-style hatch, giving it additional interior space.
The Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo’s interior exudes a cockpit-like feel. Everything is oriented towards the driver and the controls are within easy reach. In typical Porsche fashion, the fit and finish are impeccable; nearly everything you touch feels expensive and the sense of satisfaction you get utilizing controls is on another level. The amount of piano black will attract a lot of smudges and fingerprints so get ready to clean up the center console often.
Technically the Panamera can seat up to five but we’d limit it to four because the center tunnel is so big that the person sitting in the middle needs to straddle it. Thanks to its upright greenhouse, there’s generous headroom in the Sport Turismo. The low seating position gives you the sensation that you’re in a sports car because of how close you are to the road. Porsche’s standard seats offer plenty of support to keep you from sliding around too much during spirited drives while providing good support on long drives but they are on the firm side.
If you’re looking for practicality without the raised suspension, the Panamera is the Porsche for you. The Sport Turismo doubles down on that by offering generous cargo space regardless of whether you have the seats up or down. You can fit a lot of gear in there but keep in mind that the rear window isn’t as vertical as in cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon. The rear seatbacks fold 40/20/40 for extra flexibility for long items but have passengers. The cargo cover can be finicky to remove or reinstall because it requires you to fold the rear seats to get it out. Small-item storage is also at a premium due to the lack of sizable cubbies around the center console, leaving you to put your belongings in the door pockets.
Porsche’s PCM interface is user-friendly thanks to its responsive 12.3-inch touch screen. There are submenus but they’re kept to a minimum and there are shortcuts on the left side of the display for frequently used functions. Instead of traditional buttons on the center console, the Panamera has capacitive ones, which can be a little distracting to use on the move. The available Bose audio system sounds decent but get the Burmester surround sound unit if you’re an audiophile. While the Bose system is clear, its volume increases inconsistently and it’s not as immersive as competing Harman family audio systems from Panamera’s competitors.
A suite of collision prevention systems is standard on the Panamera. However, the lane-keeping component could be less jerky because it tends to make sudden inputs when you start to drift around. You can also get adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist via the Assistance package or as a stand-alone feature called Porsche InnoDrive. This uses navigation data, cameras, and radar sensors to predict the road, enabling the car to slow down before a curve or turn, and coast when going downhill.
The biggest addition to the 2021 Panamera lineup is the 4S E-Hybrid, the new middle child of the electrified models. It couples a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 to an electric motor, a 17.9-kWh battery, and an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission. Combined, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid makes 552 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, which is on par with the first-generation Panamera Turbo S. The result is a 5,004-pound wagon that can hit 60 mph in 3.5 seconds with launch control according to Porsche. We think that’s a conservative number because our Sport Turismo test car felt quicker. Put your foot down and you get incredible acceleration that’s further amplified by the electric motor’s instant response and the lack of turbo lag. There’s no shortage of power; just mash the throttle and enjoy the ride as the car rockets to speeds we won’t mention
Adding to the experience is the available sport exhaust system. While it’s not as loud as in higher performance vehicles like a 911 Turbo S or a 718 Cayman GT4, it fits the Panamera’s stately character. You get a sonorous engine note when you open the flaps and mash the throttle and it’s accentuated by the occasional pop and burble. Think of this as the right balance of raucousness and maturity; it’s fun but not to the point that it becomes obnoxious.
On a single charge, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid can travel up to 19 miles in its all-electric mode according to the EPA. During our time with the car, we easily went 30 miles before the gas engine kicked in. The 17.9-kWh battery replaces the old 14.1-kWh unit in all Panamera E-Hybrid models and is one of the reasons why it can operate without the gas engine more frequently. With the optional 7.2 kW onboard charger, it takes roughly three hours to get a full charge via a level 2 AC charger. Expect that time to increase to around six hours if you stick with the standard 3.6 kW unit. A standard wall outlet will require you to keep the car plugged in overnight to get to 100 percent. When driven as a hybrid, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid for a combined range of 480 miles or 21/23/22 mpg city/highway/combined according to the EPA.
Porsche’s mastery of the dual-clutch transmission is in full show in the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid. Despite the addition of an electric motor, the gearbox remains lightning-quick and smooth. It’s hard to tell that it’s a dual-clutch unit because there are no hints of hesitation during city driving. In manual mode, the transmission responds instantly when using the paddle shifters. Leave it to its own devices and it’ll do exactly what you want depending on how you’re driving. In the canyons, it’ll downshift ahead of a turn when you lift off the throttle to keep the powertrain in its sweet spot.
Thanks to the mechanical AWD system, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid, puts the power down effectively. Insane grip levels courtesy of the staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S performance tires give the car an unflappable feel on the road. When you ask for more, the powertrain immediately shuffles power through all four wheels to give you maximum traction. You will notice the car’s RWD bias, though, because the rear end loves to rotate around, especially on tight winding roads. This becomes most apparent in examples like our test car, which features rear-wheel steering that enables it to dive into corners more willingly, resulting in tighter turn-ins.
Unlike other plug-in hybrids, brake operation is similar to that of a conventional internal combustion vehicle. Lifting off the accelerator gives you little regeneration, meaning you can’t come to a complete stop that way. You need to step on the brake pedal to get more energy recuperation. Transitions from regenerative to mechanical braking are imperceptible so you don’t get jerked around during hard braking. Road conditions also change how much recuperation you get, giving you more when going downhill or coasting.
Further making the 2021 Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo a true Porsche is the way it handles. With its adaptive air suspension and adjustable dampers, it carves corners like a scalpel. Body roll is nonexistent and the steering is borderline telepathic. You feel connected with the car and the road, and you know what the front wheels are doing. It’s easy to hustle the Panamera through your favorite winding roads but you won’t mistake it for a 911 or a 718. Between its width and length, the Panamera feels big and it’ll always drive that way regardless of whether you’re casually cruising or tearing up your favorite winding road.
One of the Panamera’s best traits is its ability to chill down when needed. This car possesses a sense of duality that not many can match. Despite its agility and handling chops, compliance doesn’t get sacrificed. On a long road trip, the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is supremely comfortable, handily absorbing road imperfections and keeping harsh impacts out of the cabin. Even with the optional 21-inch alloy wheels and the suspension in Sport or Sport Plus mode, the Panamera remains cushy, making it a great choice as a daily driver or for road trips. Unfortunately, the wide tires create a lot of road and tire noise at highway speeds, especially on poorly maintained or uneven surfaces.
Despite being the middle child, the Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is potent and highly capable. It gives you world-beating performance and handling without sacrificing practicality or daily usability. Regardless of whether you pick the Sport Turismo, the Executive, or the standard sedan, you’re getting a sports car for four. The Panamera’s double nature makes it an appealing proposition, especially for consumers looking for a performance vehicle they can pitch as family-friendly transportation.
As tested, our example checked in at $142,360, which is not unusual considering how extensive (and expensive) Porsche’s options list can get. If you can afford the 2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, you’re getting a nearly perfect vehicle that checks a lot of boxes. Yes, the 690-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid exists but we think the middle electrified sibling is the Panamera to get.