Green as a Prius, performs as a Porsche: the four-door Panamera hybrid

The new-for-2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid marks the first time Porsche has offered a plug-in hybrid model.

While some may have doubted the wisdom of building a four-door Porsche sports car, there’s no question that the Porsche Panamera, which debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2009, has proven to be an important addition to the German automaker’s lineup.

For 2014, there are a whopping nine different variants of the Panamera available in the United States, ranging from the base Panamera at $78,100, all the way up to the Panamera Turbo Executive at a wallet-popping $161,100.

Regardless of which Panamera model you choose, however, rest assured that you can carry four regular-sized adults, something that can’t be said of the Porsche 911, Boxster or Cayman, all of which are wonderful cars, but limited in passenger capacity.

Our test car this week was one of the most intriguing of the nine models, the new-for-2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid.

This is the first time Porsche has offered a plug-in hybrid model, which the automaker says is a significant upgrade from the previous S Hybrid.

New this year is a 95-horsepower electric motor, more than double the power of the prior motor, which mates with a 333-horsepower, supercharged gasoline engine to produce total output of 416 horsepower and 435 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission is Porsche’s outstanding eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox.

According to Porsche, “Electricity is stored in a newly developed lithium-ion battery, which at 9.4 kWh has increased capacity over the previous battery (1.7 kWh). Via the integrated on-board charging componentry and the standard Porsche Universal Charger (AC), the battery can reach full charge within approximately two and a half hours when connected to a 240V power source.” You can also recharge it in a normal home electrical outlet.

There are three driving modes in the Panamera S E-Hybrid: The E-Power, E-Charge and Sport.

Performance is substantially enhanced in the new model. The E-Hybrid accelerates from a standing start to 60 mph in a mere 5.2 seconds. That’s a half a second faster than the old hybrid managed. And the E-Hybrid can be run for a distance of about 20 miles or so with the electric motor only, which has a top speed of 84 mph, about half of the 167 mph top speed of the gas and electric powerplants combined.

For gadget lovers, Porsche offers a smartphone app called the Porsche Car Connect, which can be used to remotely monitor charge status or driving range, as well as to activate the climate controls to pre-heat or cool the interior. Forget where you parked? The app will show you.

To let folks know you’re environmentally friendly, there are subtle design tweaks to the Panamera S E-Hybrid. Porsche uses a color it calls “acid green” to set this model apart. Acid green is found in the “e-hybrid” logos on the front doors, the “Panamera S” model badge at the rear, the brake calipers, the instrument needles and the optional Sport Chrono clock needles.

There are three driving modes in the Panamera S E-Hybrid: E-Power mode is electric only; E-Charge mode recharges the batteries, while Sport mode “offers typical Porsche performance and a sporty accelerator pedal characteristic for more direct response.”

And at the end of the day, that’s what this is really all about: Yes, this is a hybrid. Yes, it has four doors. But it’s not a Prius, it’s a Porsche. And it drives just like a Porsche sports car should, with brisk acceleration, wonderfully direct steering and some of the best brakes you will find in any production car.

As with every single car Porsche sells, the workmanship on the Panamera S E-Hybrid is world-class. There are no corners cut, there are no compromises made for the sake of shoring up the P&L. This is both a proper sports car and a proper luxury sedan. Most importantly, it’s a proper Porsche – with head and legroom for four adults.

The only caveat thrown out is that Porsche’s nearly bespoke-level of optional equipment can drive the price through the sunroof quickly, as witnessed by the more than $31,000 worth of options ladled onto our test car.

Interior detail.

Kudos to Porsche for simultaneously staying true to its roots while building a car that expands the pool of potential buyers and adds the latest environmentally friendly technology. This one is a winner.

2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid

Price, base/as-tested: $99,000/$130,335

Vehicle type: Four-door plug-in hybrid sports car

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 333 horsepower, 325 lb-ft. torque.

Electric motor: 95 horsepower, 229 lb.-ft. torque.

Transmission: Eight-speed Titptronic automatic.

Wheelbase: 114.96 inches.

Overall length: 197.44 inches.

Zero to 60 mph: 5.2 seconds

Top speed: 167 mph

EPA fuel mileage: 50 mpg electricity and gasoline/25 gasoline only