The midnight hush of a Stuttgart backstreet goes largely undisturbed by the faintest wash of tyres through shallow standing water. From an access road in the suburb of Zuffenhausen a brand new car has emerged for its final shakedown, tracing the empty grid work of its hometown for the last time, unseen and unheard.
This is the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, the latest evolution of Porsche’s plug-in future, a car that borrows razor’s edge technology from the latest Le Mans winner and shares blue-chip performance developments with the 918 Spyder. But a car that can still move noiselessly through a city street, for thirty miles on emission-free power, seating four adults in consummate comfort, refinement and calm.
Stuttgart is a microcosm of German traditions, its technocratic residents famous for their, observance of rule and ritual, but in equal measure their innovation and worldly outlook. Somehow the E-Hybrid seems to be the ultimate evocation of all that this serious but inspirational city represents. Automatically switching between a 136bhp electric motor and a 325bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, this Panamera will hit 62mph in 4.6 seconds and only call time at 173mph. Yet it is capable of returning 113mpg.
On board a 12-inch touchscreen constantly updates the occupants on available energy and recovery, technology initially developed for Porsche’s 918 flagship. Six selectable driving modes allow the new Hybrid to optimise its drivetrain for every conceivable condition of road or driver.
Stretching its legs towards the Swabian Jura, the focused and sonorous’ Sport Plus’ allows both Panamera powertrains to work in instantaneous tandem – another kick-back from the 918 programme - delivering peak power at 456bhp with an immediacy on the throttle unimaginable in yesterday’s hybrids. With four-wheel drive and the PDK dual-clutch transmission now standard, the juxtaposition of performance and economy is blurred to the point of being seamless. Automated regenerative braking is smoothly overridden by the analogue reassurance of large vented disc brakes and trademark green monobloc callipers. Pushed harder in the foothills south of Stuttgart the composure of the 4 E-Hybrid draws a short line to its Turbo sibling that lapped the Nordschleife in 7 minutes 38. That critical Porsche DNA runs deep, ever present even in a car like this with its attention so pointedly on the horizon.
Select E-Charge on the run home and the Panamera inhibits enough power and torque to recharge its battery and provide full-electric capability for the final urban zig-zag to Zuffenhausen.
As quickly as our motoring landscape is evolving, the Panamera stays a step ahead. Back inside the factory walls, the lights are off and silence descends once again. But not for long.