By Helmut Dostal
There is still no better way to take in the beauty of the European landscape than touring by car, especially when you’re footloose and fancy free without deadlines and fixed dates. With the freedom to have full control over your time and decisions to stop, go, hang around and explore at leisure, it’s an automotive journalist’s dream. Add to this the fact that I’ve been given a Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid to test drive and the picture becomes quite complete.
My assignment was a European touring experience in a hybrid sports car, covering five countries and every imaginable terrain. The route was entirely mine to select: from the Autobahn without speed limits to the tiniest alleys in ancient parts of Lyon and from the coastal boulevards in Monte Carlo to the hairpin turns in the Swiss Alps, the drive was rich with breathtaking scenery, quaint towns and great hospitality.
For me, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid proved to be an all round touring champion.
The folks at Porsche AG had a gleaming, fully charged Panamera 4 E-Hybrid test vehicle ready for me at their Wittinghausen, German location. After a few quick instructions, mostly about when they’d like their car back, I was behind the wheel and out the factory gates.
The Panamera is not a small car. There’s room for a family of five, but I’m keeping that to myself right now. The shape and design is all Porsche and yet it offers generous space and comfort, comparable to that of a full size luxury automobile. Combine that with the performance and technology that has made Porsche a world leader on the sports car and racing scene for the past 70 years and you will understand why I’ve found my sweet spot.
My first destination was the south of France; more specifically St. Romain en Viennois, a charming town complete with a preserved Roman amphitheatre, town square and other ruins that date back to Roman times around 100 bc. This is where my oldest friend Norbert (both in age and the number of years we have known each other) lives with his wife Veronica.
After leaving Germany I headed south on the Autoroute, the French equivalent to Germany’s Autobahn. But the similarity ends there. I sure had fun, but I found out the hard way that the posted speed limits are enforced strictly. The speeding ticket arrived in my mailbox in Toronto one month later.
I passed Switzerland to the east and arrived soon in Annecy, one of my favourite towns at the foot of the French Alps. The town’s old castle is visible from the Autoroute and surely draws travellers off the highway for a pit stop and a photo op. After a delicious dinner that included fois gras and a glass of local wine, I turned in at a cute boutique hotel at the side of Annecy Lake.
My Panamera 4 E-Hybrid came equipped with a domestic charging kit so an overnight battery boost was in order. No problem! Although not essential for the car’s operation, the battery provides an extra boost of 136 hp for a total of 462 hp combined. Electric-only cruising through crowded city streets is just what the environmentalist ordered. No sound, no pollution and that feel-good eco-warrior vibe.
Before putting my foot down again on the Autoroute, I handled a conference call with my Canadian publishing office, set my guidance coordinates to my next destination and adjusted my cruising speed, climate control and SiriusXM radio. As expected, the Panamera performed its semi-autonomous functions smoothly and with amazing accuracy.
It’s been suggested that owners of luxury vehicles don’t worry much about consumption figures but I beg to differ. The Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid’s fuel consumption numbers should raise some smiles among the green set. On my trip, I was pumping a total of 178 litres driving 3,500 km, mostly highways. That works out to 5.1 litres per 100 km. Nothing to scoff about.
Later in the day, as I made my way through an old part of a tiny historic town, I learned to appreciate the car’s 3D feature, which allowed me to see how little space the Panamera’s dimensions left as I explored the narrow street-scape.
Pulling up the hill to Norbert and Veronica’s house and seeing my friends was just like old times. Norbert is a photographer and a Porsche aficionado from a way back, so he couldn’t resist taking a couple of snaps.
After several days of reminiscing and old jokes shared over good food and a couple of family drives, we said a reluctant goodbye and I set off on my next étape, as the French say. The Côte d’Azur was only a short distance south and the perfect destination for a café stop: Coffee and chocolate croissants in St. Tropez. Sweet!
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 plus electric motor
Power: 462 hp combined: Torque: 700 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK)
Top speed: 278 km/hr
Acceleration (0–100 km/hr): 4.6 s