Displaying items by tag: Hybrid
The redesigned 2021 Hyundai Elantra compact sedan would be excellent rather than good if not for its lackluster cabin materials. If developing a car was a marathon, Hyundai didn’t run the last mile.
Versus the competition: For a mass-market compact sedan, the Elantra combines class-leading drivability with loads of user-friendly technology. Alas, its low-rent interior weighs all that down.
For 2021, the Hyundai Elantra sedan comes in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels, all with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. (The Elantra GT hatchback has been discontinued.) The first-ever Elantra Hybrid, meanwhile, pairs a smaller four-cylinder with electric assist; it comes in SEL and Limited trims. Finally, the Elantra N Line has a turbocharged four-cylinder and the lineup’s only manual transmission. (Note that a higher-performance Elantra, called simply the N, without the “Line,” remains in the works as of this writing.) All other variants have an automatic, which is also available on the N Line. Stack up the whole current group, or compare the 2020 and 2021 Elantra.
We evaluated an SEL over the course of a week and also took brief drives in the Limited Hybrid and a stick-shift N Line.
SE, SEL, Limited: Refined Drivability
A confounding but age-old reality in our recent comparison between the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla sedans was the trade-off between ride quality and handling chops. Hyundai elevates both better than any car in that trio, as well as most other compact sedans.
Despite a torsion-beam rear axle — a cost-saving setup versus the independent rear suspensions used by some rivals, including the Civic and Corolla — the Elantra rides impressively. Aside from some skittishness during mid-corner bumps, body control feels impressive for a mass-market compact sedan. Ditto for shock absorption: The suspension takes sewer covers and rutted pavement with a degree of sophistication reminiscent of a larger, or pricier, car — and that’s with our SEL model’s optional 17-inch wheels and P225/45R17 tires. With available wheel diameters ranging from 15 to 18 inches, it’s possible lesser versions of the Elantra ride even more comfortably. (All other things being equal, larger wheels generally diminish ride quality.)
Kudos, too, for the Elantra’s reflexes. Fling it into a corner and the nose pushes early, but the steering feels as quick-ratio as the Civic’s — still one of the best-handling cars in the class — with less of the outgoing Elantra’s vagueness. The wheel seldom feels twitchy on center even at higher speeds, and body roll is nicely contained through sweeping curves.
Under the hood is last year’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (147 horsepower, 132 pounds-feet of torque), which runs on a more-efficient Atkinson cycle; gone is the prior generation’s Eco trim and its turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. The 2.0-liter has reasonable power past 3,000 rpm or so, and Hyundai’s continuously variable automatic transmission is a motivated partner to get you there. Revs climb energetically from a stop, and if you need more power while already in motion, the CVT kicks up engine rpm swiftly enough to mimic a downshift from a conventional automatic. The 2021 Elantra is not particularly quick, but it does a nice job with what it has to offer.
Elantra Hybrid: Even Better
The Elantra Hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter Atkinson four-cylinder with a 32-kilowatt electric motor for a total system output of 139 hp and 195 pounds-feet of torque. It’s a handy combination, particularly on the torque side, to move you out from a stop. Unlike the many hybrids that employ CVT-like power-split devices, Hyundai’s system uses a conventional stepped automatic transmission — in this case a six-speed dual-clutch unit. The stepped gears bring a welcome sensation of upshifts and downshifts, though the downshifts arrive only after a long delay or hard stab on the gas. Sport mode provides much-needed accelerator responsiveness — there’s your downshift — if you don’t mind sacrificing fuel efficiency.
That efficiency is considerable, with 50 mpg in EPA-estimated combined gas mileage (54 mpg in a higher-efficiency Elantra Hybrid Blue edition). That’s up some 40% over the Elantra’s still-impressive EPA 35 mpg combined (37 mpg for the SE trim). Both figures are competitive against respective rivals; compare Elantra Hybrid mileage or the regular Elantra’s.
The Elantra Hybrid gets an independent rear suspension versus the non-hybrid’s torsion beam, but the differences are hard to pick out. I drove the Elantra Hybrid Limited back to back with an Elantra SEL, both with 17-inch wheels, over the same route. Both cars rode similarly well — more of a feat for the SEL’s simpler hardware, perhaps, but we preach results over formula. The results speak for themselves.
Elantra N Line: A Minor Letdown
If there’s any disappointment in how the Elantra drives, it comes with the N Line. Like the Elantra Hybrid, it gets an independent rear suspension, but tuning is stiffer all around versus the regular Elantra, with a thicker front stabilizer bar, as well. It shows: Shock absorption is notably firmer — though not objectionably so, as was the case with its Elantra Sport predecessor. The steering, altered here for N Line duty, augments the regular Elantra’s quick ratio with better feedback. Whether through chassis tuning or better grip (our test car had Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires), or a little of both, understeer feels immediately better contained.
So where’s the letdown? It’s all in the N Line’s powertrain. The N Line packs Hyundai’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder (201 hp, 195 pounds-feet of torque), an engine we’ve seldom found responsive enough. Hyundai says peak torque comes as early as 1,500 rpm, but it’s only after notable turbo lag. The lag diminishes if you keep engine revs north of 4,000 rpm or so, which requires frequent work with the stick-shift N Line’s longish throws and muddy gates. Even then, the N Line never feels particularly quick. The optional automatic transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch unit, so it might alter some of the power delivery. Alas, we didn’t evaluate it.
SE, SEL and N Line models have two USB ports, HD radio and an 8-inch touchscreen with adjacent physical controls, including the must-have volume and tuning knobs. Impressively, the standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both have wireless integration. Wireless phone charging — critical if you really want to go cord-free, as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can drain your phone’s battery fast — is optional, as are all-digital gauges.
The Limited trim comes with wireless charging and swaps the 8-inch screen for a 10.25-inch touchscreen. It’s a slick, high-resolution display, but it introduces some annoyances. Gone is the tuning knob, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto revert to a wired setup. What’s more, the larger display has a widescreen ratio that’s starved for height, so items like the backup camera image appear only on part of the screen. The navigation map and Apple CarPlay leverage the entire display, but I didn’t test Android Auto (I’m an iPhone user). Cars.com staffers with Android devices have observed display limitations in other Hyundai models with the automaker’s 10.25-inch display. See for yourself on a test drive.
The Fatal Flaw?
For all the Elantra’s strengths, the obvious flaw comes inside. It’s not space: The low center console affords a wide berth for the driver, and backseat knee clearance should suit adult passengers. Our independent accounting of cargo space found 19 cubic feet in the Elantra’s trunk, within 1 cubic foot of our accounting in the Civic, Corolla and Sentra.
Hyundai’s problem is materials quality. Even in the Limited trim, the upper doors, where your arms and elbows might rest, are all cheap hard plastic, as are most areas your knees touch. Things decline even further in the backseat, where the dollar-store treatment extends to the door armrests. The glove box opens with an undamped clatter; the headliner is mouse fur.
All of that falls in line with the prior-generation Elantra, no standout for cabin materials itself. But if you haven’t been in other compact cars, you’re missing out. The Civic and Impreza have a proper woven headliner. The Sentra offers soft-touch materials where your knees land, and almost all rivals have soft-touch door materials up front, especially in higher trim levels. The Mazda3 keeps it classy front and rear.
There’s potential to right the ship immediately. All major controls feel uniformly meticulous, unlike rivals like the Corolla. All Hyundai would have to do is swap in better materials immediately for a modest cost per car. Of course, the bean counters will multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of cars the automaker hopes to sell. You know how that ends.
Features and Value
As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to publish crash-test results for the 2021 Elantra, but once the agency does, those results will appear here. Standard safety and driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, a blind spot warning system and lane-centering steering.
The Elantra SE starts just under $21,000 (all prices include destination). That’s roughly competitive with rivals’ base models, most of which have standard automatic transmissions, as well. Standard features include 15-inch alloy wheels, the 8-inch touchscreen with wireless phone integration and the aforementioned safety tech. Finding an SE might be hard, however: As of this writing, just 12% of new 2021 Elantra sedans on Cars.com are SE models, and that’s with the Elantra Hybrid and N Line not yet on sale. Their eventual arrival will consign the SE to an even smaller slice of the pie.
The vast majority of current inventory is the next-up Elantra SEL (about $22,000), which adds larger wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless access with push-button start. Add options or climb the trim levels, and you can get leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat with memory, heated and ventilated front seats, the larger touchscreen, Bose premium audio, adaptive cruise control and Highway Driving Assist. (HDA augments Hyundai’s standard lane-centering, called Lane Following Assist, with additional capabilities on designated highways. Read more about the differences.)
The N Line runs about $25,000, while the well-equipped Limited (around $26,500) doesn’t have any factory options. The Elantra Hybrid, meanwhile, exacts a $2,650 premium for its SEL and Limited trims versus the same non-hybrid examples. As such, expect an Elantra Hybrid Limited to set you back about $29,000 — likely the highest sticker price most shoppers will see on any Elantra. That’s still a decent value, especially considering Hyundai’s impressive warranty and three years’ free maintenance.
Value might drive many shoppers toward the Elantra, and excellent drivability should justify consideration even among the less budget-conscious. The downfall comes with Hyundai’s lack of investment inside, a peskiness that leaves the Elantra at four-fifths of great.
New 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhpNew 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhpNew 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhpNew 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhpNew 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhpNew 2024 BMW M5: full-electric hyper saloon to have 1000bhp
More info on BMW 5-Series
► 2024's G60-gen M5 to go electric
► 1000bhp e-saloon alongside PHEV
► Tech from iNext and i4 underneath
BMW is already amping up for the next-generation M5 super saloon. Arriving in 2024, this new version will be a dramatic change from the current F90.
Why? Because it’s expected to be the first M car to be exclusively electrified – either as a ‘Power PHEV’ or full-electric car.
Labelled G60, the next 5-series bows in the third quarter of 2023. One year later, the seventh-generation M5 will start chasing fast Audis and Mercs with these two variants. The plug-in hybrid will use the same powertrain as the upcoming X8 M, with a V8 petrol engine and e-motors totalling around 750bhp and 737lb ft of torque sent to all four wheels.
2024's all-electric M5
The zero-emission M5, meanwhile, is a member of the CLAR WE family. Power will be provided by Gen V pouch-type batteries. Although BMW knows that it would have been wiser to switch to larger Tesla-style round cells for safety, stability and performance reasons, it is now too late for such a radical change. The most potent conventional energy cell in question is rated at 135kWh; it can be hooked up to a 400V charger good for up to 350kW. In a second step, BMW will upgrade to the 800V standard pioneered by Porsche with its Taycan.
BMW is openly working on a ‘power BEV’, using a 5-series mule. That model has three e-motors borrowed from the powertrain we’ll see in the electric i4 and the iNext SUV. One drives the front axle while the rear wheels get a motor each. Numbers? 711bhp and sub-3.0sec 0-62mph.
The maximum projected WLTP range is 435miles, the targeted 0-62mph acceleration time is 2.9sec. In terms of power output, internal documents suggest two 250kW motors driving the rear wheels and one 250kW unit propelling the fronts. That's 750kW or around 1000bhp in total – that may sound awesome, but it will in less than twelve months be eclipsed by Tesla's tri-motor Plaid configuration.
Electric car battery tech explained
Comments a member of the M Division R&D team: “The Bavarian Motor Works are latecomers to the EV scene, and the same applies unfortunately to autonomous driving. Mid-term, our only stable competitive advantage is ride, handling and roadholding. But the biggest challenge by far is cost, which is why the board has buried the projected halo car.”
BMW Group's electric roadmap
The halo car, which was expected to be based on the Vision M Next concept, has been canned.
Given the electric M5's use of the CLAR WE architecture, there will be commonality with other zero-emission models from BMW Group. BMW has already been spotted testing the CLAR WE platform via some 7-series mules (above).
This extends to the 7-series eDrive out in 2023 and, eventually, the current Phantom which goes electric in very small numbers starting in 2022. A silent Cullinan is due to follow in 2027.
The front-wheel-drive hybrid version of Kia's redesigned Sorento mid-size three-row crossover packs a solid 227 horsepower and a 37-mpg EPA combined estimate.
The new 2021 Kia Sorento hybrid doesn't make a big deal of itself, despite being the first electrically assisted version of Kia's mid-size crossover. It's got a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and it drives like you'd expect—except that the little four feels like it has about 25 percent more displacement than it actually does. In fact, the Sorento hybrid's combined output—227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque—nearly matches that of the 2020 Volkswagen GTI. Like a GTI, the front-wheel-drive-only Sorento torments its front tires with torque. Unlike the compact GTI, though, it has three rows of seats and an EPA combined estimate of 37 mpg. Thus concludes our references to the Volkswagen GTI, but we hope the comparisons helped you subliminally internalize the idea that the Sorento hybrid is actually kind of fun.
To get the Sorento hybrid's 227 horses out of a 1.6-liter turbo-four, you'd generally have to boost the bejesus out of it. Kia didn't do that. But it did pair the engine with a sizable electric motor and a 1.5-kWh lithium battery that enables some neat tricks. Such as producing an abundance of torque off the line and sailing along at highway speeds with the engine off. And yes, achieving solid fuel-economy ratings of 39 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.
Kia's highly specific spec sheet lists the 1.6-liter as making 177.2 horsepower and 195.4 pound-feet of torque from 1500 to 4500 rpm. The electric motor generates a claimed 60.1 horses and 194.7 pound-feet from zero up to 1600 revs. Notice that those two torque figures are both almost the same and happen at low revs, which helps explain why the hybrid's low-end grunt feels diesel-like in strength. It's simply a smooth, prodigious shove that's out of proportion to the gas engine's displacement.
The 1.6 does sometimes lug at low rpm, particularly when climbing grades, as the transmission holds a tall gear and leans on the electric motor for help. But that's a common hybrid trait. As dealership sales reps like to say: They all do that. And, as we tend we say: At least it's not a CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission). Should you desire a lower gear from the Sorento hybrid's conventional automatic, there are paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel.
The Sorento hybrid offers no dedicated electric-only mode, but nonetheless it relies on electric power surprisingly often and at high speeds. Light on the throttle, downhill, you'll see the green EV indicator light come on at 80 mph. While its relatively tiny battery means you won't ever go far on electricity alone, this Sorento is good at seamlessly juggling its propulsion options without calling attention to the machinations happening beyond the firewall.
Priced at $34,760 to start for the base S trim, the hybrid costs $1700 more than a non-hybrid Sorento S, which employs a 191-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic. That model is only rated for 26 mpg combined, and the EPA figures that over five years, the hybrid will save you $1750 in fuel. Your mileage may vary, of course, but you'll notice that those estimated savings neatly erase the hybrid's price premium. It looks as if a half-decade is your financial break-even point, if that's a motivating factor. But the hybrid also is the significantly more powerful option, and that's a worthy upgrade on its own. Just don't expect it to outpace the nonhybrid Sorento's optional 281-hp 2.5-liter turbo-four that we've already driven.
In terms of drawbacks, the Sorento hybrid has a couple. It's only available as a front-driver, so if all-wheel drive is nonnegotiable you'll need to look elsewhere—or wait for the upcoming plug-in hybrid variant that drives all four of its wheels with a combined 261 horses and a significantly larger battery. The hybrid also shouldn't be your pick if you expect to tow much with it, as its 2000-pound tow rating lags behind the nonhybrid models' 3500-pound max. But if neither of those factors is an issue, you may as well spring for the hybrid over the standard Sorento. Think of it as a five-year investment in free horsepower.
► Plug-in load-lugger offers big boot and electric range
► Ideal for private or company car drivers alike
► Standard iV makes more sense than vRS version
Some cars appeal to your head, while others grab you by the heart. Then there are modern Skodas - some of which start with the former but end up doing plenty of the latter, to a fairly unexpected extent.
Few will browse and configure an Octavia iV in the advanced stages of face-flushing lust, but it’s easy to find yourself getting a little hot under the collar at the idea of a handsome estate car with 43 miles of electric-only range, a ludicrously low benefit-in-kind tax rate, a handy 201bhp with which to get around and the promise at least of some very miserly fuel consumption.
This, smaller, iV (the bigger Superb launched first) goes about its business with the kind of quiet and classy competence that, in time, is likely to nurture a real if unlikely love for this hunk of smartly-creased, petrol ’n’ electric metal.
What’s the Skoda Octavia iV like to drive?
Under the hood is a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder, an e-motor the other side of the clutch (housed within the twin-clutch gearbox) and, out back, a 13kWh battery that, in return for that decent all-electric range, steals some boot space and adds 135kg of weight.
On the road, the iV just works, blending quiet and refined (if steady) progress on electric power alone. The petrol motor feels reluctant to contribute in the best of PHEV traditions, so it’s easy to whisk around on quiet e-power without having to keep half an eye on the gauge to make sure you’re not about to inadvertently fire up the four-pot.
In more conservative drive modes the Octavia coasts forever too, meaning you can release the gas hundreds of yards before a roundabout or junction and roll up to it silently and efficiently. If you’d rather the regenerative brakes assist your deceleration in a more natural way then simply switch into Sport mode for one-pedal regen up to every traffic light and junction.
Handling-wise there’s plenty of grip and ride comfort, even if the car’s weight and soft set-up conspire to create a floaty sensation at times and a decent slug of roll should you get carried away, with nicely weighted and calibrated driving controls (abrupt brakes aside).
Does it work as a PHEV?
If your usage is textbook PHEV – off-street parking with a garage for charging (albeit on a three-pin plug) and daily short journeys – then, within those parameters, the iV excels.
Anything less than ideal conditions will see the fanciful fuel economy claim drop but you should get 55mpg at the very least, and in cold weather on a route poorly suited to EVs, we ‘lost’ around 20 per cent of the displayed battery range (covering 21 miles on 24 miles of range and 16 on 21 miles).
You can well imagine going months between fill-ups, so little work does the engine do if you exhibit a shred of restraint - a stern challenge on motorways, where the Skoda’s weight, drag and e-power limits you to a mobile-chicane 70mph.
What’s it like inside?
In the cabin there’s space, order, a touch-based interface you can work with and the unmistakable perfume of VW Group quality – the Octavia’s is a £35k interior that feels like a £45k one.
The Octavia has the least fussy infotainment system of its Golf/Leon/A3 siblings, with physical buttons on the centre console and clear, and well laid-out menus. Small annoyances remain – static home and menu buttons on the 10.25-inch touchscreen are a useful touch, but they’re positioned on the side of the screen furthest away, and fans of a physical volume knob will still have to retrain their fingers to the slidey arrangement now used across the VW Group.
In terms of PHEV-specific giveaways though the only obvious change is a battery level meter on the left-hand side of the digital cockpit where the coolant temperature used to be. Positioned opposite the petrol gauge, this gives a clear and instant view of your remaining fuel and charge.
Practicality-wise the iV loses little – the gargantuan rear legroom remains and the boot is only mildly inconvenienced, with the space under the floor taken up by the battery, and cable storage slot. The Octavia’s boot is so large anyway this reduction in volume is of little consequence, dropping from 640/1700-litres to 490/1555 seat up/down – the same as an Audi A4 Avant or BMW 3 Series Touring.
Like all plug-ins the Octavia makes sense for regular, reliable journeys within its electric range (which in fairness is usefully long) and the occasional longer jaunt on petrol power. Basically, it’s a great company car if you live 20-30 miles from the office, and still visit it five days a week.
Its ultra-low 6% BiK rate thanks to low CO2 and decent e-range means it’s good value for business use, although perhaps not so good as those willing and able to take the plunge into a full EV.
There’s also a vRS version of the Octavia iV if your heart craves a little more speed, body control and kudos. We think that the uprated plug-in powertrain becomes unresponsive and at times confused in a hot hatch setting, undermining the keen steering and chassis, though.
No, stick with the standard iV. And be prepared to fall for – of all things – a plug-in estate. Not exciting but classy, refined, a pleasure to drive.
The Audi Q5 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid SUV strikes a compelling balance of performance and fuel efficiency within the updated Q5 lineup.
That many of today's plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are both the most powerful and fuel-efficient examples within their respective model ranges says a lot about the progress of vehicle electrification. For example, Audi's updated 2021 Q5 SUV lineup, where the new PHEV variant, the Q5 55 TFSI e, packs the largest power figure, and its balance of performance, fuel efficiency, and luxury place it in a compelling spot in the lineup. Although the sportiest variant remains the SQ5—but only just.
Starting at $52,995, the PHEV version of Audi's compact luxury crossover slots between the regular $44,395 Q5 45 TFSI and the performance-oriented $53,995 SQ5. Regardless of the powertrain, all 2021 Q5s receive more angular styling for their headlights and front and rear bumpers, as well as an updated grille that's more cohesive with the brand's newer models. The net effect ties the Q5's design elements together better than before, lending it a fresh but not overly aggressive aura when parked at the curb.
Audi introduced the plug-in Q5 last year, which combines a 248-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with the hybrid's 141-hp electric motor for a peak output of 362 horses and 369 pound-feet of torque. With a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive, Audi says the Q5 PHEV should reach 60 mph in a fleet 5.0 seconds—only 0.3 second slower than the SQ5 with its 349-hp turbo 3.0-liter V-6.
Even with the added 550 pounds of mass of the hybrid's battery and motor, the Q5 55 TFSI e is quick for its segment. It won't rearrange your internal organs when you stomp on the accelerator, but it will remind you that instant electric torque is a wonderful thing when used correctly. The Q5 PHEV feels just as at home on the open road as it does around town. Its ride is steady and polished even when the pavement is anything but, and it corners adroitly for its size. But as with most electrified vehicles, you'll notice its extra weight as the dynamic loads increase.
The PHEV's lithium-ion battery with 11.3 kWh of usable energy nets a 19-mile EPA rating for electric driving. If that seems modest, it's even more so than it needed to be, as Audi voluntarily lowered its label value from the 29-mile figure the Q5 earned during EPA testing. While in electric mode, the Q5's already quiet interior becomes noticeably more serene. The battery can be recharged in as little as 2.4 hours via a 240-volt Level 2 charging station, according to Audi, but takes considerably longer if you plug it into a conventional 120-volt wall socket. Compared with the standard Q5's EPA estimate of 25 mpg combined, the PHEV earns a 27-mpg rating after the battery's been depleted and 50 MPGe with it in the mix.
Inside, the Q5's cabin continues to exhibit the exemplary build quality we've come to expect from Audi. The updated MIB 3 infotainment system behind the standard 10.1-inch touchscreen is high tech and nicely integrated. But we did notice some latency in its responses to commands, and we're still acclimating to not having the previous MMI setup's rotary control knob. Wireless Apple CarPlay is now available, but Android Auto connectivity requires the use of a cord. Higher trims add Audi's excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital gauge display and its ability to sharply render full-width map data. Our main disappointment in the example we drove was the standard eight-way power-adjustable front seats, which we struggled to find a comfortable position in during longer stints behind the wheel.
The Q5 55 TFSI e is available with Audi's typical Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige option packages, with the latter pushing the plug-in's price to $62,795 with heated and ventilated seats, a head-up display with traffic-sign recognition, and a premium Bang & Olufsen stereo. Audi points out that federal and local tax credits have the potential to significantly lower the PHEV's entry point, limiting its upcharge over the standard Q5 and making the SQ5 a considerably more expensive proposition. For Q5 shoppers who can make use of its electric range, the plug-in's solid performance and luxury trappings could strike a just-right balance.
Highlighted by the Sport Turismo wagon model, Porsche's updated Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid gains power, refinement, and 30 percent more electric range.
Recent headlines regarding Porsche's four-door cars have naturally gravitated to the company's new Taycan electric sedan. And given the performance of the 750-hp Taycan Turbo S—the most powerful Porsche currently available—that hype is understandable. But Porsche has partially electrified its Panamera sedan and Sport Turismo wagon (and Cayenne SUV) for several years now with some spectacular results. For the 2021 model year, a range of updates comes to the second-generation Panamera lineup, with the most anticipated of those changes being an uptick in power, performance, and refinement for the range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid models.
Although the Panamera Sport Turismo has been around since 2018, the wagon remains a rare bird, even in car-crazy Los Angeles. Our 2021 Turbo S E-Hybrid test car has been collecting lustful stares all morning, even from a few Tesla drivers. Exterior changes are subtle. Aside from new wheel designs, the previously optional SportDesign front fascia is now standard; a reconfigured SportDesign package, with or without carbon fiber, is in the works. To bring the car's rear end in line with the look of the brand's fresher sports cars and SUVs, a continuous light strip now spreads across its tail. The only upgrade inside is a new steering wheel with simplified audio and information controls. Our German-spec example was not fitted with a panoramic glass roof, but it will remain standard on United States models.
Mechanically, things haven't changed much either. The plug-in Turbo S E-Hybrid retains its all-wheel-drive system, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, and an electric motor integrated into its eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission. Engine calibration enhancements have increased the V-8's output from 550 horsepower to 563. Peak torque stays at 567 pound-feet, and the electric motor contributes an additional 134 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. As a result, combined horsepower climbs from 680 to 690. And with 642 pound-feet of total torque plus a low 5.97:1 first gear, hard launches strain back muscles and rearrange bodily fluids more than ever. Tummies twizzle.
Porsche says the updates shorten the wagon's 60-mph dash from 3.2 seconds to 3.0 flat, but we've already clocked a 2.7-second run from a 2018 Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, which also covered the quarter-mile in 11.0 seconds at 126 mph. We won't know for sure until we get the updated car to the test track, but the 2021 model should shave a tenth of a second from those times. Porsche also claims a 196-mph top speed, which is an increase of 4 mph. We'll buy it.
The most significant powertrain upgrade is an increase in battery capacity from 14.1 kWh to 17.9 kWh, which ups the Turbo S E-Hybrid's all-electric driving range by 30 percent. On a full charge in the E-Power driving mode, there are now enough electrons for about 20 miles of travel. But get aggressive with the throttle, and the V-8 fires up quickly to deliver a boost of power.
Hybrid mode maximizes the system's efficiency by blending both power sources with remarkable refinement, running the engine only when necessary to either charge the battery or answer your request for harder acceleration. "We spent a lot of time under the hood optimizing engine and suspension systems to enhance the bandwidth between performance and comfort," said Thomas Friemuth, vice president of the Panamera model line. EPA fuel-economy estimates aren't finalized yet, but the current car's 48-MPGe and 20-mpg combined ratings aren't expected to change.
Sport and Sport Plus modes keep the engine running and retune the transmission for more immediate response. They also dial up the volume of the active exhaust system, giving the V-8 a thumpy idle and a pleasant growl. The Turbo S E-Hybrid's adjustable air springs use the same hardware as before, but ride quality has been improved, and the range between the suspension's three settings have been broadened. Normal is a bit softer than before and Sport Plus a bit stiffer, but each setup retains the relatively supple ride quality and excellent body control that we've previously been impressed with.
The Turbo S E-Hybrid's regenerative braking system helps replenish the battery pack rather quickly. A half hour of moderately quick driving in the hills above Malibu increased our indicated electric range from 7 to 21 miles. Porsche has also made some adjustments to the Panamera's Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport system, which governs the car's active anti-roll bars, torque-vectoring system, rear-axle steering, and more. There's more steering feel than in other big sedans and wagons, and a new electromechanical brake booster seems to have eliminated the brake pedal's previously squishy transition from regenerative to friction braking. Massive carbon-ceramic rotors with Acid Green-painted calipers are still standard.
Porsche continues to mount the battery pack under the Turbo S E-Hybrid's cargo floor to help balance the weight of the chassis, which helps lend the car incredible grip and agility. You can notice some road noise from the updated 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tires (275/35R-21s in front and 325/30R-21s in the rear), but their impressive grip is a fair tradeoff. Despite weighing around 5300 pounds, we recorded 0.99 g of stick on the skidpad from the previous version of this electrified wagon. While it does feel big and heavy on the road, it's also seriously quick, stupendously stable, and it simply explodes from corner to corner.
Pricing for Turbo S E-Hybrid versions of the Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo will be released closer to the cars' availability in spring, but we'd expect slight increases over their current base prices of $189,050 and $193,050, respectively. With its improved performance and additional refinement, we could make a case for the top Sport Turismo model as Porsche's best all-around car. Sure, both the electric Taycan Turbo S and the updated 911 Turbo S are quicker, and we'd rather have one of the company's GT sports cars for pure driving joy. But none of them combines speed, comfort, efficiency, and versatility as stupefyingly well as the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. It may be the perfect ride for the deep-pocketed enthusiast with a family and a single parking space.
► 400bhp, 100mpg, 0-62 in 5.8seconds
► Swedish seven seater
► Frugal and fast - but not at the same time
Back when Elon Musk was merely known for crashing his McLaren F1 and Jeff Bezos was a bookseller, Volvos were safe and sturdy cars made for ferrying around your offspring.
Fast forward to today and the brand has evolved into a stylish desirable car marque that no longer just trades off being the safest around.
Keep hitting the fast forward button and you'll see that a new Volvo XC90 is due in 2021. It'll be a hybrid and EV only affair.
With this in mind - is the XC90 worth buying still? Or should people wait for the new car?
The best hybrid SUVs - on CAR
The XC90 T8 hybrid, or Recharge for short, is the most expensive, cleanest, frugalist, and quickest car of the XC90 range. Its raison d'etre is that it's a seven-seat plug-in hybrid - something of a rarity still.
It's aimed at the middle classes who can't quite commit to a fully-electric car, but still want the tax breaks and street cred associated with one.
While there's also a hint of the Q-car about it. Lovers of stealthy performance cars will be salivating at the thought of a 2.3-tonne family-hauler cracking the 0-62mph sprint in less than six seconds.
A 400bhp, £60k Volvo hybrid with a crystal gear selector
Expensive, fast, stylish and beautifully crafted, it’s a standard-bearer for the Swedish marque in its assault on the premium establishment, a move that’s being met with more success than Volvo dared hope.
The XC90 uses Volvo’s SPA scalable product architecture. It also underpins the S90 saloon and V90 estate, while the chassis was designed from the outset to package electric powertrains. In the T8 a petrol engine in the nose drives the front wheels via an eight-speed auto gearbox. A generator sandwiched between the two rapidly cranks the petrol engine into life, boosts torque and charges the battery as required.
The cells, housed in the central tunnel a propshaft normally calls home, feed a large single electric motor on the rear axle that also generates electricity under braking. A control unit in the engine bay synchronises the two power sources, ensuring happy, efficient collaboration and all-wheel drive when required.
Does the XC90 Recharge feel 400bhp fast?
Not quite – think effortless performance rather than unlikely dragster. Mash the throttle to the carpet in Power mode and the T8 launches pretty smartly, the battery pouring power into the electric motor as the turbocharged and supercharged direct-injection 2.0-litre four slogs its guts out. As a performance powertrain it’s undoubtedly effective, the claimed 5.8sec 0-62mph feeling entirely believable, but the car’s not inconsequential weight (2343kg) blunts performance.
This kind of heavy-footed tomfoolery also feels pretty inappropriate, not because the chassis can’t cope – far from it – but because the petrol engine’s strains lack charm, shattering the XC90’s otherwise very endearing serenity. Volvo insists a more sonorous higher cylinder count would have been incompatible both with the firm’s product architecture and the wants of environmentally responsible consumers. Certainly the four-cylinder engine contributes much to the T8’s headline figures of 63-76g/km of CO2 and 83.1-100.9mpg on the combined cycle, though, after running one for six months, we can safely say the latter is an almost impossible figure.
The obscene three-figure MPG rating is synonymous with the plug-in hybrid car. We reckon if you charged religiously, and never drove more than 100 or so miles, the figure might be someway achievable. But the real hindrance to the XC90 is that when the battery is bereft of charge, you're realistically looking at a sub 30mpg car.
Volvo quotes an official electric range of 31 miles, but with day-to-day mixed driving expect more like 20.
Back to the drive modes. It's better to select the Hybrid and trade a little of Power’s throttle response and poke for improved economy and some far more agreeable peace and quiet. Either way the integration of electric and petrol power is almost seamless. At smaller throttle openings the petrol engine chiming in and out is almost undetectable, and the brake pedal is similarly well resolved, passing through the regenerative phase and into hydraulic braking with no discernible shift in resistance.
The usual PHEV functionality ensures a good degree of control: choose Pure mode to use only electric, select Braking on the gear selector for stronger regenerative braking on downhill runs, or even a lower gear for increased engine braking; use the instrument display or the dead-spot in the throttle pedal’s travel to stay on electric power, rather than accidentally triggering the petrol engine’s assistance.
High-rise limo or lively steer?
Air-suspended XC90s deliver an impressive drive, blending a cosseting ride with impressive body control. Appropriately there’s a little initial roll before the outer air struts take up the slack, lending the 5m-long seven-seater the wieldy feel of something much smaller and lighter.
Conventionally sprung XC90s manage a good impression of the same body control but lose a good deal of the ride quality, occasionally running out of answers on the kind of weather-beaten roads the UK does so well. So budget for the air suspension, which also drops the rear of the car by 50mm on demand for the easy loading of heavy furniture and arthritic dogs.
Back to that crystal gear selector
Curious timbers, machined aluminium and acres of beige leather don’t sound too promising but, almost irrespective of colour choice, the XC90’s is one of the finest interiors out there, certainly in anything like a comparable price bracket.
Fit and finish are exemplary, the design striking in a very pleasing, understated way and the overall sense of light, space and uncluttered calm the perfect ally to the T8’s potential for 31 miles of near-silent pure electric transportation. Additional NVH work has banished much of the background chatter of fans and compressors a combustion engine’s machinations normally mask, leaving an impressive and luxurious absence of noise.
Although the heating/cooling functions are controlled via the car's touchscreen. Which is annoying and fiddly on the move. Turning the heated seats on to their full power requires three stabs at the screen, for instance. And we can't help but the crystal gear selector is a bit...much.
The XC90 is fundamentally a very fine SUV, and the hybrid powertrain has much to recommend it, not least the tax breaks afforded by its miserly CO2 output. While obviously 400bhp means it shifts like a V8.
However, for most people a diesel-engined XC90 delivers comparable if not superior economy, particularly if the battery’s never charged from the grid (50% of its existing PHEV owners don’t, according to Volvo) but the T8’s potential for both lunging bouts of acceleration and silent electric running is hugely attractive. Much like the car itself.
Since being launched, other manufacturers have caught up by offering plug-in hybrid SUVs. Audi, Range Rover, and BMW all have these in their arsenal - and all are newer too. Yet, the XC90 still delivers in being devastatingly fast and handsome, and nowhere near as audacious and flashy as them.