I finally won a race in my life. It was a race to be the slowest, but I’ll take it.
The new 2013 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid coasted me beyond 80km up hills and around lakes and down derestricted autobahns to consume 5.2 litres-per-100km. For the first half of the challenge to beat Porsche’s quoted economy figures (5.6 litres-per-100km) at the launch of the range near the foot of the Alps, the car sipped just two litres, but the steep climb afterwards called up the new force-fed 333bhp V6 engine and still returned the sort of triumphant economy figures that might compel Greenland to proclaim the day official Polar Bear Day.
To be honest it was hard work, winning, probably not unlike what Tom Kristensen and the No2 Audi must’ve endured at Le Mans. I had to keep my speed up, if only so I didn’t have to keep speeding up, which wasn’t easy when the squiggle on the satellite navigation screen resembled a plate of spaghetti. I couldn’t brake for pedestrians, which admittedly comes naturally after five years of living in Dubai, and I had to drive with one hand on the wheel, sort of like Ari Vatanen up Pikes Peak, and the other hovering over the E-Hybrid’s two most crucial controls — EV mode, and E-Charge mode.
The first is self-explanatory, unless you don’t know what EV means, and the second overrides something in the system to force the charging of the battery while the petrol engine is running. Not to mention I had to endure searing cockpit conditions (which at one point reached 24 degrees) without the AC turned on, and despite the fact that the windscreen kept fogging up, I was reluctant to use the wipers and once shouted at my passenger for opening the window, not only because of the electric switch-sapping power and costing me, what, a second a lap; but also because of the aerodynamic drag that saw my speed on that stretch of road plummet from 66kph to 65kph. I couldn’t even bear thinking about the dirty air hitting my rear wing.
So I’m a race-winner now, and yet something bugged me there. Through all that feathering of the throttle and mucking around with hypermiling techniques, something beneath the Panamera E-Hybrid wanted to jump out and smack me on the head, jam my foot into the plush carpet and drive right over Thomas Edison’s grave.
Electricity… I mean, you can’t even see it. What is a watt anyway? I can go into Lulu’s and buy a light bulb with hundreds of the things. Now, 520 horses, there’s something rational we can all understand; a clear picture of a massive herd of steeds pummelling the earth beneath them into submission. Or you can just picture that new Panamera Turbo.