Horsepower Battle Moved From Big Displacement to Hybrid Era, Blasts Supercars in Process

While some carmakers created the hybrid system to cut emissions and increase fuel efficiency, others used it to boost their cars' performances.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S e-Hybrid 8 photos
Photo: Porsche A.G.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-HybridPorsche Panamera Turbo S E-HybridPorsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid drivetrainMercedes-AMG GT 63 S E PERFORMANCERear electric drive unit used by Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E PERFORMANCEMercedes-AMG GT 63 S E PERFORMANCEMercedes-AMG GT 63 S E PERFORMANCE drivetrain layout
The first successful hybrid car on the market is the Prius, even though it had all the ingredients to fail: weird design, sluggish performances, and a dashboard where you always had to search for the speedometer, which was in the middle of the dashboard and not in front of the driver's seat. As a result, it was easier to read by the backseat driver, not by the one behind the wheel.

As the world became more aware of climate change and the air became more polluted, new emission regulations emerged and changed the car industry forever. The premium carmakers were in a big dilemma: how to increase, or at least keep, their cars' performances while still keeping the emissions low. Only a motor could provide that.

Porsche announced in 2008 that it started to work on a hybrid-powered Panamera. At first, its fans were in shock, but they had time to catch their breath until 2011, when the series version left the factory. Performance-wise, it was a blast for those times. Mercedes-Benz and BMW tried to match that with hybrid versions for the S-Class and 7 Series, respectively, but they were far from what Porsche's achieved.

On the other hand, Porsche was part of the Volkswagen Group and shared that technology with other Volkswagen/Audi products. Thus, it became better in the new hybrid era faster than the other two Germans. Lexus, also, was a step ahead of everyone with hybrids. But the Japanese carmaker focused mainly on fuel efficiency. As a result, the performances were, at most, acceptable.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E\-Hybrid drivetrain
Photo: Porsche A.G.
In 2013, Porsche unveiled its first production hybrid supercar: the 918, which was already showcased in 2010, but few believed it would be that fast. Nevertheless, with a 0 to 62 mph (0-100 kph) time of under three seconds, it was a blast and showed the world what hybrid power could do.

The sports car manufacturer didn't stop there and pushed the boundaries of hybrid power even more, when it launched the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and proved to match, or outpace, other supercars from the late 2010s. And it did that with a sedan and with a station wagon (the Cross Tourismo version). Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz and BMW looked for electric vehicles such as the i3 or the SMART-e to lower their average emissions.

Photo: Mercedes-AMG
But now, Mercedes-AMG, part of Daimler Group, strikes back. The introduction of the GT63 S E Performance proved to Porsche that it could outpace the Panamera, even though it worked on developing an entire range of electric vehicles. Thus, the horsepower battle in the premium sedan segment reignited. Strangely though, no words from BMW. It will come back, that's for sure. It already has some plug-in hybrids on the assembly lines. Admittedly, they are not as powerful as the other two carmakers, but it is clear that something is cooking in the Bavarian kitchen.

But how is the competition between Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and the AMG GT 63 S E Performance? For starters, both cars offer 4.0-liter V8 gasoline engines. However, while the Panamera provides up to 699 hp from its hybrid system, the GT 63 S E Performance has 639 hp from the turbocharged powerplant alone. With the electric motor added, it resulted in an 843 hp.

Also, the GT63 hybrid got more power from its electric motor mounted on the rear axle than the Panamera, which had it integrated into its gearbox. Thus, there are two engineering solutions for the same challenge, and AMG did it better. As a result, the GT63 S E Performance can rocket from 0 to 100 kph (0-62 mph) in 2.9 seconds, while its competitor is 0.3 seconds slower.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E\-Hybrid
Photo: Porsche A.G.
In the end, the horsepower battle continued with clever solutions. While in the '60s, it was enough to install a bigger engine or more carburetors, now it matters even where you put the motor in a car. But let's sit and wait for the Bavarians to answer. For now, the M5 Competition matches the AMG's performances, even if it is without a hybrid system. But you have to keep in mind that the Munchen-based carmaker already had some honorable achievements in the plug-in hybrid age with the i8.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Dodge announced that it would continue its electrification program, and next year we might see the results. It already has the technology, and a supercharged V8 plus an electric motor might keep those three European brands in the rear-view mirror.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Tudor Serban
Tudor Serban profile photo

Tudor started his automotive career in 1996, writing for a magazine while working on his journalism degree. From Pikes Peaks to the Moroccan desert to the Laguna Seca, he's seen and done it all.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories