Cropley on cars – Porsche Panamera on holiday; electric Jags are coming

A week with our Porsche Panamera hybrid; touring Paris in a Citroën DS21, electric Jaguar XE spotted

MONDAY – Back to work after a week away in Mr McIlroy’s Porsche Panamera Hybrid, one of those cars about which you feel uncertain at first (bewildering switchgear, poor visibility) but increasingly appreciate as you drive.

Big cars today tend to come with commanding visibility – aka tallness – built in, so it’s odd to slide your rump into a limo no higher than an Audi TT.

Sitting down there among the wheels, your view is initially hampered further by thick pillars and mirrors shaped more for aero than rear vision. However, once you’re used to it, and have spent five minutes boning up on the more obscure switch functions, everything comes together.

Panamera Hybrid reviews tend to focus on the oddities of the accelerator response, which can’t disguise the fact that there’s a bank of computers buried down there in the car’s bowels, mind-bendingly juggling braking and power regeneration against complex petrol-electric propulsion.

But the car’s seat comfort is exceptional, the steering is magnificent, the cornering grip is right up to Porsche’s best standard and there are enough ways of adjusting the ride rates to ensure the car will meet your preferences. Furthermore, when the moment comes to summon up all available poke, you’ll find the acceleration is vintage Porsche. This would be a relief, if you weren’t so busy coping with the horizon bolting so fast towards you. 

TUESDAY – You often hear how Paris is deserted by its residents in August and therefore ideal for visits by car. Our Mr Holder has just confirmed the matter big-time by taking a day-long tour of the capital en famille, driven to all the important places by an extremely knowledgeable driver-guide called Renaud in his own original Citroën DS21.

Anyone can organise this, Jim says, in exchange for about £200 a half-day or £350 for a full one. Alternatively, there are deals that allow you to hire the car alone for £200 a day or £1000 a week – but the Holder family reckon Renaud’s knowledge and cheery company (he just happens to be a former PSA designer), plus the relaxation of being driven, makes the all-in deal the one to go for. Full details here.

WEDNESDAY – I’m kicking myself for not requesting a quick trip in a low-CO2 prototype I spotted during the Ricardo consultancy’s centenary celebrations two weeks ago. 

Ricardo’s chief technology officer, Professor Neville Jackson, drew my attention to the car. It uses a Land Rover Freelander body and features a tiny, single-geared Fiat Twinair engine as a ‘speed hold’ power unit, driving through a computer-controlled clutch. It comes silently to life at 20mph. Acceleration, and most deceleration, is provided by  a battery-electric powertrain.

The cleverness of this layout is that it recognises how much of our motoring is steady-state cruising, and allows the car’s traction battery to be relatively small (thus cheaper and lighter). As one of my sons, a systems engineer, keeps saying: rewards flow as much from cleverly applying known technology as from finding new stuff.            

THURSDAY – All-electric Jaguars are out there. Our man Mark Tisshaw, driving near his home on London’s western outskirts, encountered a not-quite-normal looking blue Jaguar XE, drifting along silently on local roads.

Closer examination showed it bore XE E badging on the rear, with the ‘E’ adopting the same style as the orange ‘S’ on ritzier petrol versions, but picked out in blue. We’ve known for quite a while that Jaguar and Land Rover had pure electric versions under way; this was proof.

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