There were howls of outrage and derision when Porsche announced plans to introduce a high- performance SUV. "It will be the end of the company", they said, "it's not a proper sports car at all!"
Of course, the Cayenne, as that SUV was to become, is now the best- selling and most profitable car in the company's entire line-up.
There was similar consternation at the thought of another Porsche four-door, this time a luxury executive saloon. "It's not a proper sports car" came the familiar refrain, and again, the nay-sayers were contradicted by reality.
However, in one respect, they may have had a point. The first generation of the Cayenne was never a pretty car, and despite various mid-life facelifts, it was only with the introduction of the second generation that it started to evolve an attractive aesthetic.
On introduction, the Panamera got an equally lack-lustre response, and it has not yet evolved into the beauty it should have been from the beginning. But it is here for the long term, and time will help. Proof of that comes in the form of a Hybrid version, the very existence of which demonstrates Porsche's commitment to the concept of electric propulsion and greener motoring.
If this is the future, how much will we enjoy our Porsches when we get there? We'll enjoy them a lot, according to the sales figures. Despite those looks, the Panamera has been a success, racking up sales of more than 43,000 units around the world since launch in 2009. Interestingly, it appears that Panamera owners actually use their cars, many doing more than 30,000 kilometres in a year.
The rate at which a car burns petrol is rarely a determining factor in purchase choice here, but in other more regulated markets, it is a primary purchase indicator.
Hence the Hybrid, Porsche's declaration of intent to provide a genuine sports car with equally real green credentials.
Jonathan Castle is a writer, speaker and chef, with petrol in his veins. He can’t decide what he loves more, cars or food, but few things get him as excited as a new car to drive.
So, how do you make a green Porsche? Apart from the badge on the boot, there is very little to distinguish this from a regular Panamera. The outside is unchanged, and the interior features the same - beautifully upholstered - seats, five-dial instrument binnacle... The only clue is a discrete Hybrid badge on the flanks and on the boot. Yet this is by far the greenest Porsche you can drive
Here's how it works. Under the bonnet is a conventional petrol engine, which drives the rear wheels. Between the engine and the gearbox is an electric motor that can drive the car instead of the petrol engine. And it is this electric motor, which can also work in reverse as an energy recovery device helping with braking and recharging the battery, that's the secret of the Hybrid's success.
The only obvious difference from the standard Panamera is in the boot, which is 110 litres smaller than the regular car due to the installation of a 70kg, 1.7kWh capacity nickel-metal-hydride battery and associated cooling system. The electric motor can drive the car on its own for up to a mile, add its power to the normal engine and act as a charger on overrun. It will also top up the battery when charge levels are low.
The Hybrid is not an electric car, despite the fact that it can drive on batteries alone. Rather, it uses the electric motor to maximise fuel efficiency, and minimise the use of the conventional petrol engine in urban settings. It works best when it combines both drive systems.
Driving it is an odd experience at first. At car park speeds, propulsion is purely electric, but as soon as you step on the throttle the petrol engine joins in. The response really is instantaneous, and there is no sense of waiting for the technology to catch up. It is still a bit disconcerting to roll up to a set of traffic lights only to feel everything switch off, but you do get accustomed to it in time.
To drive, the Hybrid is little different from its conventional siblings. Sure, the lower power and higher weight combine to make it less overtly sporting than its V8 siblings, but this is still a very fast and long-legged car. I imagine it is just about the perfect car for those condemned to the Dubai/Abu Dhabi commute. The standard air suspension and automatically adjustable damping work well to iron out imperfections.
It's not perfect. The brakes take time to get used to, because their combination of regular friction and energy recovery technology tends to shuffle around, and constant pedal pressure doesn't give constant stopping power. However this system integration will get better over time and with better software.
There is one question which the Panamera answers in resounding fashion, and that is in fuel economy. During our entire time with the car the petrol guage barely budged, over the kind of daily use and city journeys that would have downed more than half a tankful in some of our other demonstrators. If this is indeed the future, the Panamera Hybrid gets a deserved and enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
Jonathan’s wife, Susan, is a corporate coach who, having started driving when she was just 11 years old, shares her husband’s passion for cars.
I have to admit that I'm a bit of a tree hugger and it's often hard to reconcile my belief that we should be more gentle with our home planet and do everything we can to live more sustainably with my love for fast cars and big engines.
So I was really excited to try the Panamera to find out if it really would be the best of both worlds. I wasn't that keen on the Panamera when it first came out but it has grown on me over time.
It's surprisingly big up close and inside it's equally spacious. But it's still a Porsche. It still has that Porsche DNA and slightly retro feel, which I have grown to love over the years.
It's a joy to drive. It sticks to the road like it's magnetized, going round corners is just great fun and on the straight it is comfortable, quiet and very quick. If you welly it the extra weight of the Panamera's battery cancels out all its green credentials but it really isn't a car for the boy or girl racer. It's a long- legged thoroughbred and great for long cruises. The engine cutting out is a bit of a shock at first but I got used to it very quickly, it became a bit of a game to see how long I could run without fuel. The answer to that was a long time. We hardly used any fuel at all in our couple of days with the Panamera and I could feel very smug that even though I was driving a high-powered sports car, I was doing my bit to save the earth at the same time.