It started with the Cayenne – an off-roader with a Porsche badge – gasp! Then there was the Cayman, a cheaper sportscar that was so good the only car it competed with was its bigger brother the 911.
And then, earlier this year, the firm hits fans with the biggest shock of all – a diesel engine. Cue tea spat over thousands of car magazines across the country as Stuttgart devotees absorbed the news.
Bearing all that in mind, news a super saloon, four-seater model was in the pipeline was met with a mere shrug from those still inclined to care. In fact the Panamera makes a lot of sense for Porsche. Buyers are fiercely loyal, so it gives those single-men-turned-family-men something to buy when their wife dictates they’ve grown out of their 911.
Considering those target buyers, the Panamera still had to have the same driving characteristics and performance owners had become used to, but wrapped up in a far larger package.
China played a key role in the maker’s decision to put the saloon in production too. Such is the kudos out there at being driven around, many Chinese businessmen were buying 911s and sitting in the back! China then, will be a key market for the new Panamera – much more room to read the broadsheets in the back!
Designers were tasked with producing a four-door saloon that drove like a Porsche, but combined comfort and practicality. They certainly succeeded. This is so much more than a 911 with two extra doors. The driving position feels very similar to the smaller sportscar. The steering is direct and full of feel and we love the way you sit ‘in’ the car, cocooned in the large sports seats.
As you’d expect from the German maker, performance is incredible – and even more astonishing considering the car’s size. There are currently three variants of the Panamera available: The S, 4S and the top-of-the-range Turbo.
None are in any way slow – the Turbo dispatches the dash to 60mph in four seconds dead, easily a match for the Lamborghini you’ve just read about, and will go on to a top speed of 188mph. Fuel consumption isn’t that bad either for such a big lump – the Turbo returns 23.2mpg on the combined cycle with emissions of 286g/km.
BACK SEAT DRIVER
So what’s it like to ride in the back? This is, after all, where most of the design has been focussed. Well, the sense of individual space is superb and with the two rear seats divided by a console there’s no danger of brushing knees with your co-passenger. It’s extremely comfortable too, with decent legroom akin to a BMW 5-Series.
That practicality design brief has been met too. The rear seats fold down thanks to a clever ‘saddle’ style fuel tank and Porsche says buyers will be able to squeeze not one, but two bikes in the back without taking their front wheels off. Handy.
Dealers can send buyers to the excellent facility to find out what their new cars can do on a twisty test track, skidpan and a variety of other extreme handling tests. We got to try all of them in the Panamera and were impressed with its ability to belie its size.
It might not be as flighty or agile as a 911, but it’s not far off – coping with the challenging circuit extremely well.
It’s equally competent on the road, but it’s here you’re reminded of the car’s size. Threading it through tight villages and traffic, its width can certainly raise your pulse!
However, get used to that and the Panamera is an easy car to drive. The PDK semi-automatic gearbox is fluid and responsive, the ride firm but never uncomfortable and visibility superb all round. In fact, the Panamera is hard not to love – there really is little you can fault.
Ok, so the looks might not be to everyone’s taste, but we’re sold on it. The proportions are perfect and it looks so much better on the road than it does in the pictures.
The price isn’t too bad in comparison to the competition too. The Turbo starts at £95k, but our test model, with ceramic brakes and a few other extras would set buyers back £120k. Compare that with a Mercedes S65 AMG – a direct competitor – and you’re looking at not much change from £150k. So the Porsche is a bargain, right? Well, that all depends on the size of your bank balance, but for buyers of super saloons it certainly looks tempting.
Porsche really has done a sterling job with the Panamera. There is so much on offer: performance, space, usability, drivability and, of course, the heritage of that badge. Porsche dealers must be squealing with delight they’ve finally got something to offer buyers that have grown out of a 911, especially those that wouldn’t be seen dead in a Cayenne…
by Duncan Chappell