Porsche Panamera car review
Friday 17 July 2009
After a gestation period under intense media and public scrutiny the Porsche Panamera has finally arrived. Porsche caused a certain amount of uproar when the Cayenne SUV was launched, but the four-seat Panamera – the product of marrying a sports car with a limo, says Porsche – looks set to be just as controversial. Principally, that’s due to how it looks. If nothing else it is striking, imposing even in Turbo guise with a dark colour. But make no mistake – it looks like nothing else and that’s going to put some people off.
It’s a big car too: not too high, but tremendously wide (nearly two metres across) and very, very long (just under five metres). Nevertheless, Porsche believes it has created the unlikeliest of hybrids, and it’s certainly deployed all the technology in its arsenal to achieve it.
The body, formed from an extensive mix of different metals, houses four individual sports seats (there is no rear bench; sitting in the back is much like sitting in the front).
Each ‘area’ is exceptionally roomy and comfortable, and the experience itself is quite unlike a normal limo, as you’re sat down low within a very wide cabin with a high waistline. The quality of materials and the standard of construction are superb, while the dashboard itself is a real button-fest, something that’ll either appeal or repulse.
There are two engine choices in the Panamera range and both are derived from the 4.8 litre V8 found in the Cayenne. Both have had extensive detail modifications to reduce internal friction and improve efficiency, the naturally aspirated version producing 394lb/ft and 369lb/ft of torque and the twin-turbo version a rather serious 493bhp and 517lb/ft of torque.
Both employ direct fuel injection and a stop-start feature to reduce emissions and fuel consumption in town driving. The result, when combined with a raft of other technologies, is an impressive set of emissions and economy figures for such a car.
The Panamera S is the entry-level model with rear-wheel drive, and the only model to be available with a six-speed manual gearbox, costing from £72,266 in the UK. The 4S uses the same V8 but links it to four-wheel drive and comes with Porsche’s twin-clutch seven-speed PDK gearbox as standard too. It costs from £77,269.
The Panamera Turbo heads the range and costs – wait for it – £95,298, although it does include extras such as air suspension and larger alloy wheels as standard. It also does 188mph and can get from 0-62mph in an incredible 4.0sec – especially impressive considering it weighs the best part of two tons.
Almost like a hot hatch
We drove the 4S first, and it’s the refinement of the car that immediately impresses. Wind and road noise are kept to a minimum, and although the German roads on the press launch are for the most part very smooth, our car with optional air springs handled what bumps there are very well indeed.
On a twisting mountain road, with the settings switched to a sportier mode and the PDK shifter nudged over into ‘manual’, the Panamera hunkers down and attacks the road with gusto, changing direction and cornering in a most un-limo-like fashion.
There are some surprises though: it’s fast, yes, but not explosively so given the price tag; the PDK gearbox occasionally frustrates and there’s a large gap between the second and third gear ratios. Surprisingly, the overall driving experience and feedback is more about efficiency than it is outright entertainment, and it always feels like a big car.
The Turbo however, is a true chameleon: quiet and comfortable (although not quite as soothing as the 4S) one moment, and awesomely potent the next. Quite how such a long, wide car can be thrown around almost like a hot hatch is hard to fathom, but you can drive the Turbo ridiculously hard and fast and it seems to relish the treatment.
Still, you’d hope it would be special at the price – with extras our car came to over £112,000. And despite its staggering spread of abilities, it’s still a hard car to love.
In the end, for all its technology, there’s a sense that the Panamera is struggling to be a master of all the disparate skills it’s aimed at. It’s a complex car in both content and concept, and one that requires further experiencing on UK roads to fully understand. Whether that will lead to greater appreciation is by no means certain.
Price as tested: £77,269
Price range: £72,266 – £95,298
Date tested: June 2009
Road tester: Adam Towler