You may not like the Porsche Panamera. The mere thought of a four-door Porsche, designed to look like an oversized 911, could be enough to make your blood boil.
But there’s no denying it, the Panamera has been hugely successful for Porsche. Since its launch in 2009, the Grand Tourer has amassed 100,000 global sales, proving to be a massive hit in China and the US.
Naturally hoping to build on its success, Porsche recently unveiled the new, second generation Panamera. We flew to Munich to check it out.
As you’ll see from the photos, this is hardly a radical overhaul. If you’re not a fan of the current Porsche Panamera, you’re unlikely to be won over by what is in essence a nip and tuck exercise. That said, with sales exceeding even Porsche’s wildest estimations, why change a winning formula?
Look closely at the front of the Panamera and you’ll notice a few tweaks, such as the larger air intakes and LED headlights. Porsche says it’s a “tighter’ appearance, but the changes are so subtle, they had to provide a ‘spot the difference’ diagram to help us identify them.
At the side there’s a more swept-back rear window, but it’s at the back of the new Panamera where the changes are the most obvious. Take the new tailgate and the wider rear window which, together with a newly positioned number plate, help to make the back-end look better than ever. It’s unlikely to be challenging Pippa Middleton for rear of the year, but it’s certainly an improvement.
You can say what you like about the Porsche Panamera, but the interior has always been a thing of beauty. So it’s hardly surprising to find that Porsche has left it untouched in the second generation car.
The quality is faultless and if the huge array of buttons and switches are bewildering at first, you soon get used to them. Whether you’re the driver, a front seat passenger, or taking advantage of the two individual rear seats, the Panamera is – excuse the clich – a wonderful place to be.
Standard equipment is also excellent, with all models benefiting from bi-xenon headlights, multi-function steering wheel, automatic tailgate opening, leather interior, dual-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, Porsche Communication Management satellite navigation with seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, DAB digital radio, eight-way powered front seat adjustment, heated front seats and – the Panamera’s equivalent of the cuddly toy – floor mats.
Driving a Panamera is an event. If you approach one expecting the same level of precision that you’d find from a 911, you’re going to be disappointed. But for a Grand Tourer, the Panamera’s road manners are excellent and the experience is far more intimate than you’d expect from such a large car.
We got to drive four flavours of the big GT, including a truly wonderful long distance jaunt in the flagship Turbo V8, a return journey in the new V6-powered S, a brief trip in a 4S and an eco run in the new S E-Hybrid. More on this in a separate review.
The ride quality is first rate, no matter which Panamera you drive. Admittedly, all of our cars were fitted with the optional Air Suspension, which managed to smooth out all but the worst of the roads of southern Germany, but even in Sport Plus mode, the Panamera never feels uncomfortable.
Sport Plus is part of the optional Sports Chrono Plus Package, one of those few genuinely must-have extras. The default setting is Comfort, with Sport sharpening the steering, stiffening the suspension and optimising the gear change. Sport Plus dials things up even further. For us, Sport mode is the best compromise and fast became our own default setting in Germany.
Gripes? Well the steering could do with a little more feel and the Panamera doesn’t relish snappy changes of direction, but the lack of body roll and huge levels of grip only serve to inspire confidence. Spend an hour behind the wheel of a Panamera and it’s almost possible to forget you’re not in a 911. Almost.
The two headlines from the second generation Panamera centre on the dropping of the V8 from the 4 and 4S and the all-new S E-Hybrid.
You may think that the loss of the mighty 4.8-litre V8 from the 4 and 4S would be a reason to cry into your German beer, but you’d be wrong. It’s replacement – the 3.0-litre, bi-turbo V6 – is so utterly convincing, you have to wonder what kind of witchcraft is being taught in Stuttgart.
Check out the facts. Power is up from 400 to 420hp; Torque is up from 500Nm to 520Nm; Top speed is up from 176mph to 178mph and the 0-62mph time is down from 5.0 seconds to 4.8 seconds. And yet, despite the increased performance, fuel economy is up to 32.5mpg and CO2 emissions are down from 247g/km to 204g/km.
It’s a remarkable achievement and another example of the astonishing work manufacturers are doing to extract the maximum efficiency from modern petrol and diesel engines. The only drawback? The missing soundtrack from the 4.8-litre V8.
But no matter. If you crave for the sound of the V8 – and you’re not paying for the fuel – Porsche will still sell you the twin-turbo V8 with its 520hp and earth-stopping 700Nm of torque. There’s also the 4.8-litre V8 in the GTS and the 3.6-litre petrol or 3.0-litre diesel options.
Value for money
The Panamera range starts from 62,922 for the 3.0-litre diesel and rises up to an eye-watering 107,903 for the Turbo. Is that good value for money? Well we guess that all depends on what you want from a four-seater Grand Tourer.
Anyone looking for greater practicality would certainly be better off taking a look at the Porsche Cayenne. And someone in search of driving precision would obviously be opting for the latest – and quite brilliant – Porsche 911.
So does this make the Porsche Panamera irrelevant? Not a bit of it.
We can think of few better ways to cross a continent than behind the wheel of a Panamera. And the unique blend of performance and efficiency offered by the 4 or 4S make them our pick of the Panamera range.
For sure, the looks are always going to be a barrier to entry for some people and we’d have to admit that the Panamera works better in Bavaria than it does in Basingstoke, but look beyond this and you have a Grand Tourer more than worthy of the Porsche name.