Porsche Panamera review
Need to carry rear passengers but don’t want to forego a fun drive? Few cars do it better than a Porsche Panamera. It doesn’t come cheap, though, and there’s no diesel version.
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The Porsche Panamera saloon is as close as you can get to a family-friendly Porsche 911. It drives like a sports car and goes like one too, but has a spacious, luxurious interior with space for four people and their luggage.
But other manufacturers have attempted this recipe, too. Everything from the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, BMW M5, Audi RS6 and Mercedes-AMG 63 S are there to steal your signature, providing a similar mix of space and pace.
But the Porsche Panamera is more fun to drive than most other cars its size. It feels nimble in bends and the steering makes it easy to judge exactly how much grip you have to play with – which tends to be quite a lot, because most models have four-wheel drive.
Adjustable suspension helps make the most of that grip and is fitted across the range. In their sportiest setting body lean in corners is all but eliminated, but they can also be softened to take the edge off bumpy roads. Having said that, the Panamera always feels on the firm side versus its alternatives – particularly the Mercedes.
The Panamera’s eight-speed gearbox is also standard (unless you buy the hybrid model). Its quick changes help the Panamera’s engines stay on the boil, but when you’re just cruising around it can change gear as smoothly as a Mercedes and there’s no annoying clutch pedal to operate in stop-start town driving.
The pricey optional rear-wheel steering helps the Porsche turn into corners like a smaller car and the even pricier but powerful carbon-ceramic brakes mean it stops harder – although both are unnecessary because the Panamera is close enough to perfect as it is.
OK, on a track you’d notice the difference between a Panamera and a 911, but on the road the two feel much closer than you’d think in terms of performance and agility.
There are no diesel Panameras, so the engine range (the estate’s is more limited) starts with a 330hp 3.0-litre petrol and gets progressively quicker until you reach the top-of-the-range Turbo S Executive E-Hybrid, which fires from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and tops out at 193mph.
But the real wow factor is that you can do it with the kids in tow. The Panamera has a healthy 500-litre boot band has room for four tall adults and a decent amount of smaller storage areas scattered around the cabin.
The interior feels as sporty as you’d expect from Porsche. All four seats are body-hugging jobs that hold you and your passengers snugly around bends, and a huge hump runs down the centre of the car that helps you feel cocooned. For that reason though, it’s a strict four-seater.
All the cabin materials feel as premium as anything you get in an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, but the low-set dashboard and the Panamera’s unique design make it feel more special than its German alternatives. All models come with a super-sharp 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which is easy to use on the move using a fixed control knob located between the front seats.
There’s a price to pay for the Panamera’s exclusivity, though, and that’s a long and expensive options list, plus some safety options that would come fitted as standard in more mainstream models. Adaptive cruise, for instance, which can match the speed of the car in front before returning to a preselected cruising speed, is expensive to add, while lane-change assist that warns of cars in your blind spots is extra too.
Still, if it’s luxurious space mixed with a sports car drive you’re after, few do it better than the Porsche Panamera. Just go easy on the options list and bear in mind that you’ll need to go elsewhere if you want a diesel.
There’s enough room in the Porsche Panamera’s sumptuous cabin to carry four adults in comfort. Alternatives do have larger boots that are easier to load, however.
There’ll be no reason for passengers to feel left out in the back of the Porsche Panamera – there’s boatloads of space and more than enough high-tech gizmos to keep them occupied.
There’s no denying the Porsche Panamera is a large car, so it should come as no surprise that its cabin is pretty roomy, too. You get plenty of space to stretch out in the front, even if you’re very tall, and the standard leather sports seats get eight-way electric adjustment. You also get an electrically adjustable steering column which you can position for height and reach to find your ideal driving position.
The Porsche Panamera comes with front and rear doors as standard, so you don’t have to climb out to let passengers get in the back. The door openings aren’t particularly large, but at least the doors open nice and wide. Once passengers are inside, they’ll find there’s absolutely loads of knee room and easily enough headroom for them to get comfortable if they’re rather lofty. The only slight downside is that they can’t push their feet all the way under the seats if the driver fancies having their seat as low as it’ll go.
If you’ll be carrying passengers in the back regularly, you’ll want to consider paying extra for the Executive pack. This adds a panoramic glass sunroof, which doesn’t cut into rear-seat headroom, and electrically reclining rear seats so your passengers can stretch out and have a bit of a snooze. This also lets you fold the back seats in a three-way split to carry two passengers and some long items, such as skis, poking through from the boot.
If you have a few much younger passengers to ferry about, you’ll find it’s pretty easy to lift in a large child seat but locking it into position using the hidden Isofix anchor points is a bit of a pain. The Porsche Panamera’s low roof means you have to stoop down low to strap in a child, too.
The Porsche Panamera isn’t exactly awash with clever cubbies, but there are enough storage spaces to help you keep its cabin looking neat and tidy. The glovebox is a decent size and there’s space for a few bits and bobs in the centre console.
None of its four door bins is particularly roomy, but you get a couple of decent-size cup holders in the front and there are two more in the back under a folding cover. Here there’s also a pair of USB ports for keeping passengers’ phones charged.
The Porsche Panamera has 500 litres of boot space, which is some 7% shy of the Audi S7 Sportback’s load bay. It comes with an equally big hatchback opening though, so there’s plenty of space to lift in some bulky luggage – once you’ve hoisted it over the tall boot lip that is.
The boot’s quite wide and its square shape means it’ll have no trouble carrying a few large suitcases on their side, but the sloping rear windscreen means there isn’t quite enough space to carry tall cardboard boxes.
Turbo, GTS, 4S and entry-level 4 models come with some handy underfloor storage, but in Hybrid versions, this space is occupied by the Panamera’s batteries. All models come with some tie-down hooks and a 12V socket should you need to plug in a portable drinks cooler.
If you need to carry bulkier luggage, the back seats fold down in a two-way (60:40) split, but you have to lean all the way forward and push some buttons beside the rear headrests before they’ll lie flat. With the optional Executive pack fitted, the back seats fold down in a more practical three-way split which lets you carry two back-seat passengers and some long luggage at once.
With all the back seats folded, the Porsche Panamera’s boot grows to 1,304 litres – that’s slightly less than the 1,390-litres of the S7 Sportback. Still, there’s enough space for a bike with both its wheels attached and it’s pretty easy to push heavy boxes right up behind the front seats.
The Porsche Panamera feels sportier than almost any other posh four-seater cars, but it isn’t quite as relaxing to drive as other more comfort-focussed alternatives.
Top-spec Turbo S E-Hybrid models let you have your cake and eat it – their hybrid system means they can cruise silently in town, yet they accelerate faster than most sports cars.
The Panamera range kicks off with the ‘4’ – a four-wheel-drive model powered by a turbocharged 3-litre V6 petrol engine with 330hp. That’s enough poke for it to sprint from 0-60mph in less than 5.5 seconds and return around 30mpg in normal driving conditions
The Panamera 4S comes with a smaller 2.9-litre turbocharged V6, but it produces 440hp so it’ll accelerate from 0-60mph in less than 4.2 seconds. Porsche claims it’ll use barely any more fuel than the standard 4, so you’ll probably see a figure close to 30mpg in normal driving conditions.
The GTS with its 4-litre turbocharged V8 petrol engine produces a little more power (470hp) and reaches 60mph from rest only a tenth of a second faster than the 4S as a result. It’s much thirstier though, so you’ll struggle to better 25mpg.
If you fancy something even faster, the 550hp Turbo S is worth a look. This comes with the same basic V8 engine as the GTS but completes the 0-60mph sprint in less than 3.6 seconds. Despite this turn of speed, it uses barely any more fuel than the GTS in normal driving conditions.
There’s also a pair of hybrid options in 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid guise. Both come with a set of batteries and a 130hp electric motor which boosts acceleration and also lets the Panamera cruise along in electric-only mode for up to 20 miles and at speeds up to 80mph.
The 4 E-Hybrid model reaches 60mph from rest almost a full second quicker than the standard 4, while Turbo S E-Hybrid versions cut just two tenths from the standard Turbo’s sprint time.
These hybrid models come with a selection of driving modes which let you choose how to use the available power from its batteries. You can cruise along using electric power alone, switch over to petrol power or even use the engine as a generator to brim the batteries for later on in your journey – perfect if you’re heading into town and fancy slinking around almost silently.
Porsche claims these 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid models will return around 85mpg and 75mpg respectively, but you close to these figures you get will depend on how charged the car’s batteries are when you set off and how sedately you drive.
While these hybrid versions of the Porsche Panamera might sound like just the thing if you regularly head into built-up areas, there’s no getting around their sheer size. Every Panamera feels pretty massive, especially when you’re squeezing through tight streets, and visibility through the narrow rear windows is very poor.
As a result, parking can be pretty stressful – an issue not helped by lower-spec cars lacking a standard reversing camera. Even if you pay extra to have it fitted you’ll probably be disappointed by its rather so-so graphics.
Another option worth considering is the rear-wheel-steering system – available on its own or as part of the Executive pack. This makes the Panamera’s turning circle a little tighter to help you manoeuvre it through town and comes with the added benefit of making the car feel more stable at motorway speeds.
Speaking of motorways, it’s on long journeys where the Porsche Panamera excels. It soaks up bumps in the road pretty well as standard and floats over them even better with the optional air suspension fitted. Sure, it isn’t quite as comfortable as a Mercedes S-Class and you’ll hear a slight rumble from the wide tyres, but it’s still a very relaxing car to drive for long periods.
The Porsche Panamera feels much sportier to drive than the likes of the Mercedes S-Class on a twisty road, however. It’s far more agile than you’d expect such a large car to be and the direct steering and firm suspension serves up masses of grip when you turn into a particularly tight corner.
E-Hybrid models feel slightly less responsive thanks to the extra weight of their batteries and electric motor, but even these are very good fun to drive. They are a little more difficult to drive smoothly in town, however – where the regenerative braking system (which helps recharge the batteries every time you slow down) can make the brakes feel a little grabby.
The standard automatic gearbox, on the other hand, is an absolute joy to use. It’s super smooth in automatic mode and blends gears together so effortlessly that you’ll hardly notice, yet it responds almost instantly when you pull on the metal paddles to choose when to change gear yourself.
Every Porsche Panamera comes with cruise control as standard, but you’ll want to pay extra to get yours fitted with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. Together, these systems accelerate, brake and steer for you to keep you between the lines on a motorway – just the thing to make long drives feel like popping to the shops.
The Porsche Panamera’s interior looks and feels absolutely fantastic. It comes with plenty of high-tech features too, but add a few optional extras and the price starts to shoot up.