The Porsche Panamera may have four seats and a diesel engine, but this luxury saloon is no slacker and handles like a much smaller car, writes Jim McCauley
Porsche’s luxury Panamera four-seater saloon is an important model for the company, tempting half of its customers to the brand for the first time. Using a development of the Audi-sourced V6 diesel engine, the new model majors on economy while maintaining performance. This turbocharged unit delivers 250hp and a massive 550Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm. While the horsepower may appear modest by Porsche standards, the performance does not, and 0-62 mph is covered in 6.8 seconds with mid-range acceleration from 50 to 75 mph taking just 4.5 seconds.
Appearance-wise, the car blends the company’s hallmark features into the seamlessly flowing curves that caress its five-metre length. Inside, the length advantage is obvious with an exceptionally roomy and lavishly appointed cabin, far removed from the Teutonic practicality of the company’s two-door sports models.
There is reservation when you fire up the engine as to whether a diesel unit will complement the Porsche tradition, but as the luxurious architecture gathers momentum all doubts are quickly dispelled. Pace and refinement are the orders of the day as the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox moves up the ratios and you are lifting off the throttle ahead of expectations because the instruments are already signaling the legal speed limit.
But there are more surprises in hand as the first serious bends are taken and the steering response belies the size of the car, accurately holding the chosen line through the apex. The car has the agility of a much smaller vehicle yet maintains the refinement of the luxury saloon that it is.
Its ultimate attraction, however, is its pace over long distances, irrespective of the road challenge and carrying all four occupants.
And for those who can escape an island road network for occasional Continental use, then the Panamera diesel can cover more than 700 miles from its 80-litre fuel tank before the need to refuel.
While the passengers may lose track of time in the luxury appointments of the car, the best seat remains the driver’s who is rewarded by the satisfaction of the driving experience. Instrumentation is dominated by the central rev counter in the five-clock binnacle with the small, digital speed read-out on this easier to interpret than the analogue speedometer. On this, it is difficult to distinguish the legal speed limits as it is stepped in 25mph units.
Minor switch controls are laid comb-style either side of the gear select lever while the test vehicle came with the must-have option of a beautifully machined three-spoke aluminium steering wheel with leather rim and fitted paddles for manual override of the automatic transmission.
Suspension on the test vehicle was another option, the adaptive air system delivering excellent cornering support while maintaining appropriate comfort, with the option of adjusting to firmer settings if required.
While a tempting range of extras is available on any Porsche range, the Panamera comes as an exceptionally complete car, commensurate with its status and includes leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and Porsche Communication Management with touch screen satellite navigation and audio controls. This model is also fitted as standard with the company’s vehicle tracking system approved to Thatcham category-five standard.
Overall, the Panamera diesel, introduced in August, takes the sports saloon of the Porsche range in a new direction with a V6 turbo diesel unit that delivers excellent performance as well as economy, officially 43.5mpg on the combined cycle; a reflection not only on the engine choice but also on the car’s lightweight technology structure and undertray aerodynamics. For those who wish to improve on both economy and emissions the model is also available with low rolling resistance tyres.
Most vehicle owners will never come near to experiencing the full potential of their cars, but every Porsche customer can participate in a complimentary course at the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone. This comprises a series of tracks and varying surfaces where instructors from competition backgrounds supervise customer driving.
Engine: 3.0 litre, turbocharged V6; 250bhp @ 3800–4400rpm, 550Nm torque @ 1750–2750 rpm.
Drive: Eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission to rear wheels
Performance: 0-62mph (100km/hr) in 6.8 seconds; max, 150 mph (240 km/hr)
Fuel on combined cycle: 43.5mpg (6.5 l/100km)
CO2: 172 gms/km; VED Band H for annual car tax of £190 (second year onwards)
Trim: Sole specification level
Insurance: ABI Group 46
Warranty: Three-years/unlimited mileage
Euro NCAP: N/A
Available extras: Three-spoke sports steering wheel with paddle shift, £283; yachting-blue metallic paint, £777; adaptive air suspension, £2,379; automatic dimming mirrors, £243; universal audio interface, £227.