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Porsche Panamera review: Out of a new mould

By Roger St Pierre with Hazel Kempster

Hardcore Porsche 911 addicts kindly avert your eyes – this one’s not for you! With its four doors, front-mounted engine, usefully sized boot and comfortable rear seats, the sleek Porsche Panamera sedan breaks the Stuttgart company’s time-honoured jelly-mould.

Memories flood back of the long gone and, sadly, not much missed 928 – an earlier effort that placed luxury above performance but which, just a handful of years after its 1978 launch, could be picked up second-hand for less than the price of an entry level Ford Escort.

So have they got it right this time? Well, since the Panamera’s debut some seven years ago, except in America, sales have not exactly been dazzling, despite several facelifts, involving such cosmetics as new lights front and rear, re-styled bumpers, a smaller 3.6-litre V6 for the S model and the option of a plug-in hybrid drive-train, as well as a choice between rear or all-wheel drive.

Styling-wise, the Panamera is best described as a ‘four-door coupé’, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphors.

Our base for the test weekend was historic Thornbury Castle, near Bristol, one of the fabled “ruins that Henry knocked about a bit”. Here, our bedroom was at the top of a spiral stone staircase with more than 70 steep steps to negotiate before arriving in our Tower Suite sanctuary. Our reward for all that effort was to spend the night in what is claimed to be the largest bed in Britain, measuring a massive 10 feet from side to side and seventh feet from head to toe.

Thanks to high sills, a low roof line and deep bucket seats, getting into the Panamera also proved to be a bit of a struggle but, by the same token, offered a truly luxurious environment once you snuggled into the cabin. Long wheelbase versions are available, providing easier access, as well as extra space for the more long legged among us.

Fire the engine up and there’s a throaty rumble but noise – be it from the engine, the wind or the road – never reaches intrusive levels.

On most versions, the power comes from a potent V8, which will easily crack the six seconds barrier for the 0-62-mph sprint. On base models, maximum speed is electrically limited to a licence busting 160-mph – a purely academic figure for most of us more humble motorists. Just for the record, the 4.8-litre V8 turbo versions reach 62-mph in 3.9-seconds and top out at 180-mph.

To better handle such performance, buyers can opt for the highly sophisticated Porsche Active Suspension Management System, which automatically regulates damper forces according to road conditions and the driver’s style of motoring.

As you’d rightfully expect from a top-end luxury sedan, the Panamera is fully loaded with bells and whistles, ramping prices from £63,913 to £131,152 as you move up the range. What a contrast to the latest fully stripped out ultra-lightweight 911 GT3RS which dumps everything – from sound system and sat/nav to carpets and stowage bins – that is not essential to the quest for ultimate performance, though you do get a roll cage, but costs around £40,000 more than the fully loaded Porsche 911 Carrera.

Only Porsche could get away with charging thousands more to give owners considerably less!

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