On The Road With The New Porsche Panamera
Many of the UK car launches take place in the south of England, so it was a pleasant surprise to be invited to spend a day with the good folk at Porsche on home turf. The roads would be good, the weather forecast was excellent and hey, it was a day driving Porsches.
What is it?
The Porsche Panamera was launched in 2009 and like the Cayenne SUV, was intended to broaden the manufacturer’s range. Four doors, coupe styling and with a hatch to load the luggage, yet still unmistakably a Porsche.
The first-generation model, on sale until 2016, managed 62,000 sales worldwide. Since then there has been a noticeable upturn with 116,000 cars rolling down the production line. Overall UK sales to date in excess of 10,000.
However, in an effort to keep the Panamera at the top of its game, Porsche has just refreshed the car, hence the need to get journalists behind the wheel.
Panamera prices start at just under £70,000 and for that you get rear-wheel drive and a 330PS twin-turbo V6 engine. Add £3,000 for all-wheel drive.
However, the objects of my attention for the day were the two new models – the 4S E-Hybrid (from £101,690) and the fearsome Turbo S (from £135,610).
Porsche tells me that 60 per cent of Panamera sales will be E-Hybrid models and it was behind the wheel of one that I began my day. Although familiar with the roads, the left-hand drive test cars would require that extra bit of concentration, especially as the Panamera is a wide car.
Fully charged, the E-Hybrid will allow up to around 34 miles of electric only running, ideal for the urban commute. Top speed – 87mph, so you can get a move on! There are a variety of driving modes, which allow the battery capacity to be saved for a specific part of the journey or in Sport Plus mode, battery and engine work in harmony for sensational performance.
The on-paper 0-62mph sprint time of just 3.7 seconds feels achievable in real world driving and once out on the wider moorland roads, it was easy to get carried away. The capable all-wheel drive system allowed all the power to be deployed without drama and the suspension not only allowed for a comfortable ride, but ensured that fast corners could be taken at speed in a controlled and timely manner. A true Porsche…
On battery power, the sumptuous cabin is a hushed place to be. There is a little whine from the battery and road noise can intrude at higher speeds on certain surfaces. Blame the super wide tyres for that. The twin-turbo V6 motor is pleasantly hushed too once it joins in though I suspect some enthusiasts might have hoped for a little more aural excitement.
After a quick lunch I swapped hybrid sophistication for V8 brutality. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo motor pushes out an impressive 630PS (up 80PS over the old model) and will hurl the bulky Panamera down the road in spectacular fashion. A 0-60mph time of under 3 seconds is quite a feat of engineering. Find a deserted runway or be brave on the Autobahn and 200mph should be in reach.
It does not feel that quick, but a glance at the speedo tells a different story. The eight-speed double-clutch gearbox swaps cogs with alacrity, allowing for the swiftest of overtaking manoeuvres.
The adaptive air suspension is designed to offer a cosseting ride (and it mostly succeeds) and the rear-axle steering undoubtedly aids agility.
The new brakes are more than up to the job, as tested when a wandering sheep decided to leap out in front of me.
Porsche quotes early 20s mpg for the Turbo S, my overall figure was a little over 12mpg after a couple of hours of moorland shenanigans. Apparently around 15 per cent of buyers are likely to choose this model.
I would have liked to hear more from that lovely V8 engine, but refinement is the order of the day here and probably rightly so.
Both Panameras felt like the sort of car to take a long European road trip. Luggage in the boot, children in the back, destination Nice for some sun or perhaps Klosters for a little skiing.
At this they would excel, as the interior is one of the most comfortable and luxurious I have sat in for some time. The rear seats are even more comfortable than the front, so no complaints from anyone travelling in the back. There is plenty of space too and the 403-litre boot should hold a week’s luggage.
There are many cars which could be rivals and there is no space here for them all. Maserati’s Quattroporte is a stylish car and one which offers a certain cachet and exclusivity. Highlights include the delightful interior clad in the finest Italian leathers. However, as a driving machine, the Panamera is in a different class.
Better then a Bentley Continental GT, a fair bit pricier than the Turbo S and again not as dynamic to drive but offers more of a sense of occasion.
An Aston Martin Rapide offers four-door practicality and in a coupe-like body. It is a great looking car, quick too and British built. A tad pricy.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi all offer fast sporting saloon cars, but I have yet to drive one as engaging as the Panamera.
The face-lifted second generation Panamera is an attractive package. It combines an inviting and spacious interior of the highest quality with an engaging chassis and powerful engines. Much as I enjoyed the Turbo S, it is the 4S E-Hybrid that stands out. Almost as quick, there is an air of sophistication, partly due to the hushed battery-powered running and slightly less frantic behaviour.
Couple this with the ability to travel some distance without the combustion engine and it is hard to overlook. And, when the roads turn twisty, there is still much fun to be had. Oh and don’t forget the lower running costs too.
Fast Facts - Hybrid
Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid
V6 twin-turbo V6 + electric engine
Power – 560PS
Max Torque – 750 Nm
0-62mph in 3.7 seconds
Top speed 185mph
Electric range up to 34 miles
4.8-hour charge time (@3.6kW)
CO2 emissions 51 to 67g/km
Fast Facts – Turbo S
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Price - £135,610
Twin-turbo V8 engine
Power – 630 PS
Torque – 820 Nm
0-62mph in 3.1 seconds
Top speed 196mph
Combined economy 21.2 to 22.1mpg
CO2 emissions 289 to 302g/km