PORSCHE would like people to think of it as a company that cares about the environment as much as it does about making fast cars. There’s a problem, though, and the redesigned Panamera sums it up: Porsche is addicted to speed and power. It’s impossible to buy the new four-door, family-friendly grand tourer with less than 400bhp.
More modest engines will be fitted in future, Porsche says, but the car that it wheels out to impress journalists is a 4-litre V8 turbodiesel that boasts 416bhp and a slightly silly 626 lb ft of torque. That’s enough to propel this two-ton colossus from 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 177mph.
Whichever way you dress it up, that’s absurdly rapid. If the statistics are correct, the Panamera is the fastest diesel production car on the road today. Near-silent at idle, it produces a deep-bass V8 rumble when you tickle the throttle and delivers great dollops of thrust by stealth.
Porsche purists might bemoan the use of diesel instead of petrol and allege a resultant absence of drama, but with a combined fuel consumption of 42.2mpg (if you’re light on the throttle) and a range of more than 700 miles, the Panamera plays beautifully to Porsche’s grand tourer aspirations, even if it does nothing to enhance the German car maker’s green credentials.
That’s really what this car’s been designed for. Anyone expecting the Panamera to be simply a more practical version of the 911, Porsche’s flagship two-seater, will be disappointed. Instead it straddles the gap between a sports car and a luxury saloon such as the Mercedes S-class. The ride, for example (at least on the optional air suspension), is excellent, even if you dial up its most aggressive setting.
Porsche says that, with the exception of the badge on the nose, everything is new, right down to the more aerodynamic-looking key fob to toss nonchalantly onto the bar at the Dog and Duck. That’s the claim, anyway.
In fact the front end looks very much like that of the old Panamera (and every other Porsche, for that matter). The 911-esque roofline and sculptured rear haunches are now more pleasing to the eye, though, and everything tapers to a rear that’s tidier than before.
The rear lights are reminiscent of the latest-generation 911 and we’re told the red LED strip that runs the breadth of the boot will be a feature of all next-generation Porsches. There’s also an active spoiler that, on the even more absurdly fast Turbo petrol version, opens both up and out. It’s a work of art. The Panamera is actually marginally bigger than before in every dimension but it somehow looks smaller, which is a good thing.
“The Panamera is a sophisticated plutocrat with a frisson of naughtiness”
The redesign of the cockpit is, if anything, more far-reaching than the new exterior. Porsche has engineered a fake key into the dashboard so you still feel like you’re starting the car rather than just pushing a button. There’s also a central analogue rev counter positioned just where it’s lived on every other Porsche. The company calls these “brand differentiators”, and in a world where technology and legislation are making what previously were very different types of car converge, such things are increasingly important.
This is a subtly different kind of Porsche, but that’s not to say it can’t justify its famous crest. The Panamera is a sophisticated plutocrat with a frisson of naughtiness.
Take control of the eight-speed flappy-paddle gearbox, tweak the drive mode to Sport Plus, lean on the four-wheel-drive system and revel in a car of undisputed ability that can cover ground at startling speed. Only its sheer bulk — it’s almost as wide as a Range Rover — and slightly muted steering response let it down.
That bulk does have a flip side, though. A quartet of six-footers can easily get comfortable in the Panamera. There’s plenty of room for their luggage too, and the rear seats even split and fold. Maybe only the BMW 6-series gran coupé comes close to matching this blend of comfort and sportiness.
When all is said and done, the Panamera’s purpose seems still to satisfy the man or woman whose lifestyle makes it impractical for them to drive a 911 and who doesn’t want to be seen in an SUV. Even the pricing is 911-style, starting at £88,700 for the 434bhp twin-turbo V6 petrol version and rising to £113,075 for the 542bhp 190mph Turbo. Cheaper models will follow.