Porsche Panamera review
The Porsche Panamera comes with true Porsche performance and an advanced plug-in hybrid
Like the Porsche 911, Cayman, Boxster and Cayenne, the Porsche Panamera in its second iteration looks pretty much the same as the previous one. However, new for 2014 is a super-advanced and efficient plug-in hybrid that still offers Porsche performance but reduces running costs and company car tax.
There’s also a range of V6, V8 GTS, Turbo and Turbo S models that all perform well. The best seller, though, taking up around 65 per cent of sales in the UK, is the Panamera diesel, which is swift enough, a tempting price and returns decent fuel figures for what is a car with quite sizeable dimensions.
Not only does the Panamera Diesel have a brand new 3.0-litre V6 engine, it also benefits from a tweaked chassis and reworked gearbox. This combines with the recent styling update to make the big Porsche more desirable than ever.
All models handle as well as a Porsche should, while quality is as high as expected and specs are higher than you might have imagined.
Our choice: Panamera diesel
Porsche's evolutionary approach to styling has been applied to the latest Panamera as the 2014 car has barely changed from the previous model.
There are new lights front and rear, new bumpers, less fussy lines along the sides and a smoother rear end with a repositioned bumper. The glass area is usefully larger than before, too, which improves visibility, plus the high shoulder line and squat stance mean it’s well proportioned for a large model. It might not be a classically beautiful car, but even next to the sleek BMW 6 Series and charismatic Maserati Quattroporte it has the road presence to turn heads.
Inside, the Panamera is superb, thanks to Porsche’s usual mix of great layout and top-quality materials. The classic triple dial instruments feature a very smart TFT screen that includes trip computer and sat-nav functions. However, the main Porsche Communication Management navigation screen is small compared to the bigger and clearer tablet-style display in the BMW.
The vast, button-laden centre console is barely changed from the old car and, while the layout works well, there are plenty of blank switches – unless you get carried away with options.
Even so, the Diesel comes with cruise control, heated leather seats with eight-way adjustment and a DAB radio as standard.
Tuned specifically by Porsche, the Panamera’s all-new VW Group-sourced 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is also set to be used in the forthcoming Macan SUV. It serves up more power in the Panamera, though, at 296bhp, while a healthy 650Nm of torque gives it the edge over rival cars.
To improve performance even further, Porsche has shortened the first four ratios of the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox. It’s effortlessly responsive in-gear. Power builds strongly from just 1,500rpm and acceleration is so rapid and smooth you could almost imagine you’re in a petrol V8. The engine is hushed at idle and overall refinement is superb.
It rides well, too. Switch the £1,116 PASM active dampers into Comfort mode and it’ll smooth out roads that unsettle the Maserati, plus there’s less tyre noise than in the BMW on the motorway. Even better, select one of the firmer modes and the handling is far better than you’d expect from an almost two-tonne saloon.
It’s not quite as light on its feet as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, but there’s lots of grip and the chassis’ composure is a delight. The steering is fast, accurate and well weighted, plus it feels more natural than the BMW’s. Strong brakes and the smooth Tiptronic auto wrap up a very accomplished dynamic package.
The hybrid’s grabby brakes take some getting used to as the regenerative function kicks in to send power back to the battery. However, while the hybrid’s traditional torque converter auto is slicker than the PDK double clutch box that features on all other models, it can be a little jerky and slow to react.
The new twin-turbo V6 models that replace the old V8 offer similar performance and better economy, but throttle response isn’t as good as before, while the noise isn’t quite as intoxicating. Thankfully the V8 sounds as good as ever in the GTS.
If your pockets are deep enough then the Turbo and Tubo S models deliver supercar levels of performance, and phenomenol grip. Opt for the sports exhaust and there's a NASCAR-style V8 soundtrack on full throttle.
Porsche's reliability scores are good in our Driver Power 2014 survey, although if anything does go wrong, a three-year warranty and recovery deal is standard. Predictably, owners who took part in Driver Power praised their cars’ performance and handling – and as you’ll have seen on Page 46, this helped the brand rise seven places in our manufacturer chart to sixth.
The new diesel is well proven, as it’s used (in different states of tune) in other VW Group models. And the Panamera impresses when it comes to safety, as it features eight airbags, including a knee bag. There’s also an active pedestrian safety bonnet. The options list features ceramic brakes, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
If a 911 just isn’t big enough, then a Panamera gives you a Porsche with four proper, full-sized seats. In the back, leg and headroom is similar to the Maserati Quattroporte’s, but the sculpted seats aren’t as comfortable as the plush rear bench in the Maserati.
With a large central spine running down the car, the Porsche is a strict four-seater, but the biggest issue is the small 445-litre boot – it’s 85 litres down on the Maserati’s and 15 litres smaller than the BMW’s. However, the hatch tailgate does help with functionality, while the rear seats fold to give you 1,263 litres of space and a long load length.
The external boot release is hidden in the rear wiper and you get a powered tailgate as standard. Up front, not only are those eight-way adjustable seats standard, the Porsche has the best driving position of the cars on test.
Can you buy a Porsche and keep running costs down? Yes you can. All Panameras cost quite a lot to buy, even the entry-level diesel. But that model is still fun to drive and returns decent fuel economy figures with decently-low CO2 figures for the performance on offer.
With emissions of 169g/km, the Porsche falls into the 29 per cent company car tax bracket. Even so, it’s a cheaper business option than the more expensive Maserati Quattroporte.
There’s good news for private buyers, too – our experts predict residuals of 54.1 per cent, which mean the Porsche will suffer around £4,000 less depreciation over three years than the BMW 6 Series. Servicing is cheaper than for the Maserati as well.
GTS and Turbo models will be as pricey to run as they are to buy, while the new V6 models will go further (and faster) than the V8s they replace. But when it comes to costs, that’s not saying much. However, the jewel in Porsche’s crown is the Panamera S E-Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid that claims 91mpg and 71g/km of CO2.
Again, it’s expensive to buy and lease, but when it comes to running costs, this one will go for up to 22 miles on electric power alone, and then act as a hybrid combining its electric motor with a 3.0-litre V6. If the cost to buy doesn’t make your company accountant fall off his chair, you’ll reap the rewards with company car tax that’s cheaper than for a BMW 320d.