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 the expected range of V6, V8 GTS and Turbo 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. 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 rings true with this latest Panamera. The 2014 car is barely changed from the model before, with just a nip and tuck to differentiate it. There are new lights front and rear, new bumpers, less fussy lines at the side and a smoother rear end with a repositioned bumper. The glass area is usefully larger than before, too, although rear visibility still isn't great. It’s a striking car, if not beautiful, but the lines are graceful and give the car plenty of road presence – this is a large car with dimensions more akin to a luxury car than a sports car, in spite of the fact it's only a 4-seater and the boot isn’t exactly enormous. However, the Aston Martin Rapide, although more expensive, follows a similar theme but its design is more successful. If you thought it difficult to differentiate the first and second generations of Panamera from the outside, you’ll have even more trouble from the inside – they’re identical. So build quality is superb, but the dash is dominated by a sizeable, button-laden centre console – the downside to a strong spec list.
In spite of the car’s length, width and weight, the Porsche Panamera can still be hustled through bends with enough agility to put a smile on your face – and your passengers’. There’s plenty of grip in the two wheel drive car, with Sport and Sport Plus settings that tweak suspension, throttle and steering settings to progressively make the car react quicker and feel sportier. The steering is direct and with a decent amount of feedback that allows you to smoothly place the car through twists and turns, while the brakes on the non-hybrid models are strong and secure – especially the Turbo. 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 same slight reluctance in response is felt in the diesel-powered Panamera, too. Performance from all models is strong, even the hybrid and diesel, with the Turbo offering real shove-in-the-back supercar speed. 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.
Porsche reliability scores are reasonably good in our annual Driver Power survey, with owners also predictably praising their cars' performance and handling. Dealers could perform slightly better, though. Quality inside and out is superb – better even than the quality Audi and BMW offers these days. The interior may not be too inspiring to look at with its vast array of buttons, but the materials used and standard of fittings is superb. Leather seats are now standard in every Panamera, while the standard spec lists is surprisingly generous, too.
If you want a practical Porsche, buy a Cayenne. But hang on, the Panamera is supposed to be a 4-door, 4-seater, hatchback Porsche. Yes, the 4 seats will always limit its appeal, but not as much as the tiny 445-litre boot (that’s even smaller in the hybrid). Sure, you can fit a couple of golf bags in, but you’ll have to fold the rear seats down, which turns the Panamera into a two seater. At least the boot door is powered and all four sports seats are leather trimmed and really comfortable. And legroom in the back is okay – although it’s a shame we don’t get the Panamera Executive models in the UK that offer an extended wheelbase and an extra 12cm of legroom. While we’re moaning, there’s next to no storage space in the front. One cupholder in the armrest (although two hide away pretty uselessly above the glovebox), tiny door bins but nowhere handy to store a mobile phone.
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. 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.