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.
The Porsche Panamera line-up has grown to encompass a wide range of models, with petrol, diesel and hybrid versions now available, but the performance flagship is the Turbo S.
There’s also a 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.
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 ensured the Panamera has changed gradually throughout its life. New lights, cleaner flanks and a smoother tail with a redesigned bumper mark out the 2014 model. But the svelte Mercedes S-Class Coupe has the upper hand when it comes to style.
From the rear, the Panamera is a bit of a disappointment. The upswept rear window line, wide arches and hatchback tailgate combine to give the car a bulbous, almost hump-backed tail that looks rather ungainly compared to the likes of the Audi A7. Porsche showed the Panamera-based Sport Turismo shooting brake concept in 2012, which featured a far tidier-looking rear end that could give the Panamera a real visual boost.
Still, while the exterior design divides opinion, the cabin features Porsche’s usual mix of a great layout, perfect driving position and high-quality materials. The button-heavy transmission tunnel is the same as you’ll find in a 911, while the traditional overlapped dials feature a smart TFT screen in the right pod, which can display trip, audio, telephone and navigation information.
The controls are logical and easy to use, although the Porsche Communication Management navigation screen is small. Overall, though, the Porsche’s interior feels old-fashioned next to the hi-tech Mercedes S-Class.
On the plus side, the cabin features first-rate materials throughout and build quality is superb. As ever with a Porsche, there’s huge scope to add expensive options, but standard equipment includes cruise control, parking sensors, leather trim, heated seats and a Bose audio system.
Think of the Panamera as a four-door sports car rather than a coupé or a saloon, and you won’t be surprised by the way it drives. Amazingly, given its near-two-tonne kerbweight, the Panamera has the sort of agility you’d expect from Porsche’s smaller sports cars. The standard Dynamic Chassis Control active anti-roll bars keep body movement in check, while the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+) system helps the all-wheel-drive transmission deliver excellent traction and sharp handling.
To improve things 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 some rivals. However on bumpy roads, the Porsche’s air-suspension struggles to find a happy medium between controlling body and wheel weight and smoothing out the ride.
Switch to Sports Plus mode, and not only are the throttle, gearbox, stability control and exhaust flipped into their sportiest settings, but the PASM air-suspension hunkers down, reducing ride height and tightening body control further.
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.
The Panamera is based on the same platform as the Cayenne SUV, while the Panamera Diesel uses a tried and tested V6 sourced from VW – and the Tiptronic box has proven solid, too.
You can expect the Porsche to be dependable, with strong reliability scores in our Driver Power 2014 survey. Plus, if anything does go wrong, it should be covered by the standard three-year warranty and recovery deal.
The Panamera also impresses when it comes to safety, as it features eight airbags, including a knee bag. There’s an active pedestrian safety bonnet, too. The Turbo S gets ceramic brakes as standard, and you can add adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning as options.
The Panamera is perfect for anyone who finds a 911 isn’t big enough, but who doesn’t want an SUV. With a large central spine running down the middle of the car, it’s strictly a four-seater, although the sculpted rear seats are comfortable and supportive. There’s enough legroom for adults to sit comfortably, and with bigger side windows and a more accommodating roofline, it feels more spacious than the Mercedes. Plus, the 2014 model year update also saw the introduction of a bigger rear screen, which improves visibility.
The biggest issue is the small 445-litre boot – it’s 85 litres down on the Maserati Quattroporte’s and 15 litres smaller than the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe’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.