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
The Porsche Panamera isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but there’s no mistaking its identity. There’s Porsche DNA in every curve and detail, from the oval headlights to the slender LED tail-lamps, while the designers have tried to blend the rounded curves of the 911 into a four-door body. However, the end result isn’t exactly pretty. Its best angle is from the front three-quarters, where the wide, flat nose gives it more than a hint of 911.
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.
Climb inside, though, and the luxury on offer will help you forget about the so-so exterior. The Panamera is a strict four-seater, due to the large transmission tunnel that bisects the interior, while four plush bucket seats offer excellent passenger comfort. The dashboard is pure Porsche, with five circular dials in the instrument cluster and two rows of switches that flank the gearlever. In the rear, the centre console contains air vents and separate climate controls, while there are banks of switches that emulate those up front.
As well as looking good, the layout is superbly built. While the dash is a little button-heavy, everything works with precision, and the Porsche matches the Audi for the quality of its switchgear.
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.
Porsche has expanded its range to include SUVs and executive four-seaters, but these new models maintain the brand’s reputation for building great performance cars with strong engines and good performance
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 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 a 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.
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.
Porsche has a strong reputation for building performance cars that are not only fast, but reliable, too. The company came sixth in our most recent Driver Power satisfaction survey, and although the Panamera is a low-volume seller, it contributed to this. Also, Porsche dealers finished third in Driver Power 2014, so while maintenance costs are expensive, your money buys a good service.
The Panamera has a comprehensive amount of safety kit, with eight airbags, an advanced stability control system and an active bonnet to protect pedestrians, while options include fade-free 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.