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Porsche Panamera Turbo

While styling divides opinion, super-saloon is a hugely capable package

IF the Rapide is the car James Bond would use as family transport, the Panamera is what his latest adversary would choose. It has the style and character of a Hollywood baddie, and despite measuring 49mm shorter than the Aston the taller Porsche looks like a much bigger and heavier machine.

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Adopting the styling of the firm’s 911 sports car works well, particularly on the five-door’s nose. From the front doors back, though, the results are less successful, as the heavy rear end and slab sides do the Panamera few favours. A different colour might improve matters, but our white test car looked brazen and brash next to the sophisticated Brit.

Step inside and our duo are equally different. Yet what the Porsche lacks in terms of flair it makes up for with space, quality and simplicity. Anyone who is familiar with a 911 will feel instantly at home. From the driving position and instruments to the view out over the bonnet, it’s all trademark Porsche stuff.

What won’t be familiar to 911 owners is the amount of space in the rear. Here you’ll find the kind of comfort usually associated with a limousine. The cabin is much bigger than the Rapide in the back, with plentiful leg and headroom, while the 432-litre boot is also more spacious.
Under the bonnet, the 4.8-litre V8 has fewer cylinders and less capacity than the Aston powerplant, but the addition of twin turbos gives it the edge for sheer punch. It produces 30bhp more than its rival, at 500bhp, and with our car’s Sport Chrono Package Plus (£1,260), a huge 170Nm more torque, at 770Nm. Add four-wheel-drive traction and a fast-shifting automated dual-clutch gearbox, and the Panamera is amazingly fast out of the blocks.

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In our test it blasted from 0-60mph in only 3.6 seconds, and covered 30-70mph in three seconds exactly, destroying the Rapide for pure pace. The Sport Chrono Package Plus does include a helpful launch control setting, but the Porsche is faster from a standing or moving start.

The Panamera is easier to drive quickly across country, too, where its huge reserves of grip, confidence-inspiring steering and smooth PDK transmission combine impressively. If only the controls for the gearbox were more intuitive – they’re not a patch on the Aston’s paddles. Ride comfort is reasonable, and the adaptive air-suspension provides a series of settings to suit your mood.

However, for all of the Panamera’s ability and composure, it’s ultimately less engaging – the Rapide goes about its business with much more panache. Our car’s ceramic composite brakes (a £5,800 option) also failed to match the Aston’s more conventional stoppers for performance or feel. And once you get used to the novelty of blasting from 0-60mph as fast as a supercar in a four-seater weighing 1,970kg, the Panamera begins to lose some of its appeal.

If you regularly need four seats over long distances, the Porsche is the obvious choice here. But if the extra space provided by these cars will be used only occasionally, the Panamera has its work cut out.

Details

Chart position: 2
WHY: The ugly duckling of the super-saloon sector is a hugely capable machine. Scorching pace and handling are guaranteed.

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