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Porsche Panamera

Does thrilling driving experience justify saloon’s hefty price?

It’s not often that a Porsche is the joker in a pack – but that’s exactly what the Panamera is in this test. With its emphasis on straight-line pace and poised handling, the sporty German saloon sets the dynamic benchmark for our sleek trio.

Even in entry V6 guise, the Porsche never fails to attract attention. Love it or loathe it, the controversial styling isn’t short of visual impact. However, to our eyes, the Panamera’s looks are spoiled by the bulbous and heavy-handed tail.

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Our test car was given extra kerb appeal by the optional 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, which added a hefty £3,187 to the price.

Climb aboard, and you’ll find that the Panamera’s cabin courts far less controversy. While it’s not as stylish inside as the Audi, there is plenty of space – occupants in the rear benefit from marginally more head and legroom than in either of the other models.

Get behind the wheel, and you’re greeted by Porsche’s usual five-dial set-up, while the low-slung driving position is excellent. Between the driver and the front seat passenger is a large centre console that houses a confusing array of switches and buttons for the hi-fi and air-con systems.

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There are no complaints about the quality of the fit and finish inside, though. All the materials look and feel expensive, plus the switchgear operates with slick precision.

A hatchback tailgate provides an extra dose of versatility, and opens to reveal a useful 420-litre load bay. As with the Audi, the rear seatbacks can be folded flat to further boost carrying capacity.

However, when there’s a Porsche badge on the bonnet of your car, practicality takes a back seat to performance. At the track, the 300bhp 3.6-litre V6 powered the Panamera from 0-60mph in only 5.5 seconds – although strangely, with the hi-tech launch control system activated, we found the car took six-tenths longer to complete the benchmark sprint.

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On the road, it doesn’t feel as rapid as our performance figures suggest, as the slightly raucous powerplant has to be worked hard – the torquey, turbocharged Audi is far more responsive. And while the PDK gearbox delivers rapid shifts, it can be clunky around town.

Turn into a corner and the Panamera has the same racy responses as its sporty two-seater cousins. The steering is a little light, but it’s extremely direct and precise, while grip is strong. Our test car wasn’t fitted with either the optional adaptive air-suspension (£2,380) or Porsche Active Suspension Management systems (£1,052), which allow you to fine-tune the suspension settings. And judging by our experience, the latter option, which includes a Comfort mode, would be a worthwhile addition. The ride is uncomfortably firm on pockmarked back roads, where the Panamera can hop and skip disconcertingly through bumpy corners.

But the biggest problem is the hefty price tag. At £65,171, the car is an incredible £15,181 more expensive than the CLS –and that’s before you consider adding one or two desirable options. Will this significant premium cost the Porsche dear in the final reckoning?

Details

Chart position: 3
WHY: Entry Panamera is the joker in the pack here. We’ve never tested V6 before, so can it justify the price premium over its rivals?

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