That MSB platform may have trimmed a few kilos from the kerb weight, but the Panamera is still a hefty piece of kit. Regardless, the 4S Diesel is capable of building speed like few other four-doors. It never feels quite as fast as it actually is – a trait shared with every other model in the range. But still, few cars could keep up with a 4S Diesel driven hard.
While the massive reserves of torque allow rapid acceleration, they also make for effortlessly relaxed cruising. Driven sensibly in normal traffic conditions, we were amazed at how often the V8 was spinning at 1000rpm or less. In those situations, the engine is barely audible although a little tickle does reveal a slightly gritty, diesel edge. At least it’s unmistakably a V8 when you squeeze it harder.
More relevant in the real world is the economy the 4S Diesel is capable of. With plenty of self-restraint and a light right foot, you’ll be able to get more than 30mpg. Enjoy yourself a little, and this soon drops into the 20s.
Not only does the new ‘box allow hushed progress, it also offers buttery shifts while mooching and exceedingly swift ones when you’re in one of the racier modes. Even mashing the throttle unexpectedly in normal didn’t phase it; the transmission just drops a brace of ratios without fuss.
To avoid vaporising your rear tyres regularly, this engine only comes with a rear-biased all-wheel drive system. Unlike nose led rivals from within the Group (yes, we’re looking at you Audi), the Panamera feels much less keen to send drive to the front wheels.
With the stability control in Sport or off, the rear axle can be made to step out in an entertainingly controlled manner. Drive is soon shuffled to the front tyres to help pull you out, but not before a big silly grin has been plastered over your face.
You certainly know when torque reaches the front axle with the steering against the lockstops. Pulling out of a turning briskly, the steering starts to unwind itself hard as soon as the torque hits. It’s not something you’re likely to experience much, but it is off-putting. If you’re hoping this means you’ll be feeling subtle messages through the rim, forget it. While there is enough information to confidently know what the nose is up to and good weighting, more subtle messages are filtered out.
Even so, the way the Panamera can completely obliterate a road is nothing sort of sensational. The optional air suspension may give a soothing ride in comfort mode, but it gets more agile and progressively better at resisting roll as you switch up to Sport and then Sport Plus modes.
Unlike many similar systems, the Panamera never becomes bouncy or uncomfortable, even over a particularly scabby stretch of B-road. Even potholes and expansion joints fail to make the suspension crash, thump or feel out of its depth. Naturally, an S-Class or 7 Series is even more cosseting regardless of mode, but then neither can get around a corner anywhere near as competently.
Moving inside, there’s been something of a revolution. Although you still get the traditional analogue rev counter in the centre of the instrument cluster, a pair of configurable 7.0in screens now flanks it. There are elements of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, although, to be honest, it can’t quite match that system’s adaptability and ease of use.
In the centre of the dash is a large 12.3in touchscreen to control the PCM infotainment system. It looks good, but can lag slightly when you zoom in or twist a Google Map view of your surroundings and some of the icons are a touch small. We also found that the steering wheel obstructed the left-hand side of the display if you’re particularly short.
This touchscreen now controls a lot more, removing many of the buttons from the gearstick area. There’s also a touch-sensitive black panel that controls items such as the suspension, heated seats and screen demisters.
It certainly looks much cleaner and more futuristic, but it can be tricky to find the function you need without diverting your attention from the road. As for practicality, you can now easily squeeze four six-foot adults inside along with their suitcases.