From £63,9139
Porsche has striven to make its Panamera even more luxurious this time around, but the four-seater retains the grip and pace to go with its increased refinement

Our Verdict

Porsche Panamera

Four-seat grand tourer bids to redefine performance in the luxury class

Andrew Frankel Autocar
22 August 2016

What is it?

This is the new Porsche Panamera, the second-generation incarnation of the German car maker's four-door coupé. And when Porsche says new, it means it: this is no facelift nor even a largely redeveloped car worthy of being described as effectively new. This Panamera has a brand new architecture, brand new engines, a brand new transmission and a brand new operating system. 

And, of course, a brand new look. Few are likely to miss the shape of the old Panamera, especially as the new car, while still some distance removed from gorgeousness, is such an improvement: bigger in every dimension, it contrives to appear sleeker and more like the 911 that so many Panamera owners would drive if only it were suited to their domestic or professional lives.

The range at launch will comprise a 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 and a 4-litre V8 diesel, with a V6 diesel to come, but the first car we have been allowed to drive is the full-fat, maxed-out Turbo complete with four-wheel steering, carbon ceramic brakes, 21in rims and a Sport Chrono pack.

Its 4.0-litre V8 is unrelated to Audi’s 4.0-litre V8 and has its turbos buried inside the vee, all the better for response and fast warming. It may have lost eight-tenths of a litre of capacity over its predecessor, but it has gained 30bhp to reach 542bhp and comes with a healthy additional slug of torque, too, achieved at somewhat lower revs.

What's it like?

Instantly impressive. The moment you sink down into the Panamera’s stoutly bolstered front seat, you find yourself looking out over an interior seemingly an entire generation removed from any other Porsche save the 918 Spyder. This is a world where touch-sensitive surfaces have almost entirely replaced fusty old buttons, where ultra-high-definition screens (three of them) present an extraordinary amount of information and options in such a way as not to bewilder or intimidate the first-time user.

It is not just beautiful (at least until it becomes covered in fingerprints) but it works brilliantly, too. Porsche has allowed just one look over its shoulder, in the form of the central analogue rev-counter: part of the Porsche furniture for better than 60 years, it seems that someone high up couldn’t bear to lose it.

You start it by turning a switch rather than pushing a button. The engine doesn’t thunder or roar but just burbles into life with far less theatre than, for instance, Mercedes’ own 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 or, I should say, Porsche’s old V8.

The Turbo is the only Panamera to ride on air springs as standard and it glides away from rest as might a large luxury saloon, which should come as no surprise once you realise it’s less than 5cm shorter than the brand new BMW 7-series and 35mm wider. It may still look like a coupé but this is a vast car, with all the good and bad that implies.

I drove it in southern Germany so job one was to fling it down an unrestricted autobahn. Yet when I pinned the throttle to the floor I was slightly disappointed. The engine tone hardens as the gearbox instantly selects the ideal ratio, but it doesn’t feel quite as stupidly rapid as I’d hoped. Then I looked at the readout and was shocked to see what it said: it’s not the speed that’s been removed, merely the sensation.

Indeed, I can’t recall another car more skilled at acquiring speed without its driver noticing. The roads were busy and I only found enough safe space for a short squirt up to 165mph, at which point it was still head down and charging hard enough to suggest its claimed 190mph top speed is conservative even by Porsche’s notoriously conservative standards.

So far so reasonably predictable. The more interesting question in search of an answer would come in the countryside. This is where you discover that if the Panamera has the space to do its thing, it is phenomenally quick from one place to the next. Using its four-wheel steering, active roll bars, air springs, torque vectoring, four-wheel drive and colossal Pirellis to full effect, the Turbo can generate levels of lateral acceleration you’d simply not credit for a car of this size. And the quicker the corner, the more planted it feels. Were it not for the fact that this is a Porsche, you might think there was some witchcraft at work here.

But space it needs. If the roads are narrow, and we have more of those in Britain than Bavaria, the size of the car will limit your progress far more than the grip of its tyres. The problem is compounded by a lack of steering feel you might feel barely worthy of a mention in another big, powerful German continent crusher, but in a Porsche - even a two tonne Porsche like this - the omission stands out a mile. No one is expecting a Panamera to handle like a Cayman, but it will be interesting to drive one of the lighter, lower-powered, coil-sprung, rear-wheel-drive Panameras that are in the pipeline to see how different they feel in this regard.

Otherwise, the car presents a near flawless display of dynamic fluency. No amount of torture appeared able to trouble the brakes, while the Sport, Sport Plus, Normal and Individual modes allow you to configure the car to react how you wish. I found, as I have with other Porsches with the selectable dial on the steering wheel, that leaving it in Sport struck the best compromise between comfort and response.

Time constraints meant there was no time to ride in the back, but I was able at least to climb in and discover that all 6ft 4in of me could sit in comfort behind my unchanged driving position. However it may appear in the flesh and unlike the old Panamera, this is a car that will carry four adults of above-average height an unlimited distance in great comfort and quiet and at enormous speed.

Should I buy one?

It may look more like a 911 than the last Panamera, but that merely serves to cloak the fact that the new Panamera behaves less like a 911. Forget for a moment its abilities and consider instead its priorities, which, to me, appear changed subtly but significantly. This is the first Porsche more concerned with providing the feel of a luxury car than that of a Porsche, and it’ll take more than an analogue tacho to disguise the fact.

For its likely customers, this will be almost entirely good news: no Porsche in history has ever ridden like this, been as quiet as this nor boasted an interior anything like as lovely as this. To one of Porsche’s traditionally slower sellers (the company sold more SUVs in 2015 alone than it sold in seven years of Panamera production), Porsche has provided a clear positioning and sense of purpose, not to mention a raw ability its predecessor would not recognise.

There are a couple things I lament, namely the sheer weight of the thing, because despite its hybrid steel and aluminium structure, it’s actually gained a few kilos over its predecessor, and its always accurate but hardly garrulous steering. But you have to see such flaws in the context of the job the car is trying to do. What might be awful in a 911 and fatal to a Cayman here proves merely a mild disappointment.

The bigger picture is one of a Panamera grown not just in size but also stature. For the truth is that while the name remains, the job description has changed and what you’re looking at here is less the next Panamerara and more the first true luxury car in Porsche history. And by those standards rather than those more traditionally associated with the brand, the new Panamera doesn’t merely do well, it does brilliantly.

Porsche Panamera Turbo

Location: Munich; On sale: Now; Price: £113,075; Engine: V8, 3996cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power: 542bhp at 5750-6000rpm; Torque: 567lb ft at 1960-4500rpm; Kerb weight: 1995kg; Gearbox: 8-spd dual-clutch automatic; 0-62mph: 3.8sec (3.6 sec with Sport Plus); Top speed: 190mph; Economy: 30.1mpg (combined); CO2/BIK tax band: 214g/km, 37%

Join the debate

Comments
12

22 August 2016
Looks much better (Good) but has also grown in width (bad) and yet still only seats four (bad)

22 August 2016
To each his own, but for me, this moves Porsche still further away from the company that I once loved. The existence of the GT4 and the 911R aren't anywhere near enough to make up for their making far more SUVs and even-less-Porsche-like sedans than sports cars. Even their sports cars are less sports car-like -- one has to drive a 991 at extremely high speed -- faster than is viable on the road except in all-too-rare circumstances -- for it to actually talk to the driver. The EPAS is still full of novocaine. So it can park itself -- where are their priorities??? One shouldn't have to buy a 991R, which is impossible, or a GT4, which is impossible, to get a new Porsche that is truly involving. Oh, and about the "they have to make SUVs in order to fund the sports cars" line, it's a big lie. Do they make more money doing that? Yes. But they don't HAVE to in order to build 911s, Caymans and Boxsters. Every Porsche sports car type from the 993 on has been profitable in its own right. If they just used those profits and concentrated ONLY on sports car, rather than spending HUGE amounts of money on SUVs and sedans, maybe all new 911s would feel more like the 911R.

22 August 2016
A great improvement over the hunchbacked current model, but the frontal view is spoiled somewhat by all of the kit on show through the lower bumper openings. Surely cooling isn't so marginal that they couldn't have put black mesh grilles in there to tidy things up? Moreover, the radiator and air-con condensers are highly vulnerable to stone damage. The Boxster and 911 are exactly the same in this regard.

22 August 2016
Externally it looks a lot more like 911 which is quite remarkable given the "Panamerara"'s much larger dimensions. Since I'm not particularly taken by 911's beetle looks hence for me it is not a step in the right direction. The interior however is almost unrecognisable from the current car and a radically welcome step in the right direction away from stubborn verging on dogmatic conservatism that plagues all Volkswagen brands.

23 August 2016
I didn’t think it possible this whale of an ugly car could get any bigger but it has which makes it an even bigger dinosaur. It’s hard to believe a car this big can only seat 4 which may go some way to explain why it’s getting hammered in one of the biggest if not THE biggest market for Porsche namely USA by you guessed it the far superior Telsa.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

23 August 2016
All that work producing a new car, and it still looks rubbish. Fail.

23 August 2016
What a lovely thing. Finally Porsche turned the Panamera into a giant 911, the look they were supposed to have started out with. I also love the crazy techno aircraft interior with too many screens, too many capacitive controls and a slightly pointless rev counter. It's a geek's interior design dream gone wild in there - might not be practical but it looks stunning.

23 August 2016
... that as well as retaining the "grip and pace" that they've also retained the previous model's good looks that have made it such a frequent sight on British roads. Presumably they employed the same set of crayons used for other VW beauties such as Audinary Q7 and Bentley Bentaygugh...

23 August 2016
But it looks like you'll have to keep a microfibre cloth in the door pocket of both this, and the upcoming Cayenne, to wipe away those fingerprints on the centre console. Not sure what was wrong with buttons tbh.

23 August 2016
You mean Audi's 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 with the turbos buried within the Vee. Can't wait to hear how they try this with the 4.0 V8 diesel in the 4S, which will no doubt be "unrelated" to Audi's 4.0 V8 diesel in the new SQ7. Perhaps understanding Audi and Porsche's KoVoMo engineering programme that Greg Kable wrote about in Autocar 11 Aug 2015 would have prevented Porsche PR speak appearing as a factual error in an otherwise excellent article. And 2 tonne weight!! So much for the new MSB platform, which Porsche did do on their own, delivering weight savings. Maybe they should have been forced to adopt more than just shared engines? Porsche do some things really well. But they have ridiculously high retail margins, yet over 70% of their sales are in vehicles they did not design. There is too much undisclosed badge engineering going on at Porsche.

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