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.