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.