Diesel four-door blends economy and refinement with success, but it’s a disappointing sports saloon

What is it?

The car that ought to have BMW 535d owners queuing around the block, you’d think – this is Porsche’s new Panamera Diesel, a version of the firm’s five-metre four-door powered by the same 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel lump you’ll find in anything upwards of an Audi A4. Available with rear-wheel drive only, and driven by an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, this Panamera will be priced identically to the entry-level V6 petrol, at just over £60k. Unlike the petrol, however, it can put close to 800 miles between fills from the pump, and return almost 45mpg on the NEDC combined cycle.

What’s it like?

Comfortable, quiet, undemanding to drive – at once what you might want from a big grand tourer, and what you might not want from a Porsche.

And that’s to do with the Panamera Diesel’s positioning within the broader Panamera range more than anything else. Envisioned as an economy tourer rather than a proper performance diesel, this car’s brief was to better the Panamera S Hybrid’s economy, and provide an entry point to the Panamera range for Europeans with a taste for diesel-fuelled cars. That’s why it’s only blessed with a 247bhp V6 diesel engine, and lacks the outright performance of diesel models from supposedly less sporting brands.

And it’s also why it lacks the aura of dynamic indefatigability that other Porsches are famed for. This car has a chassis configured to offer a certain amount of reward for its driver, but also to smooth away mile after mile of motorway and gently flowing A-road. In those respects it’s very effective.

But delve into the car’s handling locker on a more uneven and twisty backroad and, now and again, this Porsche can be found wanting. It doesn’t roll much and holds the road well up to a point. While composed, the car has pleasing cornering balance and real turn of speed.

But when upset by short-wave undulations in the road surface, the Panamera Diesel surrenders its vertical body control surprisingly easily. With its suspension loaded through a corner, a sudden bump can cause the chassis to whack hard against its bump stop where you wouldn’t expect a true sports saloon to struggle. The car’s eight-speed automatic gearbox is also strangely reluctant to be hurried at times. This clearly isn’t a car to lean on; it’s one to be laid back in.

At this point we should point out that all of the cars on Porsche’s Panamera Diesel press launch had optional air springs fitted. In our experience, steel-sprung Panameras do have more precise body control and better shock absorption – but we couldn’t verify that in the case of the diesel. However, we’d be surprised if a simple change in chassis spec could give this car the dynamic precision, reserve and responsiveness that real enthusiasts may expect of it.

Still, if you’re prepared to take that more recumbent attitude, there’s plenty to like about the Panamera Diesel. Mechanically it’s very refined indeed, and a very special place in which to pass a few hundred miles, whether you’re seated up front or in the back. Our test car had beautiful leathers and veneers, seemed of extremely high quality, and offered as much passenger space as you’d find in all but the biggest limousines.

Should I buy one?

If you can come in with the right mindset, perhaps. Trouble is, you can’t help expecting fireworks of a Porsche, and this car fails to deliver them. Other diesel saloons are faster, better handling and more entertaining – and we can’t help thinking that’ll disappoint many.

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Still, if you simply don’t require your diesel-engined Panamera to handle or perform quite as well as the petrols – if you’ve been waiting for a Porsche you can drive 800 miles in one sitting, and don’t care whether it’s as sporting as it could be – you’ll like this car. It’s certainly an unusually single-minded and long-legged GT; just not quite the driver’s car we were hoping for.

Porsche Panamera 3.0 Diesel

Price: £62,134; 0-62mph: 6.8sec; Top speed: 150mph; Economy: 44.8mpg; CO2 emissions: 167g/km; Kerb weight: 1880kg; Engine layout: V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power: 247bhp at 3800-4400rpm; Torque: 406lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Power to weight: 131bhp per tonne; Specific output: 83bhp per litre; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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TegTypeR 25 July 2011

Re: Porsche Panamera 3.0D

This car stands for everything that is wrong with Porsche at the moment and why they are now a premium brand manufacturer rather than a sports car company.

It isn't the diesel engine that is the problem for me, although the fact it is so low powered and gives so little to the driver does concern me, it's the handling and the fact that isn't very good. This is one of the corner stones of Porsche's make up and when they produce a car like this it really does show the brand is loosing everything it once was.

coolboy 23 July 2011

Re: Porsche Panamera 3.0D

the V6 3.0L biturbo diesel engine will debut in the A7 this November.

the Panamera will get it for the 2013 MY (Panamera S diesel)

AB17790 23 July 2011

Re: Porsche Panamera 3.0D

I work for Audi and that Twin Turbo engine isn't even ready to order yet so won't be out until Christmas time,late this year or early next year the Porsche will also have that engine I would of though