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.