What is it?
We’re quite familiar with the Panamera. We know it has its strengths in its performance and handling, and weaknesses in its comfort and interior practicality. But if there is any model likely to hit a sweet spot amidst all the compromises, it will be this naturally-aspirated V8 4S model, complete with 395bhp being sent to all four corners via Porsche’s double-clutch PDK ‘box.
Our car also came with the £750 Sports Chrono plus pack, which (in conjunction with the various standard electronic safety systems) brings with it launch control and more focussed settings for the gearbox, steering, traction control and throttle response.
What’s it like?
Very good - the best in the range, in fact. It’s the powertrain that really makes the difference here. Yes, it’s less brutal than the Turbo but for a car that has its roots in the luxury car market the wonderfully linear, accessible delivery from this 4.8-litre V8 is spot on, and regardless of where your performance benchmark sits, 4.8-seconds to 62mph in a 1.9-tonne car is hardly tardy.
Stop-start is standard on this model, and was one of our biggest gripes in the Turbo because it lacked much cohesion in conjunction with the PDK ‘box at typical town speeds. In the V8 this problem seems to have been ironed out to the point where it is a rare occurrence to be left hanging at a junction for an awkward moment whilst you wait for the engine to kick in following a prod of the throttle. Generally, even in creeping traffic, the stop-start system is something you can forget about and it just does its business. And after all, you can turn it off should you want to.
What is more frustrating is the slightly awkward brake pedal response, which makes modulating the brake at lower speeds more of a conscious effort than it should be due to the sharp initial response.
Higher speeds are less problematic in general for the Panamera. In fact, this is when you realise why somebody might choose the Porsche over a more conventional luxo-barge, because it suddenly feels like a proper sports car. The lavish interior, large footprint and high kerbweight all become inconsequential and you can really enjoy the purity of the steering response, highly effective active four-wheel drive and the beautifully responsive powertrain. It really does drive in a properly absorbing way. You don’t get much of a sensation of speed, which can be a little disconcerting, but there is no question that this is a car you can really enjoy.
So perhaps you would forgive the ride, which on the standard steel springs and 19-inch alloys as tested here was rather hit-and-miss. The body is kept admirably in control but the dampers struggle to absorb vertical disturbances in the road surface and generally fall short of offering the level of refinement and isolation that some may hope for.
Should I buy one?
Well, the compromises that the Panamera 4S demands in the name of its impressive handling and performance are still likely to be too many for most. At over £84k it is a seriously expensive proposition, and whilst this is also a hugely capable and rewarding car there are other options that do a similar job, albeit in a different way, for less. If you’re taken with the Panamera’s abilities and presence, the V8 4S is the one to go for. But think carefully about other offerings - particularly those from Jaguar and Mercedes - before you make the decision.