I’ve always struggled with the concept of the Porsche Panamera, and the announcement that pricing is set to start from the dizzy heights of £72,000 hasn’t done anything to assuage my doubts as to whether this is a car that anybody is waiting for.
On one hand – and from Porsche’s point of view – the Panamera will be an almost half-price alternative to the forthcoming Aston Martin Rapide. But there’s also an equally valid argument – which I’d side with – that the Panamera is overpriced compared to obvious rivals and heading into a tiny market segment.
For almost exactly the same money that Stuttgart intends to charge for a 400bhp, rear-wheel drive Panamera with a manual ’box you could have a 572bhp four-wheel driven Audi RS6. Or, perhaps more to the point in the current economic climate, a Jaguar XFR and £12,000 in change.The Panamera certainly shouldn’t have its chances disregarded out of hand. Porsche knows its potential marketplace better than almost any other car company, and proved its doubters wrong with the success of the Cayenne SUV.
But there are some big differences here. The Cayenne was launched into a then-thriving part of the market, and basic versions of Stuttgart’s SUV cost about half what the entry-level version of the company’s saloon will set you back.
The other negative is the fact the market for super-saloons is stagnating, and the ones that are selling tend to have diesel engines. That’s a chunk of the Venn diagram off limits to the petrol-only, 400bhp-plus Panamera, for now at least. Last year Merc sold 2100 S-classes in the UK, but only 400 of these were petrol powered. And BMW only managed to shift 150 non-diesel 7-Series here in 2008, versus 1200 730ds.
However good the Panamera turns out to be, it’s going to be competing for a slice of a tiny pie. I’m sure that there are some determined early adopters waiting to put their names onto Panamera V5s. But there aren’t going to be very many of them.