Almost eighteen months ago I wrote “If the Panamera appeals and you don’t want to go for the all-singing Turbo, then this is the pick of the bunch.”
This being the two-wheel drive naturally aspirated V8, running the standard suspension, without the optional air springs or active anti-roll bars.
The conclusion then that “Removing some of the technology injects a little charm and interaction we’ve found missing from the technically more accomplished models.” Today I can update that story with the news that the Panamera gets better still the less you spend.
Until now, every Panamera we’ve tried has been fitted with the PDK gearbox (standard on all-wheel drive models and optional with rwd), but I’ve just returned from an 800-mile round trip in a Panamera equipped with the standard six-speed manual gearbox.
Clearly a manual change is not going to be for everyone - a stick Panamera is likely to remain a rare spot – but for those looking for a limo that’s as much about providing an amusing drive as it is rear seat comfort, I reckon it shouldn’t be overlooked.
The gearbox itself is new and has a nice positive action and the clutch take-up is progressive without being overly weighty. What I found most surprising though, is how the much, just changing the gearbox, alters the overall sense of the car. The Panamera’s 4.8-litre V8 is an absolute corker of an engine, but with PDK shuffling the ratio’s automatically I reckon some of the engine’s character is smothered.
Changing gears yourself there’s much more to appreciate. Especially if you spend some of the £2003 saved by ditching PDK on the optional sports exhaust, which sounds wonderful.
Of course tweaking the options list does nothing to improve the Panamera’s awkward styling, but it does present an increasingly unique proposition; a super saloon with a naturally aspirated engine and a manual gearbox.
When we get to drive the new M5, it’ll be interesting to see if BMW was wise to leave that formula behind.