The Porsche Panamera has a hard life: it’s judged on its looks alone, often measured against the iconic 911 as well as rivals such as the (also not so glamorous) Audi A7 Sportback and better-proportioned Aston Martin Rapide. Yet the Diesel has to be one of the finest machines for long distance, high performance motoring with a claimed 44.1mpg – better than a VW Golf R or Audi S3.
A diesel Porsche – is that why there are no badges in this thing?
Sure is. Badge deletion is a no-cost option on the Panamera, almost an acknowledgement from Stuttgart that, well, diesel and Porsche go together like eggs and anchovies. Yet pragmatic Panamera’s 3.0-litre V6 in the nose of our bare white test car is one of the world’s best. On start-up it’s barley audible, and its 479lb ft of torque has you gliding from standstill with the smooth eight-speed auto.
On throttle, there’s effortless strength beneath you with all that torque at your disposal, and it’s so smooth you’d have no clue it’s a diesel. The 2013 update has seen the derv given 50bhp more, too, for 296bhp all up, and while its 0-62mph time of 6.0sec isn’t in the supercar league, the claimed 44.1mpg trumps many a hot hatch. Yet there’s 1263 litres of luggage space…
So for all that ugliness, you at least get something back for buying the diesel?
The Panamera’s impressive fuel figure is helped by a capacious 80-litre fuel tank, enabling the huge Porsche a continent crossing range. In fact, after 160-odd motorway miles, the fuel needle hadn’t moved and, at least according to the Porsche’s useful data display, we managed 43.6mpg on a trip down the motorway. Not bad in a world of skeptical economy claims…
On the straight stuff, it’s all tyre noise from the black 20in rubber, such is the silkiness of the engine and cosseted cabin. Of course, the Panamera’s design interior set the trend for the 991 911, while the Space Shuttle-tight build quality, tactile coverings and materials that go beyond simply the things you touch, such as that thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel and delightful metallic paddle-shifters.
The nav, unlike other VW Group offerings, seemingly never goes wrong; the touchscreen is instantly responsive and the click, push and pull of the cabin’s parts is effortless and reassuring.
It’s huge, weighs nearly two tonnes and is a diesel: surely it drives like a wet lettuce?
The big oiler won’t be new Porsche sports car driver Mark Webber’s first choice for a winding road, but the Panamera’s handling is amazing. This is a car that feels wider than almost anything else on sale today, but that doesn’t mean it is ham-fisted, even around city streets. You’ll need to change its PASM (that’s Porsche Active Stability Management, which comes with the optional £1052 air suspension) from Comfort though, as the Panamera’s weight and the soggy settings have it feeling docile and floaty. It’s not massively cumbersome, but switch it to Sport and the firmer settings are so suited to the big Porsche that it should be the default choice.
Once done, the Sport setting’s steering is more precise, both at speed and when parking (made easier thanks to sensors and a reversing camera), and ride quality is superb yet never crashy. It’s not so plush that you’ll scuff the bumper chin if you tackle speed humps too quickly, though, as the chassis strikes a near perfect balance between lively and livable. That means that you can turn the monster nose in sharply, and the tail will slide around predictably and easily: the Panamera offers no nasty surprises.
It’s not all winners for the Panamera: on a car that costs £65,269 you still have to pay another £120 for a USB/iPod port, and there’s no proximity key, either. The little things make all the difference. Still, the Panamera Diesel is a class act – its real-world fuel economy, genuine comfort and drivability make it hard to beat as a spacious, long-distance tourer.
Regardless, a Porsche that delivers 44mpg yet can been blown away at the lights by a Golf R that costs half as much just may be a little too far for some…