► All-new Porsche Panamera 4S Diesel tested
► Same engine as the Audi SQ7: 416bhp and 627lb ft
► Next-level chassis tech, significantly improved inside
As we’ve already covered in almost infinitesimal detail, the second-generation Porsche Panamera is new from the ground up. The Panamera Mk2’s not only gone for a makeover that’s far heavier on the stretched 911 sauce than the frumpy-dumpy original; it’s also based on a new platform, features new chassis technology, a super-modern new interior design and – last but by no means least – a new set of turbocharged engines.
At launch the powerplant line-up consists of a 434bhp 2.9-litre V6 for the 4S model, a 542bhp 4.0-litre V8 for the full-fat Turbo model, and this 416bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel which also takes on the 4S moniker – though you’ll have to have your ears on to tell the difference between this and the petrol 4S, as Porsche’s chucked the ‘Diesel’ badging in the bin.
It’s the first time Panamera has ever been offered with an eight-cylinder derv monster and the first time you’ve been able to buy a diesel Panamera with all-wheel drive. Despite all the ‘dieselgate’ outrage it’s expected to be the biggest seller from this initial round of new Panamera variants in Europe.
’Derv monster’? Really?
Not convinced? You should be. This is the effectively the same all-new sequentially twin-turbocharged V8 diesel that Audi uses in the SQ7, minus the additional headline-grabbing electric compressor. Never mind that 416bhp; it produces 627lb ft of torque at just 1000rpm and doesn’t stop producing it until 3250rpm, just 250rpm shy of peak power – which comes in at 3500-5000rpm.
Equip your new 4S Diesel with the Sport Chrono pack and it’ll punch from 0-62mph in 4.3sec, despite weighing in at 2,050kg, while its 177mph top speed makes it the fastest diesel saloon currently on sale. It’s a beast. Sounds like it, too, with a proper V8 rumble – at least on the inside.
Hold up – why no fancy new electric compressor for Porsche?
Three reasons: aesthetics, irrelevance and cost. Panamera boss Dr Gernot Döllner told us the additional plumbing required to accommodate the electrically powered supercharger would have meant making the front of the car taller, something Porsche was understandably reluctant to do.
More prominently, the engine develops similar power and – crucially – torque figures without it, and the new eight-speed PDK is more than capable of shedding five gears in a single bound if you suddenly need to get a wiggle on. Deleting the compressor and its associated plumbing stops the Porsche piling on the pounds, too.
Porsche basically didn’t think it was necessary. We’re inclined to agree. The V8 diesel’s not as crushingly fast as the V8 petrol Turbo, but it has so much muscle that you can occasionally sense it giving the all-wheel-drive system a minor heart attack, despite the fully coordinated efforts of the new Porsche 4D Chassis Control setup.
What on earth is Porsche 4D Chassis Control?
4D Chassis Control, standard on every Panamera, is a new system that takes holistic charge of every element of the chassis. This ranges from common or garden components such as the adaptive dampers and the new three-chamber air suspension option (that’s one extra chamber but 60% more air volume than before, for an even cushier ride), to more exotic add-ons like the familiar Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, new-for-Panamera rear-wheel steering, and new-for-Porsche electromechanical anti-roll stabilisation.
This last replaces the previous hydraulic solution, and is the only element of the Panamera that requires 48V electrics at launch. Though the car is ready for more 48V in the future, for the time being it uses a DC:DC conversion from the regular onboard 12V system – instead of the lithium battery Audi uses to do the 48V thing in the SQ7 (and the forthcoming next-generation A8, which uses the same ‘MSB’ platform as this new Panamera).
Anyway, the point is that the new 4D Chassis Control ensures that every single one of these toys plays nicely together, reacting to driving style and road conditions as one, rather than acting independently and quite possibly in contradiction to each other. To achieve this, there’s a central brain running a ‘full vehicle simulation’ of the car in real time, helping it decide how to react.
No wonder the new Panamera has ‘100 million lines of code’ when the old one only needed two million; according to Döllner, an Airbus runs on 5-10 million. No one has ever done anything quite like this before, and it was developed entirely in-house by Porsche.
What does this actually mean for the Panamera’s driving experience?
Well, obviously, it’s bloody fast – especially if you make use of the fire-all-guns-at-once Sport Response button, which also makes its Panamera debut here. But more critically, the handling and ride has been improved significantly.
Gone is the characteristic, slightly pendulous body movement of the preceding version, replaced by a car that goes where you point it with minimum fuss and maximum agility.
We weren’t able to try the active anti-roll, unfortunately, but the rear-wheel steering certainly makes itself known once you crank the driving mode dial on the steering wheel round to Sport Plus, as the system fires the car into tighter turns and helps stabilise it in really fast sweepers. It is ridiculously rapid on the autobahn as a result, where there are more corners than you might imagine, especially in derestricted areas.
It sounds like it might be too clever for its own good…
There is perhaps a case for saying that. But Porsche being Porsche, it’s done its level best to dig the details and the nuance out of the data, so you still feel like you’re intimately involved.
Besides, it’s using all these tricks to give the Panamera a remarkable breadth of ability. Dynamic as it is, if you’re not in the mood it can also be as comfortable as an S-class. No kidding.
What about this ‘amazing’ new interior we’ve been hearing about?
Ah yes. It’s essentially Porsche 2.0 inside. The mega stack of buttons on the centre console has been replaced by touch-sensitive black panels, there’s a 12.3-inch wide screen display that supports multi-touch control and houses a really quite seriously up to date infotainment system. The only remaining analogue instrument is the classic central rev counter.
There are some daft elements to this – with the gold medal for madness being awarded to the central air vent, which is now motor-controlled via the touchscreen, a process that most definitely extends the time you need to take your eyes off the road. And in a move reminiscent of that classic comment on the Triumph TR7, Porsche has repeated this error using another touchscreen and vent combo in the rear.
It’s a little tricky to pass judgement on the black panel buttons, as these pre-production launch cars had a software/hardware cooperation issue that required not so much a touch as a substantial prod to make them work – something we’re told has already been fixed for production.
This aside, the quality of the fit and finish is unquestionably excellent, and the extended wheelbase, lower seating position and re-profiled roofline means back seat passengers have considerably more room than before. There’s also an extra 50 litres of boot space, and the 495-litre luggage compartment is more practically shaped.
In the market for a showcase GT that can do double duty as limo? Then prepare to want one. Frankly, if you can afford the asking price you can probably afford the fuel, so personally we might place the twin-turbo petrol V6 further up the list – it’s lighter still on its feet.
But if you don’t like stopping at filling stations and have continents to cover in double-quick time, the combination of Panamera take two and a diesel V8 is delicious.
New Porsche Panamera: 9 things we learned after a day with the Pana II