► Fastest Panamera to date tested in the UK
► Twin-turbo V8 makes 542bhp and 568lb ft
► 0-62mph in 3.6sec, top speed of 190mph
You get the sense that Porsche was a bit fed up with people calling the old Panamera ugly. Even non car-people said it, in the same way that people who don’t care about music still have an opinion on Coldplay.
The result of that frustration is the second-generation car you see before you. It’s been massively slimmed down both visually and in mass, with the old car’s stepped roofline and bulky rear end gone in place of short overhangs – and a more graceful curve from windscreen to rear window.
Zuffenhausen hasn’t stopped there, either, ripping out the previous car’s dated internals and fitting a reduced button-count centre console and more digital displays than a hacker’s desktop.
So they’ve sorted the looks – what else?
As we’ve detailed extensively before, this is a brand-new car that marks the first use of VW group’s innovative MSB chassis, plus a trio of engines new to the line-up.
We’ve driven the sledgehammer Turbo model, which is somewhat confusingly named now the lowlier V6 petrol engine features forced induction, too (here’s an idea, drop the Turbo moniker and just call it the Panamera Hyperspace).
On paper, the new Turbo is faster than the previous generation’s Panamera Turbo S – itself not a particularly slow car. Its twin-turbocharged, 4.0-litre V8 motor puts down 542bhp and 568lb ft of torque through an all-wheel drive system, providing ample shove even when you consider the post-diet Panamera plus driver weighs in at two tonnes.
Sprint times are predictably brisk – a launch-control activated 0-62mph dash takes 3.6 seconds. Admittedly its top speed of 190mph is irrelevant in the UK – over here what really counts is the prodigious in-gear performance; 50 to 75mph takes just 2.4 seconds.
Power reserves feel bottomless whatever the situation, with maximum torque available from a lowly 1960rpm and available for as long as you need it, really. Muscular doesn’t really cover the Panamera’s power delivery.
Our only complaint is the noise. From the outside it sounds superb, particularly when roaring past you, but inside a large proportion of that soundtrack feels like it has been filtered out in the interest of motorway refinement. That’s not say it sounds bad, but you get the feeling everyone outside is enjoying it more than you.
So it works on the motorway, what about elsewhere?
Porsche’s Traction Management – an active all-wheel drive system – cleverly reins in both understeer and oversteer without completely killing the driving experience; you don’t get the steering feel of a 911 but it’s still impressively chatty for what is in essence a four-seater limo.
On the twisting and technical Scottish roads of our test route the Panamera Turbo became an experiment in how much g-force we (and up to three passengers) could realistically withstand – it feels like the connective tissue holding your internal organs will give up way before the tyres do. Unless you’re chauffeuring fighter pilots or have a healthy supply of sick bags it’s probably best to avoid the second half of the accelerator’s travel when loaded up.
You can enhance those sensation by forking out £6500 for carbon-ceramic brakes (please do) which feature ten pots each on the front axle and collectively can stand the car on its nose with alarming efficiency. The Panamera Turbo’s accelerative forces are substantial but the way it decelerates is in a different league. Perform a full hazards-on emergency stop on the motorway and we reckon you’ll crease the carriageway.
Adaptive air suspension is standard on the Turbo model which is a good thing because it’s excellent, offering a range of settings from bump-absorbing comfort to lashed-down body control. You’ll want the optional £1478 rear-axle steering with the quicker rack it brings along though, as it helps virtually shrink the five metre long Panamera around town and adds stability in fast corners when you’re pushing on.
It does nothing for the Porsche’s width though, which feels substantial on country roads whether there’s a white line or not. Despite all of the power, grip and all-wheel-drive traction, the fear of a tractor looming around the next bend is still the most speed-limiting factor on a spirited drive.
Does it still have all those buttons?
No, Porsche has heard our collective complaints about the old car, the centre console of which looked like it was designed by someone with shares in a button-labelling business.
You now get a very classy gloss black surface with a few essentials on it (air conditioning controls, the ESC off button, etc.) and everything else has been migrated to the new 12-inch touchscreen. This is itself a glorious thing to behold, even though its letterbox aspect-ratio lends itself more to the fancy new widescreen menus than a sat-nav map, where you can only see a little way ahead into your journey but hundreds of useless miles to the left or right.
Complementing this are two seven inch screens either side of the analogue rev counter. The left contains the speedo and the right scrolls through a series of engine data pages, sat-nav instructions and even a night vision camera, the latter highlighting ghostly-looking pedestrians with a yellow or red box as if it’s some sort of weapon-targeting reticule.
From the minute you drop into the surprisingly low driver’s seat the Panamera feels like an infinitely more special place – even little details like the indicator stalks have been updated with a gloss black finish to help distinguish this car from lesser Porsche products.
It’s also easily enjoyed from the back – where two sculpted bucket seats await, complete with a supplementary control touchscreen displaying anything from map directions to media information and climate control settings. The boot is massive, although quite shallow; it can swallow up to 495 litres of luggage. You’ll get your golf clubs in it, that’s for sure.
It wouldn’t be fair to call the Panamera Turbo spec-sensitive, considering that it comes with loads of tech like parking sensors, cruise control, keyless start, a Bose surround-sound system and LED headlights.
However, to get the best out of it you need to spend more than the £113,075 asking price. For starters, you’ll want to budget an extra £13,000 to upgrade the Panamera with carbon-ceramic brakes, the Sport Chrono pack and exhaust, adaptive sports seats and rear-axle steering.
If that seems excessive or unjustifiable, then consider the diesel-powered 4S (the one people are more realistically going to buy) – as approaching the Turbo with anything short of a full measure seems like a disservice to a technically incredible bit of kit.
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