El­e­gant suf­fi­ciency

There’s no need to feel in­fe­rior in the base Panam­era

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige First Drive - PAUL POTTINGER paul.pottinger@cars­guide.com.au

‘‘ BIG Porsche, mate,’’ ob­served the very-pos­si­bly three-parts-cut footy fan as the pearles­cent white leviathan loomed in the evening gloom, look­ing for all the world like the prog­eny of a Porsche 911 and Moby Dick.

Not a pro­found ob­ser­va­tion there, mate. In­con­spic­u­ous the Panam­era V6 ain’t. But is it a Porsche? For the purists it’s quite one thing to en­sure the com­pany not only sur­vived but thrived due to re­skinned and re­badged Volk­swa­gen SUVs. That was prag­matic. But a Porsche grand tourer is (ap­par­ently) a di­lu­tion of the sa­cred Stuttgart badge.

Cars­guide swapped to the V6 from a ‘‘ proper’’ Porsche— a 911 Car­rera cabrio— and ex­pected the new en­try-level Panam­era to feel slow. It doesn’t, of course; it’s a Porsche.

VALUE

The V6 rear-wheel drive is des­tined to be the most pop­u­lar Panam­era and lit­tle won­der. At $193,000 plus ex­tras it’s al­most $90K be­low the least ex­pen­sive V8 vari­ant.

It gets a sun­roof, power rear hatch, sat-nav, Bose sound, leather pews and taste­ful wood trim. Our car also had a re­vers­ing cam­era (which it sorely needs), ac­tive sus­pen­sion man­age­ment (which you wouldn’t do with­out) and ride height con­trol (handy for drive­ways).

DE­SIGN

You like the look or you don’t. There’s no mid­dle ground here. Or maybe there is. I’mdrawn to the Panam­era’s wide, com­mand­ing and in­stantly- recog­nis­able-as-Porsche front half, but af­ter a week still winced at the hunched, bulky rear which kept evok­ing the haunches of an East Ger­man shot­put­ter.

No ar­gu­ments about the uber-lux­ury in­te­rior. With its four ca­pa­cious bucket seats it’s eas­ily the most op­u­lent of any cur­rent Porsche. Trade­mark touches such as the cen­tremounted tachome­ter are em­bel­lished by ma­te­ri­als and switches that make the Car­rera look like a Lo­tus Ex­ige.

There are acres of nooks and masses of lug­gage space.

SAFETY

It is as yet untested but there’s lit­tle doubt that five stars are a given. The full raft of safety mea­sures is un­der­writ­ten by big brakes and re­as­sur­ing body con­trol.

TECH­NOL­OGY Hav­ing ex­pected the Volk­swa­gen 3.6 di­rect-in­jec­tion bent six, I find this is Stuttgart’s own. Es­sen­tially it’s V8 sans two pots. De­spite the pre­con­cep­tion it would be in­ad­e­quate for the Panam­era’s bulk, it’s se­ri­ously snarly yet ut­terly re­fined and civilised – its 220kW/400Nm would look good from a small ca­pac­ity eight. The trans­mis­sion is the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK, which com­bines the fuel econ­omy and rapid re­sponse of the best such things with low-speed be­hav­iour that at least ap­proaches that of a con­ven­tional auto.

DRIV­ING Vis­ually ex­ces­sive though the Panam­era is, this driv­e­train is about el­e­gant suf­fi­ciency. It comes close to be­ing all things to all peo­ple. With the sus­pen­sion and drive in their most re­laxed modes, this is a com­fort­able if not soft lux­ury de­vice. Those 19-inch low­pro­file tyres miss few bumps but the cabin is eerily quiet. Full sports mode en­gaged, it’s a very dif­fer­ent beast, an amaz­ingly adroit and en­gag­ing big sports tourer. As it’s spurred along, the Panam­era’s lane-fill­ing size seems to shrink around you. More torque at the bot­tom end would be agree­able but it’s as though Porsche wants to re­mind you that even in its most re­laxed and com­fort­able car, the need to rev isn’t dead.

VER­DICT Pah to the purists. A car can have four doors and be a Porsche.

Bulky rear: The Panam­era is in­stantly recog­nis­able as a Porsche on the out­side and in its op­u­lent in­te­rior

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