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