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Monday 20th August 2012


PH FLEET: PORSCHE PANAMERA DIESEL

Bye bye diesel Jag, hello diesel ... Porsche? Yep, Harris has got a Panamera for a few months


Often despite a car's faults we become fonder of it over time. Sadly not so with the XF. It never quite delivered and the more time I spent with it, the more it baffled me no one at Jaguar worked out how to make an iPhone 4S's telephone and iPod function simultaneously. Still, it taught me to love BBC 6 Music.

Yep, it's a diesel...
Yep, it's a diesel...
Replacing the Jag is another diesel exec saloon - if you can call it that. 10 years ago, the concept of a four-door Porsche using an Audi diesel engine would have seen me marching outside Weissach's front gates and burning effigies of Herr Piech. But flat-earthers like me are beginning to understand that the world has changed. I now have several months in a Panamera Diesel. The relationship has started well. Very well.

The Panamera is possibly the most divisive Porsche of all. Many despise the way it looks and what it stands for. In my experience, almost all of those negative voices are eradicated if they spend any time in one, either as a driver or a passenger. Especially if you include very long journeys. At least 10 times a year I have to get from the UK to some other corner of the continent, and the Panamera Turbo is the best tool for the job.

The Turbo defence

One of the best cars Porsche makes?
One of the best cars Porsche makes?
The Turbo part of that defence is actually quite important for those of us who stand up for the Panamera. People can argue over the styling and the packaging, but they cannot deride the fact that four people can cover ground at insane speed, in comfort in a Panamera Turbo.
But what happens when you remove the speed?
The Diesel version has just 250hp, and it weighs 1,880kg. It compensates with 405lb ft of diesel torque and the promise of some impressive fuel economy figures. From the spec sheet this car is the least appealing Porsche since the 911 SC was castrated in the late 70s for Californian emissions targets.
Honestly, having covered 2,500 miles in it already, I can't think of another car whose real-world behaviour is so far removed from its static credentials. In its own way, the Panamera diesel is one of the best cars Porsche makes - and that is just a plain bizarre sentence to watch creep from my keyboard. The reasons for this become apparent within a few minutes of first driving it. This is the best diesel installation around. It offers a faint crack when it fires, but after that it isn't just quiet, the noise that seeps into the cabin is a pleasant, deep, V6 rumble.

All that you need

Chris's car has aluminium trim package
Chris's car has aluminium trim package
Is it fast enough? It is for me. Porsche claims 6.8 seconds from rest to 62mph, and that feels about right. Recent performance gains has us sniffing at that figure, and it certainly doesn't offer great support to the Panamera in non uber-Turbo trim, but the last time you even think about the claimed performance is just before you drive it. Once you're rolling, it feels just as fast as the Jag XF Diesel S.
Diesel meant ditching PDK for the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed auto, and that's improved the package further. Sometimes an engine and gearbox just gel; this is one of those instances. It is seamless in the true sense of the phrase and therefore incredibly soothing. That's what I want from a car of this type.
I also want it to be stellar over long distances and a recent smash'n'grab raid to southern Germany proved, beyond any doubt, that this car is world class in that respect. Three-up, and crammed full of gear it would cruise quietly at 120mph, still returning 30mpg. On the 612-mile return leg, which included some stationary time and a sustained stint in the 130-140mph window, the car averaged 37.2mpg. That is astonishing. Anything I might have gained in a Turbo pulling 150-180mph would have been undone by the need to refuel. I even did a stint in the back and nearly fell asleep. This is unprecedented.

Different class

Panamera a perfect continent-crosser
Panamera a perfect continent-crosser
In many ways, this Panamera is everything the Jag wasn't. The iPod thing works brilliantly, the touchscreen infotainment actually responds to each prod and the trim and build quality really are on a different planet to the Jag. I'm not being harsh here, they're just truths. As is the fact that, as tested, the Porsche is £66,558, which is almost £13,000 more than the Jag. The difference feels like £30,000.
Not just in terms of quality either. The Panamera's steering isn't just good, it's a flipping magic trick. It somehow makes this vast machine agile and instinctively easy to thread down narrow roads. The driving position - low, with the wheel at your chest - is terrific and it's just a fun car to drive fast. Again, I can't believe I've written that.
This car runs on standard steel springs, not the optional air-suspension, and on weeny 19-inch wheels. Yes, I specifically asked for the small wheels because they bring a fleshier 45-profile sidewall and the result is a firm but composed ride. It's no S-Class, but the overall compromise of agility and waftability is very pleasing.

Basic luxury

Harris in 'unprecedented' snooze
Harris in 'unprecedented' snooze
The rest of the spec is pretty basic. Metallic paint, a Bose hi-fi, an iPod link and some ally bits to the cabin. This wouldn't be a Porsche if it didn't have some hilariously priced addition, in this case it's the £275 'seatbelts in silver'.
As you can probably tell, I like this car. In fact the only negative aspects so far are apologetically droopy tail-pipe trims and the fact it's only a four-seater. Which, for those of us with three kids, renders the Panamera a bit useless. With Mercedes making its CLS Shooting Brake a five-seater, you have to wonder if Porsche is missing a trick not selling a five-seat version of this car.

I defy anyone to drive or be driven in a Panamera Diesel and not be profoundly impressed. The haters will always hate, but, right now, there isn't another car I want to be using the way I use this one. Oh, and I even like the way it looks.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Porsche Panamera Diesel
Run by: Chris Harris
On fleet since: August 2012
Mileage:
List price new:
£66,558 (base price £62,134 plus £777 for metallic paint, £1,457 for 19" Panamera Design alloy wheels, £243 for automatic dimming mirror package, £919 for Bose surround sound system, £227 for Universal Audio Interface USB/iPod connector, £526 for aluminium interior package and £275(!) for 'seatbelts in silver')
Last month at a glance: Diesel Panamera turns out to be one of the most capable, and likeable, cars in the Porsche stable

Author: Chris Harris