PH Fleet: Porsche Panamera Diesel


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

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Comments (358) Join the discussion on the forum

  • edo 28 Sep 2012

    PGM said:
    As you may know, I like big driving holidays and will always take the car rather than fly if it’s remotely possible. For this reason I’ve always liked the idea of the Panamera, a true trans-continental sports saloon.

    With the intrigue in my mind, I put my 997 in for some warranty work after our last Euro trip and took out a Panamera Diesel for a couple of days. I really enjoyed the change actually!

    I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos of the actual car but I’m sure you all know what one looks like and if you don’t, here’s a similar one:





    Interior Front:


    The Panamera is a fantastic place to sit. For such a big car it cossets you with the high centre console and low driving position, very sports car like. It’s extremely comfortable and well appointed, you want for nothing.

    Interior Rear:


    Two individual seats, this obviously divides opinion and the potential usage of the car. For us it’s great with only two kids, the option of a middle seat probably wouldn’t have killed anyone! For me though, it makes the car that bit more special than your BMW, Mercedes etc and adds to the appeal. If I had another child though (God forbid!), I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic!

    Rear passengers have fully independent and 3 way adjustable climate control each side just like the front together with heated seats and plenty of storage options. I believe you can even specify adjustable seats in the rear!
    I can sit very comfortably in the rear with the front seat placed to my liking and I’m 6ft and on the larger side (powerfully built company director biggrin ) and enjoyed travelling in the back. The front seats are very narrow in the back which gives an exceptional view out of the front of the car also.

    My 11 year old son however did point out that the piano black trim and all the buttons and flip out storage areas would be broken in no time between him and his 8 year old brother! Great!

    The boot is a decent size and would just about fit our mad springer spaniel in it I reckon and some luggage but would be more than ample for just the family and touring luggage. The floor however is a little high and the threshold also a bit high leaving not much height in it to be honest. Perfectly useable though.

    The powerplant is a 3.0 V6 turbo diesel which even at 250bhp is [and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this] is more than up to the job of hauling this beast around. Plenty of torque gives lots of shove and overtaking possibility. Make no mistake, this is not slow, I’d describe it as a quick car.

    The gearbox, although perfectly matched to the car (8 speed tiptronic with paddle shift) is not my preference but works very well with the package. I would prefer a manual but suspect it would actually spoil the diesel version of the car.

    Overall I did around 300 miles in the couple of days I had the car, half on the motorway, half on very narrow B roads. On the motorway, as expected it’s brilliant and my passengers also were impressed with it. I could also hustle it down bumpy, narrow b roads with ease, the car just shrinks around you.

    Giving the car a good workout most of the time, we averaged over 36mpg which I think is awesome.
    The big thing is this though. Would I replace my 911 with it?

    I thought long and hard about this given my family situation. Both my boys want me to change from the 911 due to rear seat accommodation. My wife and I both prefer the 911 as a drive. Therefore we stick with the 911! The only rational reasoning I can apply to this is asking myself the question “Would I get up early at the weekend just to go for a drive?” 911 yes, Panamera I don’t think so.

    If I’d tested this before I looked at the 997 after having had the 996 I would probably have bought it. Now the 997 is here, it’s a definite step up from the 996 and I’m glad I went that way now. It’s unbelievable to say it but it really is that close (with the caveat of my situation). Obviously as outright cars without any external factors it’s 911 every time!

    Taking the example of a European tour, this Panamera makes a lot of sense. Getting on for 700 miles range, diesel being cheaper in Europe are difficult factors to ignore. However, for me it comes down to the fact that I need a pee every 150 miles and the rest of the mileage in this country, diesel is more expensive.

    Therefore, impressive as the diesel is, it would be a manual V8 for me!

    The answer to the whole conundrum though turned out to be obvious after two days thinking. When the Panamera reaches £25k in a couple of years, we get one to compliment the 997. Easy biggrin
    Good review, thanks.

  • PGM 28 Sep 2012

    As you may know, I like big driving holidays and will always take the car rather than fly if it’s remotely possible. For this reason I’ve always liked the idea of the Panamera, a true trans-continental sports saloon.

    With the intrigue in my mind, I put my 997 in for some warranty work after our last Euro trip and took out a Panamera Diesel for a couple of days. I really enjoyed the change actually!

    I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos of the actual car but I’m sure you all know what one looks like and if you don’t, here’s a similar one:





    Interior Front:


    The Panamera is a fantastic place to sit. For such a big car it cossets you with the high centre console and low driving position, very sports car like. It’s extremely comfortable and well appointed, you want for nothing.

    Interior Rear:


    Two individual seats, this obviously divides opinion and the potential usage of the car. For us it’s great with only two kids, the option of a middle seat probably wouldn’t have killed anyone! For me though, it makes the car that bit more special than your BMW, Mercedes etc and adds to the appeal. If I had another child though (God forbid!), I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic!

    Rear passengers have fully independent and 3 way adjustable climate control each side just like the front together with heated seats and plenty of storage options. I believe you can even specify adjustable seats in the rear!
    I can sit very comfortably in the rear with the front seat placed to my liking and I’m 6ft and on the larger side (powerfully built company director biggrin ) and enjoyed travelling in the back. The front seats are very narrow in the back which gives an exceptional view out of the front of the car also.

    My 11 year old son however did point out that the piano black trim and all the buttons and flip out storage areas would be broken in no time between him and his 8 year old brother! Great!

    The boot is a decent size and would just about fit our mad springer spaniel in it I reckon and some luggage but would be more than ample for just the family and touring luggage. The floor however is a little high and the threshold also a bit high leaving not much height in it to be honest. Perfectly useable though.

    The powerplant is a 3.0 V6 turbo diesel which even at 250bhp is [and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this] is more than up to the job of hauling this beast around. Plenty of torque gives lots of shove and overtaking possibility. Make no mistake, this is not slow, I’d describe it as a quick car.

    The gearbox, although perfectly matched to the car (8 speed tiptronic with paddle shift) is not my preference but works very well with the package. I would prefer a manual but suspect it would actually spoil the diesel version of the car.

    Overall I did around 300 miles in the couple of days I had the car, half on the motorway, half on very narrow B roads. On the motorway, as expected it’s brilliant and my passengers also were impressed with it. I could also hustle it down bumpy, narrow b roads with ease, the car just shrinks around you.

    Giving the car a good workout most of the time, we averaged over 36mpg which I think is awesome.
    The big thing is this though. Would I replace my 911 with it?

    I thought long and hard about this given my family situation. Both my boys want me to change from the 911 due to rear seat accommodation. My wife and I both prefer the 911 as a drive. Therefore we stick with the 911! The only rational reasoning I can apply to this is asking myself the question “Would I get up early at the weekend just to go for a drive?” 911 yes, Panamera I don’t think so.

    If I’d tested this before I looked at the 997 after having had the 996 I would probably have bought it. Now the 997 is here, it’s a definite step up from the 996 and I’m glad I went that way now. It’s unbelievable to say it but it really is that close (with the caveat of my situation). Obviously as outright cars without any external factors it’s 911 every time!

    Taking the example of a European tour, this Panamera makes a lot of sense. Getting on for 700 miles range, diesel being cheaper in Europe are difficult factors to ignore. However, for me it comes down to the fact that I need a pee every 150 miles and the rest of the mileage in this country, diesel is more expensive.

    Therefore, impressive as the diesel is, it would be a manual V8 for me!

    The answer to the whole conundrum though turned out to be obvious after two days thinking. When the Panamera reaches £25k in a couple of years, we get one to compliment the 997. Easy biggrin

  • PGM 26 Sep 2012

    I'm going to add a bit of fuel to this debate and the way it's going I think I might be in for some flaming soon!

    As you can see from my posts above, I was from a basic theoretical standpoint, a fan of this car.

    I thought I'd back this up with a dose of reality and so left my 997.2 C2S with Porsche Reading this morning to have some things sorted out and took a 12 plate Panamera Diesel.

    The car is well specced and I've done about 250 miles mixed driving today and I'm so far very impressed. However, I'll reserve final judgement until I hand it back tomorrow evening and let you all know.

    I don't know the technicalities of it all but by 997 weighs around 1.5T and the Panamera around 2, 385bhp vs 250bhp but the car feels quick and handles very well. It doesn't feel a big car when you're driving it as opposed to looking at it!

    More detail tomorrow!

  • MGJohn 15 Sep 2012

    ChrisRC said:
    GuyS. said:
    Let me throw my 2 bob into the 'is the diesel Panamera slow' debate; I'm now in my 3rd year of owning a Panamera Turbo and I'm still very happy with the car, thanks for asking. Back in January when my car was in for its first 2yr/20k service I was lent a Panamera diesel as a courtesy car for the two days it took the OPC to change the oil in mine. Sure, the diesel lacks the frankly silly acceleration the turbo has, but at no point did I think it felt 'slow', the mid range punch was impressive. Whether that is down to torque or power you'll have to excuse my ignorance here, during my O level physics classes I used to sit next to a girl with wonderful charlies and generally my mind was on other things.

    One more thing I will add, I actually preferred the ride of the diesel which was on 19" rims and standard springs compared with my turbo which has 20" wheels and clever self levelling air suspension etc.
    Interesting...with the diesel, was it still funnier in the front?
    I doubt it. Even funnier in the back though ... like all the others..
    ..
    ... wink



  • ChrisRC 15 Sep 2012

    GuyS. said:
    Let me throw my 2 bob into the 'is the diesel Panamera slow' debate; I'm now in my 3rd year of owning a Panamera Turbo and I'm still very happy with the car, thanks for asking. Back in January when my car was in for its first 2yr/20k service I was lent a Panamera diesel as a courtesy car for the two days it took the OPC to change the oil in mine. Sure, the diesel lacks the frankly silly acceleration the turbo has, but at no point did I think it felt 'slow', the mid range punch was impressive. Whether that is down to torque or power you'll have to excuse my ignorance here, during my O level physics classes I used to sit next to a girl with wonderful charlies and generally my mind was on other things.

    One more thing I will add, I actually preferred the ride of the diesel which was on 19" rims and standard springs compared with my turbo which has 20" wheels and clever self levelling air suspension etc.
    Interesting...with the diesel, was it still funnier in the front?

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