PH Fleet: Porsche Panamera Diesel

There is much conjecture as to what constitutes the most challenging corner in the world; Eau Rouge, Pouhon, 130R or maybe the evil Schwedenkreuz.

But for me it is the penultimate 90-right exiting the short stay car park at Heathrow Terminal One.

'My other car is a Ferra-' Oh, hang on, it is
'My other car is a Ferra-' Oh, hang on, it is
It would be hard enough to navigate your way between the concrete obstacles in this hell-hole driving a Toyota iQ, but in the Panamera it's a nightmare. You swing wide left to give yourself the best possible chance of clearing the evil, jagged thirty inch stump of rock on the right, but as the apex approaches, you can't see if the rear wheel will clear without dropping the wing mirror, and doing this might distract from aligning the front left - which is already perilously close to another hunk of concrete. 18 hours into the working day, this little lot makes Blanchimont feel like Stowe at 35mph.

And I got it wrong. The front left clipped the kerb and the Panamera's shoulders gave that telltale wobble we all hate so much: the one that signals a scratched wheel rim and makes you want to punch things and people. I didn't want to survey the damage, so I drove home, slept and went outside the next morning to have a gander before phoning the wheel refurb people.

And there was no damage.

'Small' wheel option saved a chunk of alloy
'Small' wheel option saved a chunk of alloy
If I was already convinced that the 'small' 19-inch wheels on this car were the perfect choice for ride comfort and supporting my personal belief that a poverty-spec Panamera is less offensive to the general public than its full-bling brethren, then I'm now absolutely certain. That chubby sidewall and the protruding lip from the Michelin saved an expensive refurb.

In other tyre news, the rears are only about 7,000 miles old and wearing well, despite some hooning for the video we shot. The fronts have been on the car since it was assembled, and now approaching 20,000 miles they are completely spent and will need replacing within the week.

Marmite anyone?
Few cars split opinion like this one, and the Marmite analogy is especially apt because like concentrated yeast extract spread on toasted bread, people tend not to take the soft-line about the Pan Am: they either love or hate the thing. What is absolutely not in doubt is that anyone who completes a long journey in either the front or the rear of this car cannot believe how capable it is.

Well, it looks nicer than the outside
Well, it looks nicer than the outside
Neil Carey, who I work with on the DRIVE videos, sprinted over to Spa in it to shoot the Six Hours and was blown away by the mixture of speed and economy. "But it still looks dreadful", were his parting thoughts. And given his design background, his opinions probably count for something. I like the way the Pamamera looks. And one of my children has just pointed out that I am wearing a jumper inside out.

This car had already covered nearly 10,000 hard miles as a press loaner before I started using it - and promptly doubled the mileage in four months. Brief encounters always hinted that the Panamera was build to withstand some abuse, but the freshness of this car at this mileage is quite something. Everything in the cabin seems untouched and only the outside squab bolster on the driver's seat has polished slightly.

The only problem I have with the splendid cabin is with the hi-fi control buttons, which require quite a shove to operate, which in turn encourages you to use the excellent touch-screen instead. Otherwise it's a fantastic place to spend endless hours heading to jobs.

Show some respect
I continue to enjoy the beefed-up Audi V6 and ZF eight-speed automatic. Actually, should 'enjoy' really be 'respect'? I think it should - especially for the engine. However the gearbox is a masterpiece, and having seen the way BMW has made it perform in the M135i, I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't actually make a more pleasant transmission than the PDKs fitted to faster Panameras.

Rear tyres OK, front ones shot
Rear tyres OK, front ones shot
This car's role is to cover large distances at speed, in comfort - often on motorways in different countries, and always with some enjoyable roads along the way - and to do so efficiently. According to that definition, the way the Panamera Diesel goes about its job makes it one of the better cars I've run. Even with the little 80-litre tank it'll cover well over 600 miles between fills and yet there are some rather more sporting machines that have followed it cross country and, shall we say, underestimated the competence of its chassis.

Seeing the Sport Turismo concept in Paris was an eye-opener. Most people thought it better looking than the existing car, and I agree. The extra boot volume will make for an even more practical cabin, and much of the rear three-quarter awkwardness people like about the current car has been removed.

But for now I have to accept that the haters will always hate. For those who don't, check out the new contract hire deals on one of these and then try driving one. I defy you not to be impressed.

Porsche Panamera Diesel
Run by: Chris Harris
On fleet since: August 2012
Mileage: 19,778
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: Hate the Panamera? Bad luck, Chris thinks it's brilliant.

Previous reports:
Bye bye diesel Jag, hello diesel ... Porsche?


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (80) Join the discussion on the forum

  • rogerhudson 31 Mar 2013

    Trevor M said:
    Every time I'd get out of it, I'd hate it and curse the beluga whale hunchback.

    Every time I drove the vast beluga whale hunchback I'd curse its vastness in traffic.

    Every time I thought about it I'd think about how it symbolized the deathblow of Porsche as an independent manufacturer.

    Every time I'd remember how it was created for the giant ego of the worthless piece of human garbage named Wiedeking who had it shaped that way so he could fit in the back seat.

    Every time I would think about its debut in Shanghai. For an audience of buyers who wanted a Porsche the wouldn't drive, but with a big back seat so they could be driven around in one.

    Every time I drove it I'd remember Ferry Porsche's vow that Porsche would only ever make sports cars, because that's what Porsche was all about. I'd remember that I could deal with the Cayenne because it was a SPORTS Utility Vehicle. But this abomination? No. No. NO!

    Die, Panamera, die.
    Ferry Porsche probably said that before the 1970 family conference when they decided to let non-family managers run the company.
    Already by then the purity was starting to be affected by 'rules', the rear reflectors of my 1970 'S' are a crude tack-on to the bumpers compared with the purity of the 1967 S trim.
    Porsche is now a multi-model car maker, 'just get over it' as it says on the side of the bus.
    I could be tempted to swap my 1970 2.2S for a diesel Panamera, they seem to cost about the same, but they don't appear to do air suspension or all-wheel drive on diesels, why?

  • rajkohli81 05 Nov 2012

    It's not pretty, but I think it has presence.

    A few posts have anticipated poor residuals, but I don't think that is anywhere near the case. Cheapest used Pan D currently on the market is £58k and thats a 2011 with 22k on the clock. Even the poverty spec used cars are c£60k. List is £62k new on one of these, so as with the Cayenne D, dealers have done well so far to inflate/maintain values. Lease costs are exceptionally high as compared to CLS/6 GranCoupe. To me that would suggest that there is sufficient demand for Marmite.

    Covering 6k a month in a 640d, I can definitely see the advantage of these big, quick, diesel brutes - I can comfortably do 700 miles between fill ups.

    I bet it is a great drive (yet to try one admittedly) and will get better once they drop the V8 Diesel in they have just released in the Cayenne.

  • supercampeao 05 Nov 2012

    I didnt like it much at first and that angle at the rear window/tail just seems plain wrong...having said that, on the road it looks awesome IMHO and i wouldnt mind picking one up second hand as an all rounder

  • Martcouz 04 Nov 2012

    OK, so I've just ordered one and in the light of all these observations it may be worth examining why I did so.
    I've run two BMW 535d sport touring over the past five years, preceded by a 330d sport touring; I fancy something different. The car will be my regular 'drive' and I have a Caterham 7 and a Boxster S for when I want to go out and have fun. My criteria for a new car were (loosely) the following:-
    Driving dynamics
    Excitement i.e something different
    Power /performance
    Engineering integrity
    Because my wife is disabled I have to be able to carry a wheelchair or mobility scooter and this clearly limits the range of options, but I have a dislike of the 4x4/SUV type of vehicle having tried these in the past.
    The Panamera was the closest match to my requirements, most particularly when I judged what I would ultimately enjoy driving on a daily basis. I was greatly impressed with the chassis of the demo cars I tried, the performance was all I could require in the daily 'real world' and the comfort and cabin ambience transcended the alternatives (Merc, BMW, Audi) The quality of the transmission particularly impressed given the poor reputation of past Tiptronics.
    Does it have the 'look-back' quality? No. Will it be a good purchase financially? No. Do I mind? No. It's a car that appeals to me , ticks all the boxes for what I require and will offer driving enjoyment which is fast becoming a rare commodity.
    Oh, and I'll never know whether the guy behind thinks the rear end is ugly!

  • dvs_dave 04 Nov 2012

    I see them regularly in Chicago and still not a fan of the looks, however it is the sort of car that appeals to me in an odd way. Much like the Merc R-class actually.

    I've not driven a Panamera yet and we won't get the diesel one over here which is a shame as modern diesel power trains are perfect for US roads.

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