Porsche Panamera Diesel S: Review

Not sure why it's taken us so long to get in the new Porsche Panamera but, here we are at last, swoopy new styling, fizzing haptic switchgear, extra wheelbase and all-new V8 all present and correct. Hang on, V8? Yes, despite the lower orders of the range long-since downsizing to V6 power (an 'inside out' twin-turbo 2.9-litre on the new car) there is still an eight-cylinder option outside of the flagship Turbos.

There's an important caveat though. And that's the fact this V8 drinks from the devil's pump for, yes, it is a diesel. Some diesel though.

It's a 422hp, 4.0-litre monster, sucking air into its cylinders via two sequentially arranged variable vane turbos mounted in the vee of the engine. Its fundamental architecture is shared with the 'e-turbo' motor in the SQ7 and Bentayga Diesel but Porsche insists the twin-turbo hardware between the cylinder banks is its own work, tuned to suit this application. With just one of them spinning it'll deliver its full 627lb ft from just 1,000rpm and, if that's not already satisfied your acceleration needs, the second will kick in and keep it coming ... and coming ... and coming. The stats are suitably impressive - 0-62 in 4.3 seconds with Sport Chrono, 0-100mph in 10.4, 0-125mph in 16.8 and a top speed of 178mph. With official 42.2mpg and 176g/km respectability.

Now this is a bit more like it Porsche!
Now this is a bit more like it Porsche!
A 4S petrol with its 440hp 2.9-litre V6 is a tenth quicker here and there but if you want to feast on the torque and put 500-odd miles between fill-ups the V8 diesel is a proper long-distance weapon. If ever a car were built for the limit-free stretches of Autobahn this is it. A pity most of its tenure with us was spent on the conspicuously camera controlled M1 but there we go - we can dream.

Audi partner!
Although all the engines in the new Panamera range are new - albeit also with shared Audi parentage - the choice of power unit is perhaps one of the car's less startling qualities. Same can be said of the styling, which is sleeker and more confident than the original's, courtesy of a 30mm wheelbase stretch on the latest MSB platform and 20mm taken out of the roofline at the back.

Inside is where the revolution comes though. The drive in the Panamera came directly after the Mercedes-AMG E43, itself fitted with one of the most spangly, high-tech and glitzy interiors in the class. The Porsche feels literally a generation on though. Begging the question: where the hell did that come from?

Interior genuinely staggering for the class
Interior genuinely staggering for the class
After all, Porsche interiors of recent times have tended to be high on quality and suitably luxurious. But in design terms somewhat conservative, with lots and lots of teeny tiny buttons. Or, if you've not chosen the 'essential' options ticks, lots and lots of blanked off switches to remind you of your penny pinching.

Back and forth
But surrounding the sleek new shifter - pleasingly it's now backwards for up, forwards for down too - is just a blank, glassy surface punctuated by a couple of chrome bezels. Only when the ignition comes on do their functions become clear, the haptic switchgear beneath the panel lighting up and the widescreen display in the centre of the dash bursting into life. From its pinch to zoom nav to its touch-to-select album covers and radio stations in the media menu it's a genuine revelation and more than a match for Audi's Virtual Cockpit. Even the familiar looking dash with its familiar centre rev counter and paired secondary dials either side has surprises - these are not analogue but in fact contrived from separate multi-configurable displays for nav, night vision, G-force meter, lap timer and whatever else you want to select.

If you're spending over 90 grand (OK, £112,291 as tested...) for a diesel saloon car you'll want some surprise and delight features and the Panamera certainly delivers - this is truly one of the biggest leaps in luxury car interiors in some time. And the diesel saloon bit? OK, it doesn't really feel like a diesel saloon, the familiar Panamera sense of low-slung seating and genuinely sporting intent carried over successfully from before.

About the only clue to the fuel type
About the only clue to the fuel type
All very impressive, but how does it go? All new Panameras are now eight-speed PDK, rather than a mix of dual-clutch and autos from the previous range. As such there's more sense of the ratios going through than you'd get from the previous eight-speed auto but refinement is very good and from the first touch of the accelerator to the point your denial runs out (a very short space of time, thanks to that 627lb ft of torque...) the 4S Diesel never feels anything other than immensely powerful. In addition to the sheer speed there's a nice bassy thrum from the engine to remind you this is not your usual diesel engine, the sequential turbocharging meaning it'll keep pulling through the revs in a way that can fool you into headbutting the limiter if you're in manual mode. This is quite the motor, it has to be said.

Air that I breathe
By some quirk of speccing you have to have your 4S Diesel on the optional PASM damped adaptive air suspension for the time being, this offering the usual two additional clicks of damping control plus variable ride height. Even in the firmest setting the Panamera rides with authority and composure, just the harshest transverse ridges thumping through the structure. You'll be happy if you never leave the default but it's good to know the firmer settings are also usable if you're in the mood. As is the Porsche fashion, the steering is weightier than you'd get in an equivalent CLS, 6 Series Gran Coupe or A7 and the Panamera's demeanor is best described as authoritative.

You never lose track of how goddamn huge this car is though, somewhat tempering any inclination to fling it around. If you are bold enough you'll notice a commendably sharp front end (if not much feel through the wheel) and a subtle rear bias to the torque split to help keep the nose into the corner even when you are early on the power. Poor visibility - the A-pillars and mirrors are awful when pulling out and the B-pillars are a long way forward too - is a hindrance, likewise the weight. The engine shrugs off the 2,124kg under acceleration but you feel it under braking, often having to squeeze the pedal with more force than you thought you'd need.

Porsche at its very best is pretty compelling
Porsche at its very best is pretty compelling
Big unit
The size and visibility also make it a bit of a stress around town, not least when parking. Given you can't see much out of it you need to live on the (inevitably optional) Parking Assist but after a few motorway miles the rear view camera was covered in gunge and the sensors kept crying wolf, squealing in alarm in the middle of empty space. Further real-world moans include a very shallow boot but, with luck, this time around we'll get the Shooting Brake we've been teased with previously.

Overall though this new Panamera swaggers with the vindication the successful first-gen car has brought to Porsche. It lays down a pretty formidable marker in the luxury sector, drives with enough sparkle and authority to be interesting and is packed with technical intrigue and sharply executed luxury. Whether you're driving or being driven there can be few better ways to cover ground at speed, the long-range ability making sense if this is your usage pattern. If this is diesel's swansong in passenger cars it's going out in some style.

3,956cc V8 diesel, two sequential turbos
Transmission: 8-speed PDK dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 422@5,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 627@1,000-3,250rpm
0-62mph: 4.3sec (with launch control)
Top speed: 179mph (limited)
Weight: 2,125kg (EU with driver)
MPG: 42.2 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 176g/km
Price: £91,788 (£112,291 as tested comprising Sapphire Blue Metallic £893; LED main headlights with matrix beam including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus £1,451; ParkAssist including Surround View £1,005; Adaptive air suspension including Porsche Active Suspension Management 'Standard suspension unavailable. Only orders with adaptive air suspension accepted at price indicated. Update due 08/17.' £1,541; Sport Chrono Package £1,344; 21-inch Sport Design wheels £2,370; ioniser £206; four-zone automatic climate control 14-way power seats [front] with memory package £1,340; eight-way power seats [rear] with memory package £1,665; Seat heating £353; Seat massage function [front seats, incl. seat ventilation front and rear] £2,285; Night Vision Assist £1,683; Lane Keep Assist incl. speed limit indicator £764; ISOFIX child seat mounting points on front passenger seat £129; Electric roll-up sunblind for behind rear compartment and electric roll-up sunblind for rear side windows £918; Steering wheel heating £194; BOSE Surround Sound System £1,022 and USB interface in rear £233)

[Sources: Autocar]









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Comments (43) Join the discussion on the forum

  • E65Ross 30 Jan 2017

    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you're comparing the interior of this to a class down.....isn't this a rival for the BMW 7 series, Merc S class etc? Certainly is on the price....

  • Evilex 30 Jan 2017

    Not cheap, but one of the most useable all-rounders from a performance marque to appear on these pages for a while. The facelift seems to have banished some of the original's awkward looks. In a more subdued colour, it may look better still.

  • Krikkit 30 Jan 2017

    E65Ross said:
    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you're comparing the interior of this to a class down.....isn't this a rival for the BMW 7 series, Merc S class etc? Certainly is on the price....
    It's in the no-man's land inbetween. The CLS/6 GC/S7 are all similar propositions, but significantly cheaper, but the big saloons are a lot bigger (and slower!).

  • mfp4073 30 Jan 2017

    That's a nice car, but if you have that kind of money, why bother with a diesel these days?
    I think it's only a matter of time before the diesel engine is banned from every city centre in the UK? and as for the rest of Europe that might be worse!

  • ogrodz 30 Jan 2017

    Having attended a launch event, I think this car looks fantastic in the flesh and certainly the review paints a very attractive picture in terms of performance and handling. The price tag is the problem. If it were priced more keenly at around £80K all in (after specing up reasonably), then I think it would be a great contender if you were considering something like an RS6.

    I would like to know how the lower priced Hybrid compares to the diesel - as the Hybrid may be the sensible choice (tax breaks considered etc...)

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