The Panamera radiates tremendous presence both on the road and on the driveway. It’s not surprising, really, being the sizeable 5m x 1.93m machine that it is. Every time I approached it, especially from the front, my heart fluttered. Agate Grey suits the Panamera very well, the black brake callipers, evocative side air vents, pop-up rear spoiler, attractive front and rear lights, a brace of sizeable exhaust surrounds and black, high-gloss 20” sport classic alloys bolstering its aesthetic allure further. I’ve typically perceived black wheels as being a tad gangster but not so in this case.
Compared to the original Panamera, the front air intakes have been enlarged on the facelifted version, the new LED daytime running lights are now located on the bumper, closer to the attractively redesigned headlights, and the more sculpted rear bumper sits nicely above the lowered number plate. To me, there’s still a Far East vibe emanating from the rear of the second generation Cayenne, but I’ve never had an issue with the Panamera’s 911-esque sloping roofline, which now leads to more elegant and better proportioned rear light clusters. Free of tell-tale ‘diesel’ badges, the oil-burning Panamera looks every bit as tasty as its petrol siblings and is far less ubiquitous than many svelte rivals such as the A7 and CLS.
I’ve tested countless cars over the years and have even encountered a handful of positively flimsy components inside some models costing north of £150,000, which have also sometimes been prone to incorporating elements bordering on the distasteful, in a RHO (think ITV3, not the horticultural one) sense. What therefore struck me about the Panamera’s interior was how well constructed it felt. A close friend of mine works in a car plant and knows good from bad as a result. After spending quite some time poking and peering around the Porsche, we concluded that it’s up there with the very best in terms of perceived quality. The way the door handles open, the robustly elegant, machined feel to the gear selector, the solid weight to the stalks and even the brush integrated into the boot catch recess all illustrate how thought has gone into the Panamera. Its interior design has proved just as divisive as that of the exterior, the two rows of large buttons separating the front seats particularly causing a few arguments. I actually think this approach works rather well, though, as it means functions aren’t hidden away behind countless menus and can hence be accessed and operated far more simply. I’ve always been a sucker for four-seat rear configurations, too, so this being the only option with the Panamera is okay with me.
The Sports Chrono stopwatch, button-free steering wheel, traditional Porsche instruments, clarify of information, gloss black and chrome trim and sprinkled reminders you’re in a Panamera result in a genuinely sporty cabin. Whether spending over £1,000 on a telephone for the front cubby is down to personal taste and circumstances, and beware that the boot isn’t actually particularly capacious, some mainstream hatchbacks proving more practical. The generally soft leather sports seats lacked lumbar adjustment and it was an odd sensation inserting a key into the dashboard, the additional fobs jangling on my knee at times, but this is just nit-picking. The Panamera’s interior cemented itself as the joint best I’ve had the privilege of becoming acquainted with.
The 3-litre diesel V6 in the latest Panamera is a new unit and horsepower has increased to 300bhp, with peak torque upped to 650Nm between 1,750 and 2,750rpm. Not having driven the original Panamera Diesel, hence judging the latest purely on its own merits, the first four of the eight gear ratios in the Tiptronic S transmission are indeed tightly packed, making for swift progress from a standing start and from lower speeds. The gearbox behaved splendidly when driving the car at speed and generally acquitted itself well around town, too, except for very occasional hesitancy. Within the context of the UK’s often poorly maintained roads, blighted with speed cameras, caravans and cyclists, acceleration from the Panamera Diesel is more than adequate, as is its 0-62mph sprint time of six seconds flat.
Grunt is where diesels often excel, only to be let down aurally. The oil-burning Panamera, though, doesn’t sound like a diesel when fired up, cruising or when given the beans. In fact, it’s decidedly muted, possessing a distant, meaty tone that at times isn’t dislike some quieter 3-litre petrol engines, in a way. Only when flogged near to and in the red zone does the Panamera Diesel emit any traditional clatter, which is certainly not something to write home about. I’ve always considered it a naff move for car manufacturers to artificially add more fireworks to a car’s sound by filtering enhanced noises back into the cabin and that sort of thing, but part of me wished this was the case with the Panamera. Despite the lack of genuine or faux exhaust theatrics, the Panamera Diesel’s engine’s rather endearing, meaty, throbbing, punchy characteristics found a place in my heart, as a result certainly placing it above more common or garden mile-munching chariots with 3-litre diesel hearts. To add some context, the diesel BMW 640d M Sport Gran Coupé produces slightly more horsepower (313bhp) than the Porsche but marginally less torque (630Nm), whilst the Maserati Quattroporte diesel is slower to 62mph with a time of 6.4 seconds. The Panamera wins on top speed with 161mph but this is likely simply because it’s not been electronically limited to 155mph like the other Germans and the Italian newcomer.
Power and speed are all very well, but I’ve driven so many cars of late that have disappointed dynamically, diluting their overall appeal, especially for keen drivers. The Panamera delivered on all fronts, though, its ride proving a standout during its week with me. The steering was impressively communicative, exacting and undeviating, instilling confidence to push the car harder. Varying its ratio to suit circumstances, it’s lovely and light at slow speeds and when cruising on the motorway but then tightens up for action on sweeping corners and when manoeuvring. The diesel Panamera was able to glide around sharp, undulating bends at considerable speed with no detrimental effect on composure, thanks owed to Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Torque Vectoring Plus with a rear limited slip differential, which respectively continuously adjust the dampers and apply braking to the inside rear wheels, resulting in enhanced comfort, composure, agility and performance. Compared to a handful of petrol super saloons I’ve driven this year, the Panamera came out trumps in the handling stakes. In fact, if calls of nature, the equally human need to sleep, and life’s temporal and monetary constraints could be overcome, I’d quite happily drive the Panamera Diesel from Inverness to Land’s End without stopping, on B-roads. Officially, its combined fuel consumption is cited as 44.1mpg and we averaged 37mpg over 500 miles. Driven relatively sensibly, predominantly on motorways, the Porsche’s alleged range of over 700 miles seems entirely believable and it goes without saying that almost every one of them would be enjoyable; so forget John O’Groats, let’s make it Barcelona to Bologna, which is just over 700 miles.
With prices starting from £65,289 and our test car’s optional equipment nudging its final price up to £74,947, the latest Panamera Diesel is very similarly priced to a comparably specified BMW 640d M Sport Gran Coupé and a Maserati Quattroporte diesel, whilst a short-wheelbase Mercedes S350d, CLS 350 BlueTEC AMG Line Premium Plus 9 and an Audi A7 BiTDI all cost less. In terms of CO2 emissions, the Mercedes emits 142g/km, the BMW produces 152g/km, the Quattroporte diesel 163g/km, Audi’s 320bhp A7 Sportback BiTDI produces 167g/km and the Panamera 169g/km. This means that for business users the Panamera is subject to 5% higher BIK tax than an A7 BiTDI. Business contract hire prices start from £635+VAT per month but this attracts a sizeable 9-month deposit and limits mileage to only 8,000 per annum, which probably wouldn’t make much sense for corporate executives and company owners who do a lot of travelling.
The Porsche badge isn’t just a token trophy; the new Panamera Diesel is a car that feels alive. A noticeable improvement on the original, it fully deserves its place in the lineup, is styled just as magnificently as its petrol siblings, garners respected attention wherever it goes and for me is the go-to choice for those seeking true driving enjoyment from their diesel executive express. Aside from the boot not actually being that commodious and it only being a four-seater, the Panamera’s interior is one of the very best I’ve had the privilege of sampling. The punchy diesel engine’s potency can be explored more fully, the handling genuinely excites and evokes a smile and the Panamera Diesel is pretty economical, with a tremendous 650-700-mile cruising range. Besides, looking out over the trademark Porsche bulging front wings feels special each and every time. Just like annoyingly perfect Ian’s Bake Off creations, a diesel Porsche saloon may not immediately seem like a winning recipe, but it most certainly is. Sorry, people in white coats – you’ve made a wasted journey.