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A Porsche affair

As you’ll probably know, the Panamera is a four-door, four-seat, fastback sports car at luxo-barge prices. But it’s really a grand tourer. Porsche says that their new flagship sits somewhere between the Cayenne and 911 in concept, borrowing practicality from the former and dynamics of the latter.

STYLE FILE

In design, the Panamera exhibits traditional Porsche style — the sloping back, typical cut-out bonnet shape, smiling front air vent — you know the drill. It comes with V8 petrol engines derived from the Cayenne SUV’s units. In normally aspirated form, that gives it fast-sports performance or, in the Turbo form, supercar-baiting potential.

Natural rivals? Think top-end versions of existing luxury cars, like AMG S-classes or the Maserati Quattroporte. But if the Panamera reveals the latent dynamism it’s supposed to have, think also of more overtly sporting cars like the BMW M5, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and the Jaguar XFR.

INSIDE STORY

The front and back seats don’t look and feel as wide as those you’d find in traditional luxury saloons but the Panamera seats four comfortably. Its seats make up for what they lack in width in support, although there’s more room in the back of a ‘regular’ saloon.

The rear seats are set slightly inboard so shoulder room is good. Because this is an honest hatchback, the rear seats split and fold, giving up to 1263 litres of boot space. You can even order a towbar.

In the low-set cabin, the driver’s-seat position is similar to a 911’s in relation to the front wheels. It’s a cosseting cockpit architecture, one that Porsche has been itching to use since it introduced the Carrera GT, with a high transmission tunnel running the length of the passenger space, a high-set gear lever and clear switchgear and dials. The Panamera feels beautifully built too; plastics and materials are beyond reproach.

UNDER THE HOOD

This Porsche features a twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 sourced from the Cayenne, but modified to allow it to sit rather low, and be less off-road-proof. This big engine gives 493bhp and 71.5kgm, resulting in 0-100kph taking 4.2 seconds and a top whack of 301kph. If it’s equipped with the Sports Chrono package, you can add launch control to that and take another 0.2 seconds off the 0-100kph time.

As standard, the Turbo gets Porsche’s seven-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission, driving all four wheels through six driving gears and, for touring economy, an overdriven seventh. The gear lever shifts up on forward pushes and the steering wheel buttons enable both upshifts and downshifts.

The air springs on the Turbo have three modes of stiffness. In their softest mode, they’re more compliant than the coil-sprung S and 4S models, although there’s a little ‘sproing’ and a slightly hollow noise over smaller bumps.

DRIVER’S DEAL

Five hundred horses from a 4.8-litre motor with two turbos isn’t an outrageous output, and peak torque is developed only from 2250rpm, so this is a broader power band. There’s no shortage of oomph as it heads towards peak power at 6000rpm, however. You can even make the exhaust louder by flicking a button.

My time spent in the Panamera mirrored the use that the car will get: lots of cruising and using good roads to the fullest.

I spent 10 hours in the driver’s seat in one day and emerged with no complaints or aches. There’s a 100-litre fuel tank and ergonomically the Panamera is sound, down to a brilliant new screen nestled among the dials that can flit between trip details, car info and a satellite-navigation screen.

On the Porsche scale, the Panamera edges closer to a Cayenne than a 911. You’ll want to take the suspension out of its softest setting as you drive, moving the suspension settings through Sport and into Sport Plus.

The Panamera never totally shakes off its weight, while managing to go down the road at a proper lick pretty well and it steers very positively, with good precision and a rack whose speed increases further away from straight ahead. As in other Porsches, you don’t really notice this lack of linearity; it just means you can leave your hands where they are for most bends.

On the road, the high grip limit is sounded by a squeal from the outside front tyre, though the electronically-controlled rear differential can help to straighten the Panamera on corner exit. Power always goes to the back and is apportioned to the front wheels when needed.

Driving this Porsche won’t blow your socks off. But the levels of control and pace that the carmaker has installed in it are truly impressive.

FINAL VERDICT

Is it one of the best performance luxury cars to drive? Yes. Is it a proper Porsche? Here too, yes, because its dynamism feels so absolutely unwearying. And with its carbon-ceramic brakes, it stops on a dime.

The Panamera feels impeccably solid and rigid. It’s a fine luxury performance flagship, and for many that’ll be enough. But — and there’s a but — it’ll lighten your fortune by about Rs 2.2 crore!

Does the Porsche really justify spending a Boxster’s worth more than a Jaguar XFR? I’ll reserve final judgement until I know whether it rides a furrowed road as well as the Jag, but to say I’d be surprised would be an understatement.

Impressive though this Turbo is, I can’t help thinking that the Panamera’s sweet spot is probably lower down the range.

SPec check

Porsche Panamera Turbo

Price: Rs 2.2 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Top speed: 301kph
Engine: V8, 4806cc, twin-turbo, petrol/ front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive
Power: 493bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 78.5kgm at 2250-4500rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed double-clutch (PDK)
L/W/H: 4970/1931/1418mm
Wheelbase: 2920mm
Suspension (F/R): Double wishbones, air springs, anti-roll bar/ multi-link, air springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes (F/R): 390mm ventilated discs/ 350mm ventillated discs
Tyres (F/R): 255/45 R19 and 285/40 R19

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