It's very much its own car, a long, low five-door hatch that offers something very different in its sector. In the second generation guise, it's smarter, faster, more efficient and impressively advanced. For boardroom drivers who yearn for Brands Hatch, it promises to be a tempting proposition.
Really clever engineering can defy the laws of physics. The original Panamera handled quite impressively for a model of this kind, but the second generation version, you sense, is far closer to the kind of car Porsche always wanted to make in this segment. Thanks to fantastic steering and an astonishing lack of body roll on fast, flowing roads, the two-tonne, four-seat Luxury segment contender now feels almost as agile as a Porsche 911. Or at least it does when specified with all of the brand’s expensive dynamic drive technology. There’s a lot of it - adaptive anti-roll bars, ‘PTV’ torque vectoring and a rear-axle steering system are amongst the highlights. ‘PASM’ adaptive damping is standard, but most Panamera drivers embellish it with the optional air suspension set-up.
That’s one option, another is the ‘Sport Chrono’ package that gives you F1-style Launch Control and a ‘Drive Mode’ system that allows you to alter throttle response, steering feel, stability control thresholds and the reactions of the freshly-developed 8-speed PDK auto gearbox that’s now standard-fit across the range. Plus there’s a ‘Sport Response’ button that helps with a burst of acceleration when you need it. All the engines on offer are well capable of providing that. Only the entry-level 3. 0-litre V6 petrol and diesel units can be ordered in rear-driven form - the base petrol model puts out 330bhp and can be specified with 4x4 traction as an option. All other Panameras have 4WD and feature the three fresh biturbo engines introduced into the second generation line-up. There are two new petrol units, the 440bhp 2. 9-litre V6 used in the ‘Panamera 4S’ and the 550bhp 4. 0-litre V8 used in the ‘Panamera Turbo’. Both also make an appearance in the petrol/electric ‘E-Hybrid plug-in variants. The other fresh powerplant is the 422bhp 4. 0-litre V8 Diesel used in the ‘Panamera 4S Diesel’ model, a searingly quick variant that’s also capable of up to 42. 2mpg on the combined cycle and as much as 176g/km of CO2.
Shut your eyes, picture what a four-door Porsche 911 sports coupe might be like and you won’t be a million miles away from the reality of the Panamera. The original version of the car set out to deliver on that brief too, but never quite managed it, sleek from some angles but distinctly awkward from others. Everyone seems to be agreed that the second generation model is a much more stylish piece of work, thanks to its longer wheelbase and lowered rear roofline.
Take a seat inside and you get low-set sportscar positioning, while the tall centre console that runs down the middle of the cabin hems you comfortably in, fighter aircraft cockpit-style. Around the gearstick the fiddly little buttons that previously decorated the centre console have been replaced by a shiny black panel that comes to life with touch-sensitive controls once you fire the ignition. Just above lies the other defining feature of the cabin, the huge 12. 3-inch colour touchscreen controlling the now standard ‘Porsche Communication Management’ infotainment system. More screens are found in the instrument binnacle either side of the prominent rev counter gauge. All of it’s configurable to your personal preferences as part of one of the most sophisticated cabins you’ll find anywhere in this segment.
Let’s try the back. Settle in and immediately, you feel a bit more special that you would in rival models thanks to the two individual sports seats that replace the usual bench. Another advantage to the layout is the way that it allows space for the big centre console optionally incorporating the 4. 6-inch colour infotainment touchscreen similar to the one provided on the dash.
The long wheelbase ‘Executive’ model’s 150mm of extra bodylength will allow board-level drivers to really stretch out. Wealthy families meanwhile, can also now consider this car, courtesy of the way that the ‘Sport Turismo’ shooting brake estate incorporates a small ‘2+1’ centre rear seat that could be used for a child.
The market has always offered very fast, very luxurious full-sized Luxury saloons. Rarely though, have they been very rewarding to drive. The Panamera has always been different, very much in a class of its own for boardroom drivers who don’t spend all their lives wafting up and down autobahns. In its original form, it was so nearly a truly great car. So nearly the impressively complete contender the second generation model now is.
In summary, if you still enjoy driving and like the way that this contender looks, you’ll love the way it rewards you at the wheel. The Panamera’s unconventional. It’s unique. But best of all, it’s a proper Porsche.