Review: Porsche Panamera (2009 – 2017)
A real feelgood super saloon. Stunning performance from most engines. Luxurious refinement but still great to drive. Practical with a large boot and masses of rear space.
Styling divides opinion.
Porsche Panamera (2009 – 2017): At A Glance
For years Porsche's model range was limited to the iconic 911. A great car but it meant the German firm could never expand beyond the realms of expensive two-seater performance machines. The more affordable Boxster changed that followed by the Cayman and in recent years the large Cayenne - now Porsche's most popular model - showed that Porsche wasn't confined to just sports cars.
The news that Porsche was to build a four-door luxury saloon was still a surprise to many though, especially when it's going to be in a market that includes the Audi A8, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Jaguar XJ. The Panamera doesn't disappoint though - it still feels like a Porsche and offers something different from other luxury saloons.
For starters there are the looks - not to everyone taste - and quite sensitive to different colours and wheel sizes, but it's fair to say that it's unlike any other four-door of its size and makes alternatives like the BMW 7 Series look bulky and cumbersome. Then there's the way it drives. It's obviously larger and heavier than the 911 but it still has a Porsche 'feel' to it with great steering, sharp handling and sublime performance from all the engines.
It's still a luxury car though with a forgiving ride and a purposeful cabin that's very different from what the competition offers plus it has huge amounts of space for rear passengers. And it's not short on performance either with V6 and V8 petrol engines providing thunderous pace along with a suitably sport noise. In 2011 Porsche added a hybrid model to the line-up along with - crucially - a diesel. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is also used by the Audi A8 and means the Panamera can average a claimed 43.5mpg giving it far more appeal.
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Porsche Panamera (2009 – 2017): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 335–1263 litres
We call it a saloon but the Panamera is technically a hatchback which means a decent sized boot plus you can fold the back seats for extra carrying space which although may seem unlikely, does make the Panamera more practical than other cars in this class, even if it is for the odd trip with a bike in the back or a Fortnum and Masons hamper.
Otherwise this big car is strictly a four seater with superbly comfortable and supportive seats and acres of room for everyone on board. It's limousing like in the back and wonderfully cosseting but the rear drama is in the front. Rather than a BMW style iDrive system, Porsche has gone the other way and given most main functions a button, arranged on the large central stack which runs the length of the cabin.
In theory this sounds like it would be button overload but it actually works well and once you've worked out where the key switches are, it's easier than navigating menus and sub-menus with a dial. The Panamera may be a large saloon, but the focus is still on the driver with a great driving position and controls wrapped around. The instrument cluster has five nice big dials - although one of them is actually a digital display and can be changed to whatever you want from the trip computer to - very usefully - the sat nav map.
There's no getting away from the fact this is a big, broad (over six feet) and rather squat saloon and as a result its thick pillars and swoopy glass tailgate make rear three quarter vision pretty awful. But that's one of very few criticisms. The interior is a rather sumptuous space, which manages to look efficient, modern and decadent all at the same time. Indeed, the whole car is very nicely made, with tiny panel gaps, great attention to detail and the sort of finish something as expensive as this should have.
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What's the Porsche Panamera (2009 – 2017) like to drive?
- Engines range from Panamera Diesel to Panamera Turbo S
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 22–50 mpg
Mechanically, the Panamera has more in common with the Cayenne because its engine sits at the front, with the transmission immediately behind it - plus some versions have all four wheel drive for better traction and acceleration.
Initially there was the Panamera S with a 4.8 litre V8 engine that develops 400PS and has a top speed of 177mph and takes just 5.6 seconds to go from 0-62mph. The Panamera 4S adds four-wheel drive and thanks to the added traction covers 0-62mph in just 5.0 seconds. And sounds great while it's doing it.
The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual, which Porsche expects to be widely ignored. Instead it suggests most buyers will go for the seven-speed PDK automatic, which in a design world first for an automatic, has an engine stop/start device. Previously such things have only been seen on manual cars. This works painlessly when trundling in traffic, bar the occasional very slight mechanical shudder. The transmission changes ratios promptly, although sometimes when it kicks down there's a lot of revving before the Panamera takes off like a scalded cat.
If you've got deeper pockets and need even more speed then the Panamera Turbo is the version to go for. It uses the same 4.8-litre engine but thanks to the addition of the turbocharger, power goes up to a thunderous 500PS with 700Nm of torque - incredible figures for a saloon car. The PDK gearbox is standard (thankfully) and it accelerates from 0-62mph in a mere 4.2 seconds, helped by the fact it gets four-wheel drive as standard. It is frighteningly fast and it still sounds great without too much of the odd suction noise from the back which is a gripe of the 911 Turbo.
In June 2010 Porsche added an entry-level model which is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine producing 300PS along with 400Nm of torque. Simply known as the 'Panamera' it is also available with four-wheel drive but just because this is the base model, it's far from the poor relation. It's a smooth engine but still has plenty of character and that unmistakable Porsche noise from the exhausts. 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds in the manual while choosing the PDK drops this to 6.3 seconds. There's also an economy benefit in choosing the PDK as the claimed consumption drops from 25.0mpg to 30.4mpg while emissions decrease too.
To drive the Panamera is a mass of contradictions. You can choose various suspension settings, but even on the most sporting it rides really well. The steering is light and crisp, it corners with roll free precision and yet still feels relaxing and effortless to drive. The two wheel drive versions are, if anything, slightly more entertaining in the real world because their limits are more easily attained, yet the Turbo remains a very special car indeed.
The Panamera feels light on its feet and confidence inspiring for a big, heavy car, but you'd never apply to it the motoring cliché that it shrinks round the driver, and the car's Transit van width means that hurrying it along narrow lanes and meeting something coming the other way makes you glad of the excellent brakes. It also sounds great, goes like the clappers (especially the turbo, which unspools its 500bhp in a very civilised way), is beautifully made and engineered, plus has plenty of charisma.
Big changes came in September 2011 when Porsche added a Turbo S version with (even) more power - up to 550PS and an incredible 800Nm of torque. As a result going from 0-62mph takes 3.8 seconds and on the Autobahn it will reach 190mph. Quickly.
But the real interest for many was the launch if the Hybrid and Diesel models. The latter being if particular interest. The diesel used is a 3.0-litre V6 - the same one that powers the Cayenne as well as the Audi A8, Volkswagen Phaeton and various other. It's supremely quiet and refined and most of the time it's hard to even hear the engine.
That said, Porsche has worked on the exhaust system so that there's is a nice sporty sound when you accelerate (rather than a gruff diesel noise). It's not quiet as quick as the likes of the Jaguar XJ diesel (also a 3.0-litre V6) but it certainly doesn't feel sluggish with super fast changes from the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox which is fitted as standard (rather than the PDK).
It's maybe not what you'd expect from a Porsche - even if this is a big saloon - but it makes plenty of sense. In everyday driving it's still plenty quick enough with great in-gear performance and goes from 50mph to 75mph in 4.5 seconds - about the same as the 300PS V6 petrol model. But the big advantage is obviously fuel economy with a claimed average of 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of just 173g/km. Suddenly business users and top of the tree company car drivers can seriously consider a Porsche.
At the same time the Panamera S Hybrid was launched. This uses a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine producing 333PS alongside an electric motor which adds a further 47PS. Emissions are just 159g/km while economy is 41.5mpg. It's an impressive machine and a big improvement on the Cayenne Hybrid with a more performance feel and better acceleration.
|Panamera||25 mpg||6.8 s||265 g/km|
|Panamera 4||29 mpg||6.1 s||225 g/km|
|Panamera 4S||26 mpg||5.0 s||254 g/km|
|Panamera 4S PDK||31 mpg||4.8 s||208 g/km|
|Panamera Diesel||44 mpg||6.0 s||169 g/km|
|Panamera GTS||27 mpg||4.4 s||249 g/km|
|Panamera PDK||32–33 mpg||6.1–6.3 s||196–203 g/km|
|Panamera S||23 mpg||5.6 s||293 g/km|
|Panamera S E-Hybrid||91 mpg||5.5 s||71 g/km|
|Panamera S Hybrid||42 mpg||6.0 s||159 g/km|
|Panamera S PDK||27–32 mpg||5.1–5.4 s||204–247 g/km|
|Panamera Turbo||25–27 mpg||3.8–4.1 s||239–270 g/km|
|Panamera Turbo S||27 mpg||4.1 s||239 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Porsche Panamera (2009 – 2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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