Porsche Panamera Diesel 2013 665x297

Driven: Porsche Panamera Diesel

Porsche has a tendency to defy convention. It continues to put the engine in their flagship car, the 911, right at the back, hanging over the rear axle, despite physics declaring this to be entirely wrong. The new 918 supercar can hit 215mph and will get round the Nurburgring 30 seconds quicker than any Ferrari, yet is officially more economical than a Toyota Prius and exempt from the London Congestion charge.

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Now there’s the Panamera, a four seater luxury limo that looks like a stretched 911 and, in some specifications, goes every bit as quick. However, to continue the convention defying theme, Porsche has done the unthinkable and dropped a diesel engine under the bonnet in a bid to appeal to company car drivers who want the performance and image but without being overwhelmed by tax bills.

From the outside it’s very much a Porsche, just bigger. With the front and rear end mimicking as best they can those of the ubiquitous 911, but with four doors slotted in the middle it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Distinctive certainly, but probably not beautiful. The Panamera is unmistakably Porsche though, which is what buyers want.

There’s a lot of it, too. Measuring a little over five metres long, it’s bigger than even a Range Rover, with bulging wheel arches and a long steeply raked front end adding plenty of street presence. Shrinking violets need not apply.

Porsche Panamera Diesel 2013 Instrument Detail Phil Huff FrontSeatDriver.co.ukStep inside and some may be disappointed to find that the Panamera is a strict four seater, despite its obvious bulk. The rear seats, tailored in to individual sports seats, are separated by a solid centre console housing cup holders and iPod storage holes, but that leaves those in the back to enjoy a much more personal experience.

Up front the centre consoles is wider still, with two leather clad beams either side keeping the driver and passenger apart. You sit low, with a five-pod instrument binnacle ahead of you that is a master class in clarity. It all looks very traditional, but one of the pods doubles up as a sat-nav screen, bringing instructions directly in front of the driver.

Porsche Panamera Diesel 2013 Dashboard Phil Huff FrontSeatDriver.co.uk

A large touch screen dominates the centre, with options on there to control virtually any part of the car, while alongside and then down below are banks of switches that look initially overwhelming but soon become second nature to use.

What does strike you about the interior is the sheer quality of workmanship on display. There’s a feeling of solidity that makes every other car suddenly feel a little less special, with each piece of the interior feeling lovingly crafted rather than simply assembled.

Even cars I’ve driven costing three times the price of this Panamera can’t match it for build quality. What would creak and flex elsewhere simply remains resolutely unbudging, no matter how much of my own bulk I put in to it.

Porsche Panamera Diesel 2013 Diesel Detail Phil Huff FrontSeatDriver.co.ukUnder the bonnet there’s a 3.0 litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine sourced from Audi that delivers a healthy if unremarkable 250bhp. However, there’s 550Nm (406 lb/ft) of torque on tap, which means there’s a near constant surge of acceleration as you progress through all eight of the gears.

There’s no need to change gear yourself though, with the Panamera diesel only being available with a traditional automatic gearbox, although there are steering wheel mounted paddles for when you want to mix things up manually. There’s really no need though, as the electronics do a very good job of putting it in the right gear at the right time, only getting caught out occasionally in slow moving traffic around town.

All that craftsmanship and sheer quantity of sheet metal means that the car does weigh in at nearly 1.9 tonnes though, and that is something that becomes quite apparent when driving the car with, shall we say, a degree of enthusiasm.

Porsche Panamera Diesel 2013 Cabin Overview Phil Huff FrontSeatDriver.co.ukThis is very much a car in the Grand Tourer style, able to transport you with an alarming degree of pace from one end of a continent to the other without leaving you ruffled in any way. Show it a sweeping ribbon of cross country tarmac and it will engage and entertain as well as anything else on the road. The steering, both lightweight yet also communicative, is a joy to work with.

However, test it on some tortuously twisty sections, or even take it on track for an afternoon, and eventually it’s found wanting. The front will simply understeer wide, with the electronics unable to defy the laws of physics. It can be forced in to a dramatic tail-out powerslide, but it’s all rather inelegant.
Keep the speeds to a sensible level and you’re rewarded with a supremely capable car. Keep them to well within legal limits of the UK and you’re also rewarded with a surprisingly frugal car, with my test model returning 50.3mpg on a late night motorway run from York back home to Cambridge.

If you’re a company car driver, the low CO2 value of 166g/km means you’ll be paying less company car tax than you expect, with a BIK rate of 28% this year, rising to 29% next year. This could just be enough for those with a traditional luxury saloon to look at something a little more involving and distinctive.

Drive one for a few days and you’ll realise just how good the Panamera Diesel really is. It’s not quite perfect, but Porsche is getting remarkably close. One day they’ll hit every mark, and that will be another convention defied.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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1 Comment

  1. I know diesel has come a long way, but still struggle with the idea of a diesel in a high performance sports car.

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