Porsche has made its name with lightweight sports cars but in the Panamera Turbo, it pours that performance know-how into a full-sized saloon. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
If you're going to buy a supersaloon, there's a certain logic in buying one with a satisfyingly overstuffed power output. The second generation Porsche Panamera Turbo answers that call and then some, with a 520bhp twin-turbo V8 deploying power through all four wheels. Less a car, more a force of nature.
It's hard to conceive that somebody could get behind the wheel of a V8-powered Porsche Panamera GTS, twist the key, click it into gear, fire it up the road and then figure that this 440bhp missile felt a bit limp-wristed. Yet that person must be out there somewhere, because Porsche has identified a ready market for an even quicker version of its monster saloon. The Panamera Turbo ekes another 80bhp from the twin-turbo 4.8-litre V8, resulting in a car with the acceleration of a vertical-drop roller-coaster. Although there's a lot to be said for the entry-level Panamera V6 as a value proposition, the super powerful models are where Porsche can really begin to leverage its years spent honing competition cars. With the big engine must come big brakes, clever cooling and smart suspension systems. As certain rival manufacturers edge out of their corporate comfort zones, Porsche just gets into its stride.
The Porsche Panamera Turbo will smash its way through 62mph from standstill in little more than 4.1 seconds. Granted, that's hardly something you'd replicate every day, but imagine yourself at the wheel of the car as you switch the Launch Control mode on, click the car into gear, dial in the revs and then sidestep the brake pedal. That's acceleration only a fraction slower than a 911 GT3 or a Lamborghini Gallardo and it's speed that would demolish an Aston Martin DB9. In other words, it's right up there with some of the quickest cars around. Thanks to the Porsche's relatively light weight, it also betters the 600bhp Bentley Flying Spur Speed quite comfortably. Aside from bragging rights is there any need for this leviathan power? In most scenarios no, but if you need a car that can shrug off huge journeys without breaking a sweat, the Panamera is a good choice. Its 189mph top speed means that it is also pretty handy on a deserted autobahn in the small hours. Combined with a seven-speed PDK twin-clutch gearbox it means that time exposed to danger when overtaking is minimised. Rear visibility on all Panameras is tricky due to the high back end and sloping rear window, so you'll value reverse parking sensors.
Design and Build
The styling of this Porsche didn't initially meet with universal approval and the latest facelift has done much to reduce the bloat that seemed to afflict earlier cars, especially when they were specified in pale colours. The evolutionary exterior design of the latest Panamera is apparent in the tighter and more prominent line-work on the nose, particularly the larger air intakes and the distinctive transition to the headlights. In side profile, the sleeker, more swept-back rear window creates an extended silhouette, reducing the bulbous look of the rear end. When viewed from the back, you'll spot a revised tailgate, a wider rear window and spoiler, and a more elegant rear light treatment. Drop inside and you'll find plenty of space for four. You'll find even more rear legroom if you opt for the long wheelbase car, which tacks another 150mm into the wheelbase but unfortunately there don't seem to be any plans to bring that variant to the UK. The centre console is festooned with buttons, arranged around the gear selector in the style of a Vertu cellphone. It looks great but the minor controls take a bit of figuring out. Nevertheless, the build quality appears excellent, with some top-drawer materials used throughout. There's plenty of space in the boot as well, with 445-litres of luggage space.
Market and Model
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll get onto the asking price. You'll need a budget of around £110,000. By any stretch that's quite a sum, but it's easy to see Porsche's justification. Bentley's Flying Spur Speed is nowhere near as capable as the Porsche yet retails at over £150,000, and the far more cramped and much slower Aston Martin Rapide will deprive you of over £146,000. Perhaps the Porsche's most serious rival is Jaguar's XJR, which is a little slower but at around £92,000, a good deal less expensive. Your personal aesthetic will doubtless inform your choice, but on a price versus capability matrix, the Panamera Turbo looks extremely competitive. It's not as if you're just buying a big engine either. The Panamera Turbo features driving control systems that no rival can match. For example, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an active roll stabilisation system, boosts cornering stability while Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) applies a variable torque split to the rear wheels which, in combination with an electronically controlled rear limited slip differential, ensures superior traction. The Sport Chrono Package Turbo, which tunes the suspension settings and engine controls, offers an even more focused feel when the Sport Plus button is pressed. Completing the dynamic enhancements is a sports exhaust system that opens valves in the system to deliver a suitably spine-tingling note.
Cost of Ownership
If you're intent on buying a 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged petrol-engined car that weighs two tonnes when fuelled up, it's fair to say that you need to be prepared for some fairly stratospheric running costs. Use the throttle as Porsche designed it and you'll see single figure fuel economy figures, although quite how Porsche manage to spoof the NEDC tests to generate a 27.7mpg combined economy figure is probably why they're the boffins and I am merely the bamboozled. Insurance is a top-of-the-shop Group 50 and emissions are a comparatively impressive 239g/km. Depreciation is bound to be hefty and if the Panamera Turbo is anything to go by, you can expect the Turbo to be clinging onto around 52% of its new value after three years. Even in Porsche's somewhat otherworldly demographic for sample Turbo customers, this remains a significant outlay.
Although its styling still hasn't found universal approval, you'd be hard pushed to find any detractors of the Porsche Panamera's engineering and the further up the scale you ascend, the more impressive it becomes. This reaches its apogee with the Panamera Turbo, where a 520bhp haymaker is the big draw. Just as many of its rivals begin to get a little ragged at this level of performance, Porsche just starts to get into its stride and there's a suspicion that were it so minded, Porsche could up the ante yet again. There are a growing number of premium rivals to the Panamera Turbo, but none that offers such an intriguing compromise between performance and practicality. It maybe over the top, but if you're going to do over the top, might as well do it properly.