A diesel-powered Panamera should define all that can go wrong with a Porsche: large, ugly and not even very fast, it should be a car you accept only in the hope that its sales will provide profits which can be ploughed back into making proper Porsches.
Except it’s not like that. I’ve now driven every model in the Panamera range and the one I had imagined I’d like least turns out to be the only one I’d quite like to spend time in.
Diesel power is the making of the Panamera, and the fact that you’re unable to drive it very fast a blessing in disguise. Truth is I’ve never enjoyed driving Panameras at speed, because I’ve never felt that connection you need with a car for its performance to have anything more than novelty value. But choose the diesel and trade power for torque – and the Panamera diesel has more torque at half the revs than even the 4.8-litre, V8-powered Panamera S – and suddenly a car that has always seemed an uncomfortable compromise finds its true purpose.
The installation of the Audi-sourced diesel engine is impeccable and its fuel consumption frankly bizarre. Over 150 gentle but far from saintly miles from home to Goodwood, it did over 47mpg which, if you opt for the long-range 100-litre fuel tank, means a potential range of over 1000 miles. To the average motorist that’s a month between fills. And in that time you notice other Panamera talents you may not have hitertho fully appreciated, such as its fine ride, outstanding refinement and classy interior.
What a contrast to the hybrid version. It’s quicker than the diesel but still not quick, and regardless of what the official claims say uses much more fuel. But instead of the diesel’s silken, effortless power delivery, the hybrid’s is inconsistent, sometimes hesitant and never satisfying. Together they provide one more interesting insight into the arguments for and against petrol/electric hybrids over conventional diesel power. And in this case they create respectively the least and most satisfying cars in their range. Were they the same money, I’d not blink before choosing the diesel. Fact is the hybrid costs over £24,000 more.
Engine: 3-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Top speed: 150mph
Power: 247bhp at 4000rpm
Fuel/co2: 43.5mpg, 172g/km