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Review: Porsche Panamera

Who says sportscars have to be ground-hugging, shorter-than-hip-height, with a cabin just big enough to seat two midgets in comfort? Look at the Cayenne GTS, or even better, the Cayenne Turbo that we featured in the last issue. They are full-size SUVs with 200mm of ground clearance and space for five adults and their luggage. And given pedal-to-the-metal, they can crack a ton before you can count to six.

Porsche has been making really fast but not conventional-looking sportscars for a while now. And the list doesn’t start and end with the Cayenne.

The Panamera has been around for a while too. The Panamera looks at the sportscar idea from a different perspective. The limousine perspective. It can seat four in utter comfort, and we’re not talking about the 2+2 configuration here. We mean four proper seats, four doors and a big boot.

It can be yours in a bunch of engine options ranging from six-cylinder mills to eight-cylinder powerhouses. And the one we’re talking about here is the six-cylinder block propelled by diesel, but more on that later. The diesel Panamera is not new to India – we took it from Mumbai to Delhi, filling up its 100-litre fuel tank just once on the way.

Now, it has gone through a mid-life refresh. It’s got new projector headlamps and new circular daytime running lights running the circumference of the headlamps. And the changes are not confined to the front. The tail lights too have got the treatment, as has the rear bumper. But despite that, the Panamera isn’t even close to being called “good looking” from the back. The hatch release button has been moved to just under the rear wiper for ease of use. Otherwise too, it’s got subtle changes to the sheet metal.

The diesel engine is a V6 that churns out a modest 247bhp and a gigantic 550Nm. Sure, you wouldn’t brag about the Panamera’s power rating at a supercar club, but what it lacks in power, it makes up with torque. To give you an idea, the Audi R8 Plus, the meanest, fastest road-legal Audi R8 makes 540Nm through its V10 engine. That’s 10Nm less than what this diesel Panamera makes.

And when we tested the Audi RS5 and the S6, the S6 – which makes less power and is heavier than the RS5 by almost 200kg – was still faster to 100kph than the RS5. And that was because of the additional torque that the S6 develops.

The torque figure is important, but what is also important is the way the torque is delivered. You don’t need to stack up 4,000 revs to get that sort of spin. It develops its peak torque from just 1,750rpm.

Unfortunately, the Panamera D isn’t available with the highly capable PDK transmission. Instead, what you get is an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission that sends all the juice to the rear wheels. The gearbox is decently quick and doesn’t think twice before skipping ratios and hurrying to the eighth cog, if you’re easy on the throttle. And is therefore highly efficient by sportscar standards. It’ll return 11kpl on the highway, including a few bursts of spirited driving, and 8.5kpl in the city.

Now, despite the diesel engine, it’s no slowpoke. It’s capable of hitting 100kph from standstill in just 6.75 seconds. As for flat-out driving, it’ll do a claimed 244kph given an open stretch of road.

The Panamera isn’t one of those cars that are good only in a straight line. It doesn’t fear the sight of a bend. In fact, it will stick to its line happily. Sure, doing that, it does lean a bit, but not so much that you should worry. And the steering, you ask? It gives you the best of both worlds. It’s extremely light by sportscar standards at city speeds, but is communicative and gives just the right amount of feedback going through a corner. And it’s accurate too.

If there’s something to complain about in the Panamera, it is its ability to shed speed. The brake pedal doesn’t have enough feedback, and at high speeds, you feel the need for more bite.

Still, it is one nice-riding sportscar, the Panamera. It soaks up bumps with ease and stands true to its limousine character when it comes to ride. Even when you select the stiffest suspension setting. Inside, it’s a sportscar like no other. The cabin is more luxurious and spacious than any other car in its class. Packed with gizmos like the 360-degree cam, four-zone climate control and every other goody that you’d expect from a luxury car.

The rear too gets individual entertainment systems with a touchscreen and wireless headsets. Of course, that’s an optional extra. What you get standard are comfortable bucket seats, individual climate control and generous space.

The Panamera plays two roles at the same time – a great driver’s car and a comfortable limousine, if  you wish to take the rear seat. Of course, Porsche is not giving you all that for cheap. The updated Panamera D will set you back Rs 1.23 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi). And if you spec it decently, we reckon it’ll touch the Rs 2 crore mark, after duties and taxes.

Even with that, it is one sportscar you would love to have. It doesn’t disappoint, irrespective of which seat you pick. And with that oil burner under the hood, it’ll go the distance without burning a large hole in your pocket.

The numbers
2,967cc, V6, 247bhp, 550Nm, diesel, 8A, RWD, 0-100kph: 6.75sec, 30-50kph: 1.56sec, 50-70kph: 1.95sec, 80-0kph: 24.07m, 2.33sec, city kpl: 8.5, highway kpl: 11, top speed: 244kph*, Rs 1.23 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)

The verdict
A versatile sportscar that’ll seat four in comfort. Diesel engine makes it the most practical and economical sportscar to own.

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