Once ungainly but now blooming, Porsche’s coupe-like limo-cum-sports car emerges from finishing school as the Mk2 Panamera
Phrases you never hear in car dealerships, no. 1: ‘What I’m really after is a four-seater coupe, preferably really expensive.’ But Porsche has always been the king of answering questions nobody asked, and has made such of a success of it few of us can now imagine a world without Cayenne, Macan… or Panamera.
The all-new Panam is born, dripping with technology, innovation, improved dynamics and handsome new looks, into a niche where rivals don’t ever seem entirely comfortable. The rare Aston Rapide, the raw Merc CLS, the flabby BMW M6 GranCoupe, the identikit Audi RS7 – all are good without actually winning hearts or minds. And you can add the first Panamera to that list too. The Mk2, however, could be the car to set the segment alight.
This is the first model based on the brand-new modular rwd/awd architecture dubbed MSB, which has been developed by Porsche but will also underpin next year’s Bentley Continental/Flying Spur among others. MSB is a front/mid-engine layout designed for a sweet handling balance even without that transaxle counterweight. Its aluminium-intensive body is lighter, stiffer and easier to adapt for additional bodystyles such as the confirmed shooting brake or the tentative 929 coupe/convertible. Thanks to the long wheelbase, the short front overhang and the low roofline, the proportions are sleek and sexy. It’s a long vehicle though, measuring more than five metres from bumper to bumper, and at 1920kg it is only a touch fighter than the Bugatti Chiron. Even though the Panamera turbo can storm up the speed ladder with almost the same alacrity as its 911-based namesake, the four-door Porsche doubles up as a spacious luxury saloon and it is, especially when you’re prepared to shell out a few extra grand, sumptuously equipped.
The new 4.0-litre 542bhp V8 turbo replaces the barely less muscular but heavier and thirstier 4.8-litre unit. In unison with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission (that’s one extra ratio at no extra cost – they’re really spoiling us!) and a more adventurously laid-out awd system (no prize for guessing in which direction it sends surplus torque), the 32-valve thunderbolt accelerates this anti-establishment four-seater in only 3.6sec from 0-62mph when in Sport Plus mode. In view of the considerable mass and weight, a launch-controlled take-off is always a serious event, and the relentless initial urge keeps increasing up to 125mph when a kind of second-wind thrust pushes the car to about 175mph. From there, it takes a while to climb the 191mph top speed summit. In real life, these numbers are put into perspective by strengths which actually matter, like the explosive in-gear kick, the eagerness to shift down a couple of notches on throttle order, and the inherent voracity for that 680 orpm redline.
Drive this car with more than just a faint trace of enthusiasm, and the transmission will almost immediately adapt, idling the top two ratios, shifting down earlier and holding on to a gear quite a bit longer. Only on the Autobahn do you need seventh gear to max this bespoilered beast. Officially, the average consumption works out at 3ompg, but when the devil inside gets the better of you, don’t be surprised if the on-board computer displays 14.7mpg as it did in our test car. You guessed it: Panamera ownership is not a cheap pleasure. After all, the four 2iin tyres need replacing every so often, the base price can be easily boosted by succumbing to certain persuasions, and when the resale value starts plummeting as it undoubtedly will before long, it’s probably best to be immune to high-anxiety.