Four Doors. Four Seats. Four-Wheel Drive. Formidable

So, in what way exactly is the 2017 Panamera vintage actually superior to last year’s fairly accomplished car? The short answer is, in the way it drives and performs. Plenty of power is one thing, but what really makes a difference is that towering 568lb ft of available torque.

This impressive peak is spread over a wide plateau which plots a flat line from 196rpm to 4500rpm. There is an emotional side to the new engine, too. The optional sports exhaust adds a couple of bass-heavy saxophones to the Porsche big band, the intake air is sucked in with a hoarse stereophonic rustle through the manifold’s mighty lungs, part-throttle action is backed up by an impatient rumble, the pedal-to-the-metal choir climaxes in a dark and dense crescendo. But there is always room for improvement, and this also applies to our high-tech V8. Tip-in, for instance, is a bit untidy for a world- class grand tourer, throttle response is painfully slow when you move the shifter from drive into reverse and vice versa, there is a small dip separating idle-speed valley from torque summit, and the pronounced low-gear upshift kicks in aggro mode feel more GT3 than turbo.

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The boffins prevailed, but not at the expense of design. Panamera now officially sexy

Like every new Porsche, this model is bristling with interest­ing innovations. That’s the good news. The bad news becomes apparent as soon as you look at the price list which confirms that almost all newly invented goodies cost extra. This applies to rear-wheel steering, adjustable anti-roll bars, compound brakes, wide wheels – you name it. The most significant no-cost improvement is perhaps the more competent three-chamber air suspension. The additional chamber increases the oxygen volume by a third, thereby generating extra low-speed compli­ance and a cushier ride without compromising the handling prowess. It’s this reassuring anytime, any-speed comfort advantage which puts the Panamera in a league above the bone-jarring competition, and which consolidates its strength as an absolutely relaxed long-dis­tance cruiser.

Even though it ran on extrara-wide 2iin Michelins, the test car did not indulge in undue harshness, it didn’t tramline excessively, and wheel travel felt sufficiently generous at all times. Rear-wheel steering is an odd option. It’s not something you miss, until you’ve tried it once, liked it and given it a place on the virtual wish-list. By tightening the turning radius below 30mph, rws makes parking and manoeuvring less of a chore. At the other end of the speed range, directional stability is even less of an issue now. For this price one could buy a luxury all-inclusive vacation in Barbados or a set of carbon-ceramic brakes for the new Panamera. Worth it or not? Although the only part of a race track this Porsche will likely visit is the VIP parking compound, the extra-cost brakes are also nice to have cm normal roads. One may never come close to exhausting the system’s strength and stamina, but the brutal instant stopping power can flick up collars and loosen glasses. On uneven turf, dropping the anchors often requires full ABS assistance and always a firm grip at the wheel.

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