All things considered, the most critical man-machine interface is the steering. But with the arrival of the latest electro-mechanical systems, it became an increasingly abused element which developed a life of its own, boosting artificiality at the expense of feel. In the Panamera, you find nothing like that – no variable calibration, no constantly changing effort, no undue self-correcting and adjusting. Instead, Porsche is continuing its honest and transparent fixed-rate steering strategy, so what you feel is where you go, without amplifier or filter. As a result, the driver is always in control. The car turns in swiftly, oozes haptic confidence, stays on the ball as you wind on more lock, self- centres in one prompt and reassuring gesture. In addition, the steering is precise, not too light and damped just right. On the interaction scale that reaches from divining-rod to autopilot, this direction-finder does indeed establish a compelling level of involvement.
First-generation Panamera owners rarely complained about lack of poke or vague handling, but they were definitely unhappy with the homespun design and the confusing chocolate-bar push-button centre stack. For 2017, the instrument panel has therefore been reinvented, introducing a large centre monitor, rearranged secondary controls, a multi-functional instrument panel and plenty of optional novelties, such as night vision or the amazing Accutron sound system. If zooming, scrolling, swiping and touching is second nature to you, then you are going to love the new layout – except for the impossible to avoid greasy fingerprints which stick out like a rash on the glossy black surface. The main screen contains a complex array of windows that open and close, icons saddled with proximity sensors, various pictograms and even more information than tech hobbits can divulge. Mercifully there are just about enough hard keys left for the basic functions while the steering-wheel controls help to fill the small info screens on both sides of the large analogue rev counter with meaningful content. Conspicuous by its absence is ahead-up display.
With charm and competence, this car can virtually at random combine grand cruiser and sports coupe traits, generating a multi-faceted character which is both relaxed and totally focused. It’s easy to picture an even sportier
GTS version with four bucket seats, a more aggressive software, manual transmission and rear-wheel drive, but that’s not the way Porsche wants to go. Instead, the new Panamera emphasises technology and luxury, fine materials, rear-seat entertainment and the biggest panorama roof in its class. With so much variety to choose from, accessibility may not even stretch to the second level of an obscure submenu. Does one really need to open and close air vents by touchscreen? Is Porsche really the best brand to pioneer InnoDrive, which can see three kilometres ahead and manage progress in the most fuel-efficient but least involving manner? Sometimes, less is more.
The choice of engines evokes similar thoughts. Sure, the 542bhp powerhouse is nice to have, but it is pricey, and there is that social acceptance thing looming in the back of one’s mind. At any rate, the V8 is only running on four pots part of the time. The sole available diesel at launch is a 4.0-litre eight-cylinder rated at 416bhp, which absolutely needs awd to lay down all that grunt. The smartest choice right now is perhaps the 434bhp 2.9-litre V6 which will next year be twinned with a 135bhp e-motor to revive the hybrid moniker. But why choose the V6 over the V8? Because it is a quantum more responsive, more eager and more exciting. It also weighs and consumes less. While it may be the more compelling choice for purists, the Panamera V6 does of course not tick as many must-have boxes as the V8 turbo, which remains the favourite of big spenders with fast fingers, a heavy right foot and – marginally – less of a conscience.