Fortunately, the live show is always better than the photographs and, in fact, the Panamera is a fairly large (5 015mm long and 1 931mm wide) vehicle that will transport four occupants in sublime luxury without deviating from the legendary Porsche philosophy of providing sports-car-like performance - even in a four-door vehicle.
The recent launch drive revealed a car with that elusive quality - performance combined with comfort. Suspension settings, as well as choice of different driving modes, have led to the creation of a model range which retains Porsche's legendary ability to retain resale value while providing sheer driving fun and ease of operation without the nervous temperament of its predominantly Italian rivals.
With three models on offer at launch - the Panamera 4S, Diesel, and Turbo - the focus, for obvious reasons, still revolves around the engines, power output, handling and build quality. These are the basic characteristics which have built the Porsche and which the brand will jealously guard.
But back to the engines. There’s good news - for those sceptics among us who still struggle to grasp the inherent value of a diesel-engined vehicle as a potential sports car - in that this 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel has a top speed of 259 km/h and can reach the 100km/h mark in 6.3 seconds thanks to its 228kW of power driving through a brilliant seven-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) gearbox. There's little doubt that this gearbox is the finest currently available. The diesel is rear-wheel-driven.
Joining the diesel (also on 228kW output) is the all-wheel-drive Panamera 4 with its 3.6-litre V6 unit, producing slightly quicker 0-100km/h acceleration figures of 6.1 seconds, but a lower top speed of 257 km/h. When not driven at 257km/h, fuel consumption is a claimed 8.7 litres/100 km/h.
And then we come to the Big Daddy - the 4.8-litre biturbo V8 which delivers 382kW and a top speed of 305 km/h. The 0-100 km/h sprint takes a mere 4.2 seconds - an incredible performance figure for what essentially is a four-door people transporter, albeit an extremely luxurious one. The folks at Zuffenhausen and Weissach claim an average fuel-consumption figure of a mere 10.3 litres/100km, a figure which will be difficult to achieve given that it's not in the nature of Porsche drivers to crawl down to the supermarket at 50km/h.
The interior on all models is a feast of luxury and safety features. From the state-of-the-art PDK gearboxes to the exquisite stitching on the all-leather seats and dashboard, the host of airbags and the all-electric seats' uncanny ability to be adjusted to that perfect driving position, the Panamera has it all.
Legroom, front and rear, is excellent and the boot size should be able to swallow all the luggage required by four people on an extended trip. Even the two rear seats are fully adjustable. With all the adjustments being electric, year-round comfort is assured thanks to separate seat heating and ventilation.
Having driven all the models at launch, I'm convinced that Porsche is that rare organisation: a company which places a premium on research and development, analises market trends accurately and that will never bring to market any vehicle bearing the Porsche name without living up to that name.
|Panamera Diesel||R950 000|
|Panamera 4S||R1 271 000|
|Panamera Turbo||R1 996 000|
Written by Bernard Hellberg