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Driven: Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Porsche Panamera Turbo S
There's beauty in the beast, as the ballistic Panamera Turbo S proves looks really aren't everything.

 



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Porsche Panamera Turbo S

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Good points: epic drivetrain, wonderful noise, well-appointed and spacious cabin, lovely ride, excellent handling.

Not so good: the looks, Diesel model has vastly superior range for long-distance cruising.

Key Facts

Model tested: Porsche Panamera Turbo S (970)
Pricing: £131,136 basic; £138,346 as tested
Engine: 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed PDK dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 239g/km
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Top speed: 192mph
0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
Power: 570hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 750Nm from 2,250- to 5,000rpm (800Nm from 2,250- to 4,500rpm with Sport Chrono)

Our view:

The price of this car is largely irrelevant. Once you get into the rarefied atmosphere beyond £100,000, the sort of purchase rationalisation involving perceived value for money - that you'd get on, say, a £20,000 Nissan Qashqai - goes out of the window. If you want one of these things, you'll have one of these things, regardless of whether there's a model lower down in the range that's nearly as quick or which is more economical.

So, what might stand in the way of buyers opting for the revised Panamera Turbo S, toting even more power and torque from its twin-turbocharged V8? Well, the same thing that has always blighted Porsche's saloon - its looks. The Panamera is not pretty. Painting it gold is not the answer, either. This finish is called Palladium Metallic and it costs £2,670; even if you've got more money than taste, please don't bother. The Panamera remains bloated from a number of angles, although there are details that work well - such as its big quad exhausts, the spoiler that folds itself out of the sloping rear, the quad daytime running lights at the front and the wider rear track. But now that the Cayenne has been quadruple-distilled into something approaching normality, the Panamera is Porsche's least appealing looker.

However, everything else about the revised Panamera Turbo S is magnificent. I'm not about to drop the old 'once you're in it...' bombshell, but as soon as you've closed its big, solid doors and soaked up the opulent cabin, you immediately feel more predisposed to it. The way the centre console slopes down the transmission tunnel is neat and Porsche's insistence on keeping its steering wheels free from buttons is to be applauded. Although conversely, it hasn't, as yet, gone down the same route as MMI or iDrive; plenty of switches run past either side of the gear lever. Naturally, they're intelligently laid out and the traditional Porsche design - big rev counter central in the cluster, simple black-and-white dials, a seating position that puts your backside right in among the chassis - makes it very pleasant within. Also, there's enough room for four full-sized adults.

Its stats are in the same ballpark as the flat-six 911 Turbo S; the Panamera is a bit heavier on juice/emissions, a tad slower in terms of acceleration and top speed, and it makes 10hp more than the über-991, albeit it is slightly cheaper to buy. Given it weighs 25 per cent more than the 1,605kg 911, the fact the Panamera gets anywhere close to such a performance icon is a testament to the remarkable engineering required to make a two-tonne, all-wheel drive saloon stop and go like this. It is stunning. If you approach it expecting 911-like levels of feedback, you'll be rightly disappointed because the Panamera is a different beast entirely. But among its large, super-fast saloon competitors, it's one of the most involving cars you'll encounter.

It doesn't drive anything like a 911, for a start, due to the simple consideration of the laws of physics. With its engine out front, the Panamera's dynamics are conventional and this filters back to the driver within about three miles of getting to know the Porsche. There's an innate balance to the car, and good weight and linearity to the steering - these facets clearly convey sporting manners, yet nothing about the Panamera is hyperactive. It therefore feels suitably luxurious when cruising, the high comfort levels furthered by both wind noise and the engine being subdued to the point of silence.

Step on the power and, unless you're in Sport or Sport Plus modes, you might be forgiven for thinking the Panamera a trifle tardy. This is due to the laid-back throttle mapping Porsche has given it that makes it a cakewalk to manoeuvre around town. But wake the turbos - with their lighter impellers just one of a handful of technical upgrades that release the S's extra oomph - and the Panamera transforms. Our test car was fitted with the Sports exhaust system (£2,138) and the symphony is tremendous, combining a bark from the exhausts and a creamy roar from the V8. It also has the sort of relentless roll-on pick-up of the truly bonkers quick cars; up to and beyond legal speeds, its brutal accelerative force never abates.

The handling is excellent too, although as brilliant as Porsche's chassis engineers are, in the end the Panamera's mass cannot be fully overcome. If you're intent on driving it like a Cayman GTS, again it will disappoint. But by the same token, a Bentley Flying Spur or Aston Martin Rapide could not hope to match the Panamera's road holding finesse. It limits roll superbly and is reasonably easy to place, but the V8's output can easily overwhelm the traction control, despite the Porsche Traction Management four-wheel drive. The brakes, standard-fit carbon composite items as befitting of a flagship Turbo S model, are faultless.

It also has a sublime ride. Like a good football referee, you spend most of the time not noticing the suspension's workload at all, so well does the Panamera insulate you from the road surface. If you focus hard enough, you can detect an underlying firmness to the set-up that speaks of Porsche's sports car sentiments, but in the vast majority of situations you'll simply marvel at how something on 20-inch wheels (optional £258 Sport Classics) with colossal 295-wide rear rubber soaks up the imperfections of modern-day roads.

The 570hp, 800Nm Panamera Turbo S is astoundingly rapid, better to drive hard than many of its competitors and as superbly damped and refined as other Porsches. So no, it's not cheap and the Diesel would be the better long-distance operator due to its superior range, although an average 22.4mpg across 409 miles of very mixed driving (including regularly using the Panamera's power) is not bad at all from a high-output petrol V8. But, as said, people who want the Turbo S will have the Turbo S. So if you can live with the looks, you'll be very easily able to live with this exceptional Porsche Panamera.

Alternatives:

Aston Martin Rapide S: just revised and clearly batters the Porsche into submission when it comes to kerb appeal. Not as entertaining to drive, though.

Bentley Flying Spur V8: smaller-engined Bentley is about a price match but will be left behind by the Porsche. Even the W12 model would struggle. Exquisitely crafted inside, however, which is the British car's USP.

Maserati Quattroporte: its niche Italian exoticness will appeal to a few and the drive has been improved from its hard-core predecessor. The Porsche remains the better steer.


Matt Robinson - 26 Aug 2014









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2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.



2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo S. Image by Matt Robinson.
 






 

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