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First drive: Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.

First drive: Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid
We sample three different versions of the impressive new Porsche Panamera line-up. Which is best?

   



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Porsche Panamera

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Porsche brings us the third-generation Panamera - codenamed '972' or 'G3', whatever's yer poison - with a strong tilt towards electrification and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). We've already sampled the car as the magnificent Turbo E-Hybrid, which we're revisiting here for a track session and a closer look at the Porsche Active Ride (PAR) suspension set-up, but we're also sampling the two non-hybrid, V6-powered entry-level models too. Which is the best one of them all?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Porsche Panamera
Price: Panamera from 79,500 for car as tested
Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power: 353hp at 5,400-6,700rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,900-4,800rpm
Emissions: 219-239g/km
Economy: 26.9-29.7mpg
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds (with Sport Chrono)
Top speed: 169mph
Boot space: 494-1,328 litres

Model: 2024 Porsche Panamera 4
Price: Panamera from 79,500, Panamera 4 as tested from 82,500
Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive
Power: 353hp at 5,400-6,700rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,900-4,800rpm
Emissions: 230-253g/km
Economy: 25.2-28mpg
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds (with Sport Chrono)
Top speed: 168mph
Boot space: 494-1,328 litres

Model: 2024 Porsche Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid
Price: Panamera from 79,500, Turbo E-Hybrid as tested from 141,400
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged petrol plus 140kW electric motor
Battery: 25.9kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive
Power: petrol 519hp at 6,000rpm, electric 190hp at 3,200rpm, system max 680hp at 5,500-6,800rpm
Torque: petrol 770Nm at 2,330-4,000rpm, electric 450Nm at 700-2,971rpm, system max 930Nm at 1,600-4,900rpm
Emissions: 26-38g/km
Economy: 166.2-235.4mpg
Electric driving range: 47-56 miles
0-62mph: 3.2 seconds
Top speed: 196mph (hybrid mode, 87mph electric)
Boot space: 421-1,255 litres

Styling

All 972 Panameras are going to be fastbacks, let's get that disappointment out of the way first. And yes, we said 'fastback': Porsche itself loves to refer to it as a saloon, but as the rear tailgate is hinged at the top of the now-frameless screen back there, it's technically a five-door and therefore a fastback. Moving on from this incredibly banal car-classification TED talk, what we mean when we say disappointment is that there will be no G3 Sport Turismo this time around, because 1) the previous G2 estate represented fewer than one-in-ten global Panameras sold, and 2) its boot was never much bigger than the one on the standard-bodied car, so - regrettably - Porsche sees no reason to bring it back for a fresh outing.

No matter; the resulting five-door saloon... er, sorry, we mean, fastback, is a very handsome thing, even if - from many angles - it's not entirely clear you're looking at the new one. It appears to be remarkably similar to the 971 Panamera, especially at the back with its full-width light strip and sloping hatch (more neatly integrated rear screen notwithstanding), and along the crisp, clean, unfussy flanks of the car. Your easier signifiers of the newness of the G3 come at the front, where its wings are more prominently raised to make you subconsciously think of the iconic and long-serving 911, while a square lower air intake and a strip-like vent in the front bumper are other clues. The four-point-signature LED headlamps are a different shape too, while the lines running longitudinally down the bonnet are more pronounced on the 972 than they were on the 971.

The overall effect is of an aesthetically pleasing car, which can be augmented with things like the luscious Madeira Gold paint and motorsport-esque centre-lock alloys. These latter items are going to be more commonly found on the Turbo E-Hybrid, rather than the Panamera and Panamera 4 V6 variants, and the flagship PHEV also gets further bespoke styling cues. These include a more aggressive, wider-looking lower air intake at the front, a contrast-painted diffuser panel at the rear which houses the quad exhausts, and of course model-specific badging on both the front doors and the tailgate. There is also much use of Turbonite, a silver-grey colour exclusive to the, um, Turbo (clue's in the name, folks), which is used for most of the exterior detailing - right down to the company's fabled shield crest on the nose of the fastest Panamera PHEV.

Interior

'Taycan' its inspiration from the analogous electric vehicle (see what we did, there?) in Porsche's own product portfolio, the G3 Panamera has an interior with many of the Taycan's cabin features in situ. This includes the attractive and easy-to-use 12.6-inch Curved Display cowlless instrument cluster, the placement of the gear selector on the main fascia next to the steering wheel, and the option of a 10.9-inch Passenger Display to keep front-seat occupants entertained on long journeys. The Porsche Communication Management (PCM) 10.9-inch central touchscreen continues too, with the German company keeping the climate controls separate to this on a physical panel where the gearlever would once have resided. Material quality is largely excellent in the Panamera's passenger compartment, so it's a nice place to be, and once again the Turbo E-Hybrid gets some Turbonite accents to lift its ambience above that of the 'regular' V6 versions of the car.

Practicality

Any 972 Panamera, no matter what's under the bonnet, will easily seat four tall adults in comfort. This is because this five-metre-plus machine has a monster 2,950mm wheelbase, which means kneeroom is generous in the back; headroom is also maximised through the use of considerable scalloping to the roof-lining in the rear. However, every Panamera is a four-seater as standard, with the '4+1' option bringing in the third three-point seatbelt in the back. Not much point choosing this, though, because the transmission tunnel is so wide and the squab so narrow that someone sitting there would have to splay their legs either side of the central construct in the footwell and then perch on a stupidly slender seat. Balancing this, the boot is good at 494 litres with all seats in use and then rising to a most useful 1,328 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding backrests of row two folded down. But the PHEVs suffer once again - the battery pack goes under the floor of the cargo area, so the Turbo E-Hybrid (and the two other launch models we're not trying here, the 470hp Panamera 4 E-Hybrid and the 544hp Panamera 4S E-Hybrid) sees its numbers cut to 421-1,255 litres.

Performance

As we've already driven the Turbo E-Hybrid on the roads - read James' thorough review by clicking the link in the Intro section up top - then we'll start with the 'entry' models. Both the Panamera (no subtext model badging necessary) and the Panamera 4 are powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, delivering 353hp and 500Nm. This same unit is the one which forms the basis of the 4 E-Hybrid and 4S E-Hybrid drivetrains, so in essence the only launch variant of the G3 which doesn't use the V6 is the Turbo E-Hybrid.

The difference between the two plain-petrol Panameras all comes down to how many driven wheels you want. The cheapest version is the car which we'd once have referred to as a 'Panamera 2'. It is the only rear-wheel drive 972 in the range, the outputs from its V6 heading to the trailing axle through a PDK twin-clutch gearbox. Expect 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, or five seconds dead if you option up the desirable Sport Chrono package, with a top speed approaching 170mph. Economy is officially in the high 20s for combined mpg, CO2 is less than 240g/km across the board.

Throw another three grand at the problem and the Panamera 4 comes into play. This sends drive to the front wheels as well as the rears through Porsche Traction Management (PTM) four-wheel drive, which adds 35kg to the 2WD Pan's 1,960kg EU kerb weight - meaning the Panamera 4 juuuust stays below the two-tonne barrier if you travel in it solo. Equipping the PTM results in a hit on the eco-stats, which we'll discuss more in the Value section below, but it also trims two-tenths off the rear-drive Panamera's 0-62mph times (with or without Sport Chrono), so at its quickest the Pan 4 does the benchmark sprint in 4.8 seconds. The top speed is a nominal 1mph slower than the rear-wheel-drive Porsche, although the two cars' gearing is exactly the same, both in terms of each ratio and the final drive.

With what look like modest stats of 353hp and 500Nm to go at, you might think these V6 Panameras feel slow. Well, they don't. For starters, fit them with the optional Sports exhaust and they sound genuinely terrific in Sport and Sport Plus modes, emitting a very Porsche-y growl despite the fact their sextet of cylinders are arranged in a vee and not a flat formation. And while neither car is what you'd call face-bendingly fast, they can both take on swift, smooth overtakes on two-lane roads without any drama at all. These V6 models are deeply impressive, then, in terms of drivetrain power and performance.

The Turbo E-Hybrid is a different beast altogether, though. Its 4.0-litre biturbo V8 and 140kW (190hp) electric motor combine to serve up colossal outputs of 680hp and 930Nm - although that's some way off the Cayenne Turbo E-Hybrid's corresponding 739hp/950Nm data. The reason for this is the Panamera uses a PDK, not a Tiptronic auto, and also because the fastback Porsche is lighter than the Cayenne at 2,435kg; still portly, but not hulkingly heavy.

With a 3.2-second on-paper 0-62mph time and a 196mph hybrid top speed (it can do 87mph on electric power alone), the Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid is an absolute animal. It has any-revs, any-gear shove of such ferocity that you'll be convinced it's actually lighter than the V6 models, not getting on for 500 kilos fatter, and it also sounds utterly tremendous too. PHEV it may be, but this flagship is truly deserving of its capital-T 'Turbo' moniker, no doubt about it.

Ride & Handling

Again, we'll focus on the Panamera and Panamera 4, which we drove extensively on road. The good news is that, as you'd expect of Porsche sports saloons (fastbacks!), they're fantastic to drive. The standard suspension set-up for all cars is twin-chamber adaptive air suspension with the fancy new two-valve Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers seen on the recently facelifted Cayenne range, and in the Panamera it's a doozy. It blends epic body control with a comfortable, controlled (if taut) ride that makes the Pan a delight in the corners, just as much as it is relaxing and cosseting to cruise in.

Its cause is helped no end by steering which is, once again, out of the top drawer from this German outfit. Step either car through Normal, Sport and Sport Plus, and while you can feel the change in weighting and response through the rim of the majestic wheel, you can also discern that the steering is just about perfection in every mode. It makes placing the Panamera - a physically large car, remember - a breeze and lets the driver build an instant, meaningful rapport with the car's chassis.

If we have anything to note here, it's that the additional driven axle on the Panamera 4 does not corrupt this steering at all, so if you absolutely need PTM then you don't lose anything by opting for the more expensive V6 car. Conversely, we'd say the Pan '2' and Pan 4 drive in such a similar fashion - save for a bit more scrabbling from the rear tyres of the former out of tighter corners; it could do with the PTV+ diff, although it does make it entertaining in an oversteer-y fashion - that if we were buying the car, we'd save our money and opt for the lighter petrol version.

The bad news for this impressively assured kinematic display comes in two forms. The first is that there is one fly in the Panamera's refinement ointment, in that on rougher road surfaces it can generate quite a significant amount of road roar in the back of its passenger compartment at speed; it's not unbearably loud, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is noticeable enough to comment upon.

The second point is that, once you've tried a Panamera equipped with PAR, you will not want the standard suspension set-up in the slightest. This thing is pure witchcraft. We've seen fully active suspension systems in the industry before, of course, as Mercedes-AMG was doing this sort of thing ten years ago with its S 63 Coupe, but as ever with Porsche, it just seems to have executed the technology better than anyone else.

PAR, only available on the E-Hybrid Panameras because it needs their PHEV electrical systems to power it, dispenses with physical anti-roll bars, then switches the twin-chamber air springs at all four corners to units with one massive chamber apiece instead. It then uses phenomenally clever control technology to pre-emptively predict when the car is going to pitch (rapid acceleration), dive (heavy braking) or roll (fast cornering), inputting up to three degrees of tilt to the body in four directions (forward, backward, left, right) to negate any significant movement of the passenger compartment before such a thing can even happen under the expected laws of physics.

It means that when you watch a PAR-equipped Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid driving at 31mph over the sort of bumps that would have a Mercedes G-Class thinking twice about its life choices, or you see it doing full-bore standing starts and anchors-on emergency stops with its hazard-warning lights flashing frantically, or you observe it making high-speed direction changes that would normally massively unsettle 2.4-tonne machines, it just takes them all in its stride with the body of the car remaining utterly, preternaturally flat throughout. Driving a car with it fitted is, in a sense, even weirder, because your brain cannot compute how the body is not moving, even when you can sense the enormous forces involved in hurling a 2,460kg, 680hp, 196mph vehicle about like it's a hot hatch.

It should be pointed out that Porsche views PAR's trickery as a comfort feature (there's a Comfort Entry subroutine which makes the car pop up 55mm on its suspension as soon as you open the door, for instance, to make getting into and out of it that bit easier on your aching old hips) and if you slot any E-Hybrid with it fitted into Sport Plus then it won't do its full range of movement. But on track, after thrashing the Turbo E-Hybrid as much as possible and being mighty impressed by its handling capabilities on a circuit, we then we allowed to try the active tilt function - and it's a fantastic system that leans the entire car into corners, like a motorcyclist on their bike. We're eager to try a PAR-equipped Turbo E-Hybrid for longer, on the road this time, to see just how good this active suspension set-up really is, but on this showing it's the definite star choice in the Panamera's range of options.

Value

The Panamera starts at 79,500 for the rear-wheel-drive V6, with the Panamera 4 from 82,500. Standard equipment is generous on them both, although they have less kit from the factory than the E-Hybrids as Porsche uses drivetrains to denote trim-grade specifications. And there are still plenty of options which can push their prices higher. Also, the extra weight and driven wheels of the Panamera 4 means it cannot slip into a lower tax bracket for year one, no matter what size of alloy you fit it with - the rear-drive can, if kept on its standard 19s, cost you only 1,565 in year one VED, as opposed to 2,220, although it too slips into the higher bracket on larger wheels.

The Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid, meanwhile, packing the only V8 in the G3 line-up and having almost double the horsepower and torque of the V6 models, starts from a far more daunting 141,400, but therein lies the dichotomy of the whole Panamera family. At its most basic, you could almost consider it a rival to the likes of the Audi A6/A7, BMW 5 Series et al; when you start fitting it with 680hp drivetrains and magical suspension, it immediately becomes an alternative to the exalted four-doors of the world, such as the distantly related Bentley Flying Spur. That's kind of how you have to frame its asking prices, which then makes the Porsche look good value despite the (in isolation) high-level windscreen stickers.

Verdict

It could have been the case that the ascendency of the Taycan would spell the end for the Panamera - after all, why have a part-electric Porsche when you can go for a full electric if you like? However, we're very glad the Panamera is back and, instantly, it goes down as one of the very finest sports 'saloons' you can buy right now. Great to drive from base model to flagship, then aside from the occasionally elevated cabin noise on the move, about our only complaint of the 972 G3 is that we won't get a Sport Turismo this time around. Otherwise, it's absolutely brilliant... but, to answer our question at the outset, get the Turbo E-Hybrid. It really is worth the huge additional outlay.



Matt Robinson - 13 Mar 2024



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2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.

2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.2024 Porsche Panamera, Panamera 4 and Turbo E-Hybrid. Image by Porsche.








 

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