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Week at the Wheel: Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

Week at the Wheel: Porsche Panamera S
Controversy surrounded the launch of Porsche's four-door, but the 'entry-level' Panamera S is a formidable prospect.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Porsche Panamera S |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

The Panamera hasn't been on sale for very long yet it's already a cliché to deride its appearance. As we've said before, it looks better from some angles than others and the paint colour and wheel size play a crucial part in its attractiveness. There's no doubt that it's a striking car though, with the ultra wide and long shape as responsible as the detailing for the stares it tends to draw from passers by.

Porsche purists may not like some aspects of the Panamera's interior either, as it's quite a departure from the beloved 911. Yet it's a significant step forward in terms of quality and design from the Cayenne. It's not perfect by any means, but most of the switchgear is tactile to use and the customisable instrument display is simply fantastic, its highlight being the satnav map output and the intuitive navigation of a memory stick full of MP3s. Admittedly this, and the expanse of buttons on the centre console, take some learning.

In terms of space, the massive exterior translates into pleasantly spacious room for four, with a quartet of six-footers entirely manageable. Sadly they'll need to pack fairly lightly, as the boot isn't huge.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

While most of us here at Car Enthusiast would usually go for the manual option if it's available, it's likely that the vast majority of Panamera buyers will choose Porsche's excellent PDK twin-clutch automatic. Its various modes of operation suit the dual personality of this car too, though, as we've said many times before, we're not fans of the operation of the gearchange toggle switches on the steering wheel.

The 4.8-litre V8 is a gem though, offering up plenty of urge throughout the rev range and endowing the Panamera with real excitement. From the very first gratuitous throttle blip at start-up to the deep rumble emitted at low revs this unit changes personality as the speed rises to emanate a howling bass note that'll have owners dropping a gear or two regularly just for the sake of it. The performance figures also speak for themselves.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

There's a caveat to our five-star rating here, as the test car was fitted with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), adaptive air suspension and the Sport Chrono Package Plus, all expensive options, but absolutely invaluable in ensuring that the Panamera can fulfil its remit as both a luxury cruiser and an engaging sports car. PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) allows the driver to alter the damping between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus, which can be done independently of the PDCC's settings of the same name. So for instance you can press the Sport Plus button, which will alter the throttle map, steering assistance, ride height, stability control system, gearchange strategy and dampers to their most driver-focused settings, and then select Comfort or Sport for the dampers depending on the road surface.

We found that Sport was sufficient for most fast road driving, as the Sport Plus settings are just a little too sharp for most public roads. We did get the opportunity to use them to the full on track though and despite the Panamera's weight and size it makes a very good fist of things, with turn in and direction change particularly impressive. Unsurprisingly, the steel brakes eventually began to fade on track, but they're more than up to the task of hauling the Panamera down from high speed on the road. Through all this the steering is quite keen to let you know the texture of what's under the tyres, while rear end slip is benign and highly controllable if you get carried away. The traction and stability control systems work well too and unobtrusively enough.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

On the one hand, the Panamera S is great value for money as it's the choice of the range, despite being the entry-level model. Standard equipment is pretty impressive too, but a look at Porsche's online configurator reveals that the centre console can look a little sparse without buttons for the Sports exhaust system, damping, etc. Some of those items are absolutely crucial, such as the PDCC chassis, while Porsche then inexplicably charges a few hundred pounds extra for things like a USB interface and colour badges on the wheels.

Overall: star star star star star

I can certainly understand how the Panamera might not make a huge impression on someone after a short drive, certainly if they've already decided that its looks do not appeal, but spending time with the S has shown us that, with a few choice optional extras, its undeniable competence is enough to forgive it almost anything else. Just remember that the balance swings more in favour of the sports car than it does the luxury limousine.

Shane O' Donoghue - 12 Nov 2009



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2009 Porsche Panamera specifications: (with PDK)
Price: £74,555 - including PDK transmission - (optional extras also fitted to test car not included in that price, such as Sport Chrono Package).
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 176mph
Combined economy: 26.2mpg
Emissions: 253g/km
Kerb weight: 1800kg

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera S. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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