Ian Lamming goes left field to assess the latest Porsche Panamera.
IN the good old days when product launches were abroad and took you out of office for days on end my heart used to sink with dread.
Eugh! Left hand drive on the wrong side of the road – what’s that European thing all about? How can you expect to feel comfortable sitting in the passenger seat with the steering wheel and the controls in front, having to change gear with your right hand – wrong, it’s all so wrong.
So when Porsche offers us an early drive of a new model, so early in fact that they are both left hookers, that familiar sinking feeling resurfaces.
And just to make things even more stressie the test cars are the low slung, very wide and much longer than you would expect – and 100K+ – Panamera.
Taking care to avoid walls, fences and kerbs coming out of the venue car park the sweat’s already starting to bead on my brow and soak into my pants.
But I needn’t worry because the new Panamera is so instantly good, absolutely fabulous in fact, that it puts me at ease like a fully masked old chum waving an elbow at me through the Perspex.
At least I’m on the right side of the road – that’s the left, by the way – and the fact I’m hugging the kerb rather than the white line doesn’t seem to matter one bit because I’m enjoying myself.
Now for those who aren’t sure of the Porsche product line-up the Panamera is the saloon of the stable.
It’s like a stretched 911 from the outside, so if you see it head on or square on from the rear you could be forgiven for the mistaken identity. It’s only when you see it from the side that you fully appreciate how long this so called saloon is; it’s proper limo in length. It is wide too, very, very wide.
Inside, and this is part of the reason for feeling so comfortable, it is so comfortable and just plain lovely really. Draw back the blinds of the twin sunroofs and the wonderful cockpit and passenger seats are bathed in light, brightening the mood, even on the glummest of days. You can’t really be glum in a Porsche, it just isn’t aloud, or warranted, or possible.
‘Saloon’ does not capture the essence of Panamera, it really doesn’t. This is a sports car in every way – it just has a bit more practical space than the traditional coupe. That cockpit could only come from Porsche, well it helps that it says so on the sports steering wheel.
There’s the slightly retro take on modern dials, the stunning infotainment centre with massive horizontal touchscreen and peerless switch gear. It all feels as brilliant as it looks and that tactile nature seems to stimulate and heighten your senses.
It is awesome in the rear too, just so comfortable and cossetting, with your own set of controls to while away the hours. Panamera’s interior really is second to none.
So that’s the bodyshell and interior but I did say there were two new models and they come in the form of the 4S E-Hybrid and mightier still Turbo S.
Here’s the shocker – they are both equally impressive for different reasons. For those not in the know, the 4S E-Hybrid could look more ‘entry level’, because it’s a tad cheaper. Pah, I say, forget that, this is one standalone brilliant motor.
The 3.0 V6 sings like an angel and has a whopping electric motor to spice things up even further. It has a sport performance button on the steering wheel which combines both motors to great effect unleashing a beastly 560hp and 750Nm of torque on an unsuspecting world. Yet take it easy and it will return impressive miles per gallon figures.
The extra ballast of the electrical components also gives the 4S incredible balance and poise. On the road it just feels quick, nimble and very planted.
Turbo S offers a different package. It doesn’t eclipse the hybrid at all, it just offers something so different you feel like you are in a different model.
The hot twin turbocharged V8 is a guttural, snarling, animal of a motor offering atom splitting performance and aural delights that set the hairs standing and spine tingling. Check out the 630hp power and 820Nm torque figures. It grips more at the front but the rear dare do nothing else but follow where it is told.
Both Ps are ahead of the queue when it comes to blistering performance, peerless handling and incomparable feel good factor. No wonder I felt instantly at home, even if they did come left of field.
Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid
Engine: 2.9 litre V6 with electric
0-60mph: 3.5 secs
Top speed: 186mph
Combined MPG: 37.2
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 64
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Engine: 4.0 litre V8 with electric
0-60mph: 2.9 secs
Top speed: 197mph
Combined MPG: 21.4
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 289