The power didn’t surprise me – it’s a Porsche after all and even though it has “only” 221kW, it still provides a huge thrust thanks to its 650Nm of torque.
I was also not surprised by the agile handling – despite its two-ton mass and four-door body, the Panamera is every inch a Porsche, after all.
But I was surprised by the comfort of the cabin and the ride on a long journey, which was limousine-like. My wife, who seldom says anything about fancy cars other than to complain about bad seats, sore back or the fact that they often bounce over imperfections on their racetrack-stiff suspensions, was amazed: This is really smooth. It’s wonderful.
Yet, the biggest surprise – you may call my flabber well and truly gasted – was the fact that the Panamera got to the Berg and back on one tank of fuel.
The trip meter read just under 1100km when I dropped it back at Porsche Centre Johannesburg. The fuel reserve light had not yet come on and there was enough fuel left in the 80-litre tank for a further 250km, according to the trip computer.
The trip computer showed the average for the trip – at anything but dawdling speeds – was just 6.0 litres per 100km.
Now, to put that in perspective, there are only a handful of other cars which would have done better than that – same trip, same load, same speed – and they would have been smaller, diesel sedans. And even then, they would have struggled to stay with the big Panamera (and would probably have used more fuel in the process).
Standing next to the Panamera, I realised that Porsche had done the seemingly unthinkable: produced a sportscar with an econo-car thirst.
The reason for the Panamera’s economy is that superb 3.0 V6 turbodiesel under the 911-like front end. Nothing ever fazes it – whether cruising at an indicated 137km/h at exactly 2000rpm or powering up twisty hillsides in the dark. Or tootling through traffic in town.
There were those who bemoaned Porsche’s “selling out” of the idea of pure sports cars when the Panamera first appeared on the scene a few years ago.
This was merely some big barge, like a Benz, and without the DNA of the 911s and 356s which gave the marque its illustrious motor racing pedigree, they said.
The faithful had said the same thing about the Cayenne SUV, introduced a few years before the Panamera, as something which was moving away from the core business of the sports car-maker.
Yet the Germans astutely looked at their target market: while some might own a 911 and loved the brand, they would have to “make do” with a BMW or Merc for their sedan transportation needs. And, Porsche wondered: we do sports cars better than they do, so why not offer the customers a better SUV and a better sedan?
Around the world, they have been proved right and the Cayenne particularly has shown that buyers want Porsche quality. A smaller SUV, the Macan, just launched, is set to similarly stir up the mid-sized SUV market with new levels of performance and dynamics.
The big question, though, about the Panamera, is whether it works. Not as a sporting sedan – that goes without saying, in dynamic terms – but as a pure design.
From some angles, it does look awkward, but there is no denying it looks unmistakably Porsche, and not some paint-by-numbers anonymous blob.
The front, I must say, is better than the back and from the side you can better appreciate the design, which looks more balanced.
It’s a striking car.
Inside, the seats (as my wife will testify) are some of the best in the business and most of the bits and pieces you’d expect in a car costing a million rand are there. What does set the Panamera – and any Porsche – apart is the driving position. There is a simple but elegant leather-trimmed steering wheel, which sits vertically, as all racing wheels do. In front of you, there is a large rev counter (as in all racing machinery). The rest, as the song says, is scenery.
On the move, the spritely car comes into its own, and this is not the fastest there is. It will hit 100km/h in less than seven seconds, even at Highveld altitude, and there are twin-turbo petrol V8s too.
Despite the large outside dimensions, behind the wheel you feel you are driving something much more compact. Drive to the rear wheels is through a silky smooth eight-speed auto transmission, so smooth that you really need the gear position indicator in the rev counter to tell you exactly where you are.
The car goes where you point it, in a quiet and silky way quite unlike other Porsches I have driven, most of which are more raucous.
There’s also an air of understatement about the car… perhaps because, with that badge, there really is no need to shout in a vulgar way.
This is a really sophisticated, cross-country luxury express which can kick up its heels and race, too.
It is yet another tick for Germany’s talented motor engineers.
Engine: 3-litre, six-cylinder turbodiesel
Fuel requirement: Low sulphur (50ppm) diesel
Gearbox: Eight-speed Tiptronic S
Power: 221kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 650Nm @ 1750rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 6.0 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 259km/h
Price: R1 034 000
Maintenance Plan: Three-year DrivePlan
In the city, we got about 9.0 to 10 l/100km, but on the open road, at 120km/h, you should be able to sneak in at under 6.0 l/100km. Given the performance and size of the car, that is simply phenomenal.
CO2 emissions (claimed): 169g/km
Audi A7 3.0 TDI BiT quattro (230kW/650Nm) - R933 000
BMW 640d Gran Coupe (230kW/630Nm) - R1 037 668
Article by: Saturday Star