Porsche has just launched the facelifted Panamera in India and it brings with it, a whole host of changes.
The updates to the exterior are quite hard to spot though. Look closely and you’ll see larger air intakes and a slight tweak to the headlights that now include LED daytime running lamps. The side sills are restyled, the rear windscreen is now more swept back and the boot lid is new as well. Most noticeable though is the licence plate bracket that’s been moved a bit lower. A tighter tail-light design and a wider spoiler complete the facelift. But the odd, boat-like dimensions are retained. It’s an unusually long car and still isn’t as elegant to look at as the Aston Martin Rapide or a BMW Gran Coupe. What the Panamera has is a sporty stance and you won’t mistake it for anything but a Porsche.
There are five variants on offer -- four petrols and one diesel -- the base Panamera and Panamera 4 come with a 3.6-litre V6, the GTS has a V8 and the Turbo gets a turbocharged V8. Last and certainly not the least, there's the Panamera diesel which gets an Audi-sourced 3.0-litre V6 which is what we got to drive.
Under the skin, the front suspension gets larger chassis mounts for added stiffness, the steering gear bearings have been improved for better off-center response, there's newly developed tyres, lighter 18-inch wheels and improved software for the Porsche Stability Management (PSM) system. And, all Panameras, except the base V6, now get air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management.
Start the diesel and you'll be impressed with its refinement. There’s no hint of diesel motor rattle, there’s very little vibration, and even when you rev it, it is unbelievably smooth.
With 56kgm of torque, the oil-burner makes light work of pulling the 1770kg kerb weight. Normal driving conditions need only a gentle dab on the throttle, and even that is good enough to have you scooting forward in that effortless manner. The motor has a very wide powerband and that, combined with the perfectly weighted controls, makes the Panamera very easy to drive even in traffic. The V6 motor's linear power delivery only adds to the overall driving experience. Credit goes to the excellent eight-speed auto 'box too. It's smooth when it has to be and when you require a sudden burst of acceleration, it is very quick to respond as well. It also helps that you are given paddle shifters which, in both Sport and Comfort settings, are nice to use. Performance is strong, with 100kph coming up in a rapid 6.6sec. Performance continues unabated further up the powerband as well and, despite its girth, 200kph comes up in 26.9sec.
But when you show this big Porsche a winding road, it simply blows your mind. Once the dampers and the engine is set in sport mode, the Panamera demonstrates an eagerness for corners that you would never expect from a car of this size and weight. Body control is exceptional and the adaptive dampers are great at reacting to mid corner bumps. It all but eliminates roll, pitch and dive, and delivers nimble handling. The chassis is remarkably neutral and the steering impresses because it makes it so easy to accurately place this big, wide car on the road.
Despite its handling prowess, the ride is very forgiving. The ride is very supple in Comfort mode and even sharp ridges and most other undulations are dealt with smoothly. But the Comfort setting is a bit too soft for highway driving and it tends to get a bit floaty. You can eliminate that by shifting to the medium-hard damper setting and the ride becomes extremely flat and consistent. The suspension works silently too and the Porsche Panamera is rarely caught off guard. The high profile tyres help the ride too. But what counts against the Panamera is that it doesn’t offer a spare tyre or runflats. And of course, the ground clearance is quite low (there is a raise function for the suspension but even with the car raised, larger speedbreakers catch it out).
There are very minor changes to the new Panamera’s cabin and, apart from the small windows, there’s little to complain about. Its cockpit-like design, truly exceptional quality and supremely comfortable seats make it feel special. The low slung nature of the car means getting in and out is not the easiest. But once inside, the front seats are supremely comfortable and passengers in the back will be very comfortable too. However, the Panamera’s 445-litre boot can’t hold much and you'd be well advised to travel light. The new Panamera comes with a host of features as standard equipment, including an electric sun roof, Porsche Communication Management plus Navigation system, Bose sound system and park assist with reversing camera.
The biggest hurdle then is the price. At Rs 1.23 crores, it simply doesn’t make sense. If you want the Porsche badge, the Cayenne is a cheaper option. You want a low slung stylish four door saloon, the vastly cheaper and more powerful BMW Gran Coupe is easier on the eyes. You want a high performance saloon, the Panamera Turbo with its nearly Rs 2-crore price tag makes a BMW M5 or a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG look like bargains.
So, while the Panamera is a beautifully engineered, brilliantly resolved car, it just doesn’t make economic sense and that’s a shame. You really need to want one to buy one.