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Porsche Panamera Diesel (2014) review

Andrew Unsworth
3 Sep 2014

Luxurious, frugal and fairly sporty; the perfect Porsche for long motorway commutes

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The Panamera Diesel is a luxurious four-seat sports car with a look and feel inside and out that smacks of art deco. Unlike other Panameras, the Diesel has a claimed range of 746 miles, making it ideal for those who demand the luxury of not having to refuel every couple of hundred miles. It also has a claimed six second 0-62mph time, a top speed of 161mph, a combined fuel economy of 44.1 miles per gallon and an on-the-road price of £63,000, all of which makes it a compelling buy for those looking for a sporty and frugal luxury car.

PERFORMANCE

The Panamera Diesel is powered by a 3-litre, turbo-powered diesel engine that develops 300hp at 4,000rpm and produces massive maximum torque of 650nm between 1,750-2,750rpm. This is even more horsepower and torque than our beloved Macan Diesel, but it didn’t feel as eager or responsive as the Macan Diesel.

That doesn’t mean the Panamera Diesel is slow; the prodigious amounts of torque mean that the Panamera Diesel is thrown forwards with a brute force that makes overtaking a doddle, whether you’re on an A-road or the motorway. Unlike the Macan Diesel, however, the panamera is slow to pull away from junctions and roundabouts, even in sport mode, and this causes unnecessary anxiety when driving close to London. Even in motion, it takes a second or two for the power to kick in.

One possible reason for the lack of outright sportiness may be the use of Porsche’s older 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox system rather than its fantastic 7-speed dual-clutch PDK system. The Tiptronic box is used for better fuel economy, but we’d much rather sacrifice a little fuel to have the more modern feel and faster performance PDK gearbox. The gear changes are slow compared to the PDK gearbox, but aren’t too bad in the context of the Panamera Diesel and are smooth enough to go unnoticed by your passengers.

Even with the standard steel-sprung suspension of our review car, the Panamera Diesel’s handling is superb for a car of this size and weight. It feels much lighter than you think it should, and although the rear never swung out when cornering on regular roads it felt as if it might, adding tension and a little bit of drama when you’re pushing hard.

The rest of the time the Diesel is calm and composed, as you’d expect and want a luxury car to be. The ride comfort is suitably high and the Panamera takes speed bumps, even those horrid saddle bumps, in its stride. Our test environment has some of the deepest and widest potholes. These would cause a violent jolt in many other cars, but the Panamera damped them well.

The Panamera Diesel comes with a Sport button as standard, and with this pressed the car idles at a higher engine speed and the throttle is more responsive. The effect the Sport button has on the Panamera felt slight compared to when it’s engaged on a petrol Panamera, but it’s certainly welcome, giving the Diesel a more powerful and eager feel.

When it comes to steering, all Porsche’s models are compared to the 911. The 911 is a benchmark sports car, so this seems a natural thing to do, but it perhaps goes without saying that the Panamera Diesel’s steering lacks the lively, eager feel of a 911’s steering. However, the Diesel’s steering has exactly the right level of feedback for a car such as this, where long distance comfort is much more important than the fidgety feel of an outright sports car.

EVERYDAY DRIVING

The Panamera Diesel isn't as smooth or quiet as the Panamera S E-Hybrid, but it’s quiet for a diesel and is one of the smoothest cars you'll drive on the motorway or a country road. The only time you’ll tell that it’s a diesel car is just after iginition, when the engine’s cold, and even then only occasionally. There’s also more engine vibration through the steering wheel than you feel with the S E-Hybrid, though. The Diesel’s vibration is only slight, but it is noticeable, especially at the lower speeds at which the S E-Hybrid would be running on batteries. This makes the S E-Hybrid feel much smoother than the Diesel, but compared to many other cars the Diesel is still comfortable and relaxing.

One curious phenomenon is the Panamera’s ability to hide its width and length. It’s obviously no supermini, yet we had no trouble winding our way through busy towns with lots of double parking. The power steering makes light work of manoeuvring at lower speeds, shielding you from the weight and bulk of the car. The only difficulty is when parking in cramped supermarket and multi-storey car parks, as it may take a while to manoeuvre into position. The highly sensitive front and rear parking sensors are a great help here, but we’d still prefer to have the reversing camera, which is available as an option.

FUEL CONSUMPTION

The primary reason for buying the Diesel as opposed to the similarly priced petrol model is its fuel economy, and we found the Diesel’s fuel consumption to be comfortingly low. We averaged 50.4mpg at an average speed of 64mph on the motorway and 33.6mpg at an average 14mph around town, both in standard mode with the automatic stop feature enabled. That’s phenomenally good for a car such as this, and our urban fuel consumption isn’t far off that of the claimed urban consumption figure of 36.7mpg.

This compares well with the official fuel consumption figures for the basic petrol Panamera, which are 25.2mpg on the urban cycle and 41.5mpg on the extra-urban cycle. We saw a more economical 46.3mpg around town in the S E-Hybrid, and a slightly less economical 49.6mpg on the motorway, but both of these consumption figures were achieved with the help of the S E-Hybrid’s electric motor. It’s worth bearing in mind that you’ll have to pay to recharge the S E-Hybrid’s batteries and there’s a finite amount of charge in them. If your overriding concern is fuel economy and you can live without the other benefits of the S E-Hybrid, as well as the extra cost, then the Panamera Diesel is the best choice.

Like many modern cars, the Panamera Diesel has an automatic stop function that cuts the engine to save fuel when you brake to a halt, such as when you stop at traffic lights. Anything that helps fuel economy is good, and for the most part the system well, although there is an audible cough and a slight shudder as the engine starts up again.

Annoyingly, the auto-stop function would kick in while we were manoeuvring at very slow speeds, such as when parking it in a car park. The engine would cut out and the steering would lock up, and we’d have to wait, no matter how brief a time, for the engine to start up again. You can overcome this by switching the automatic stop function off with a button on the centre console, but you have to remember to press this. The Panamera S E-Hybrid is better in this respect because it reverts to battery power at very low speeds so there is no problem manoeuvring, and the transition between the S E-Hybrid’s electric motor and petrol engine is super-smooth. It’s worth noting that the Diesel’s automatic stop function is switched off automatically when the Sport button is activated.

INTERIOR

The Panamera is a large car, so there’s plenty of room for you and your passengers. The large centre console, with its many buttons, makes you feel as if you’re at the controls of an aircraft or powerboat rather than a car. Everything is within easy reach, from climate controls, the Sport button and the button for manually raising and lowering the spoiler, to the button for turning off the automatic stop feature.

The dual-zone climate controls are particularly good, with separate controls for fan speed and temperature for both the driver and front passenger. Even better, a large digital display tells you the current target temperature for your side of the car. This is a much better system than the dual-zone controls of some other manufacturers, which can be confusing.

The instrument panel is similarly well laid out, with a central rev counter bordered by a speedometer and the multi-information display. The latter is one of the best features of all Porsche models, as it displays graphical information about the state of your car. You can switch between a view of the currently playing media, trip data and fuel consumption and see the data at a glance without having to look at the central touchscreen. Perhaps the best thing about the multi-information display is the navigation screens. One screen shows you a view of the map and your position on it, while another shows you the direction in which you should travel and the distance to the next change. These screens are a real boon when navigating through a busy, unfamiliar town.

We found the driver’s seat comfortable, but our front passengers said they’d prefer a little more padding. Even the standard seats are electrically adjustable, so you’ll have no problem finding your perfect position. As the Panamera is a four-seater, rear passengers have individual seats rather than a bench, which adds to the luxury feel of the Panamera and makes rear passengers feel extra special.

All rear passengers found the rear seats comfortable, with plenty of legroom to stretch out and relax. The rear seats are static, but you can buy 4-way adjustable seats as an option. We think all Panameras should come with electrically adjustable rear seats as standard.

Rear passengers also get a 12V socket for charging phones, et cetera, and storage space within a concealed compartment within their centre console. They also have use of an extra cupholder in the central pull-down armrest.

There’s plenty of storage room in the front, too, with a large cupholder in the centre console, two further cupholders that are concealed just above the glove box when not in use, a deep cubby hole in the centre console and nets on the side of the centre console.

Although it looks like a saloon the Panamera is in fact a hatchback, and the Diesel has 445 litres of luggage space in the boot with the rear seats up and 1,263 litres of space with the rear seats down. The boot is much longer than it is deep, so you have to stretch to retrieve items at the far end of the boot. There’s a vast amount of room for your shopping, but you have trouble loading the boot up with many bulky suitcases or flight cases.

TOUCHSCREEN – SATNAV AND AUDIO

The Panamera Diesel’s 4.8in touchscreen infotainment system comes loaded with the navigation module and the Jukebox function active as standard. The touchscreen is small compared to many newer systems on newer cars, such as the 8in screen fitted to the Jaguar F-Type, but it’s large enough and we always found ourselves using the multi-information display rather than the touchscreen to view navigation, media and trip data.

Its graphics are very basic, and the way the screens are organised and the way you move between them can be confusing and inconsistent. We’re very familiar with the system, and even we struggled to find options that we know exist. Our passengers struggled to change radio stations, for example, which is something that anyone should be able to do without prior knowledge of a system.

You’d expect a Porsche infotainment system to have an emphasis on efficiency, but that isn’t the case with PCM 3.0, the current system. It needs an update.

One excellent feature is the ability to upload up to 40GBs worth of music to the infotainment system so that you can listen to your favourite tracks and albums whenever you want. This also leaves the CD drive and USB port available for your passengers to use.

Our car was also fitted with the optional 585W, 14-speaker Bose sound system, which is a big improvement on the Panamera’s standard audio system and well worth the extra cash. It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to folk, commercial rock or bass-heavy bangers, your tunes will sound warm and clear. While the standard Panamera audio system has a pretty flat output, the Bose sound system favours bass. Although we favour bass too, we found the output from the Bose system could be a little overpowering, and even turned it down on some tracks. Sadly, the system still only has a 2-band equaliser.

CONCLUSION

The Panamera Diesel is a likeable car that’s frugal, comfortable and has the sportiness you’d expect from a Porsche, although it’s important to remember that it isn’t a stretched 911. It’s ideal if you spend a lot of time commuting on the motorway, but still want to drive something distinctive and sporty for when you hit the back-roads or take your loved one for a weekend away.

However, it isn’t perfect, as its size does make it difficult to park in busy urban car parks, the PCM 3.0 touchscreen system is dated and needs to be revamped and the car does feel sluggish when pulling away at junctions and roundabouts. It’s also easy to knock the gearshifter into Manual when reaching for the touchscreen or its physical controls, although that’s something that affects all Panameras. Interestingly, our passengers said that the Diesel didn’t feel as special as the S E-Hybrid, and this is something we felt also, but the Diesel is significantly cheaper.

Is it worth buying a Panamera Diesel rather than a Jaguar XJ 3-litre diesel? That’s difficult to say, as they’re both distinctive cars but their styling is poles apart. The Panamera’s interior is almost clinically clean with everything on display and unhidden so that you can get on with the task at hand, whereas the XJ’s interior is a little more fussy, comfy and warm. The basic XJ 3-litre diesel has similar claimed performance and fuel economy figures, and the XJ can accommodate five people rather than four, but it isn’t as sporty as the Panamera. The XJ feels much heavier in corners, and the rear seats don’t look as swish as the Panamera’s either.

If you simply want a practical Porsche, then you should buy the much cheaper Macan Diesel, which is one of our favourite SUVs and certainly the sportiest SUV we’ve driven. Depending on funds, you should also consider the Panamera S E-Hybrid. If you plan on doing a lot of miles then the S E-Hybrid is unlikely to prove as frugal because you’ll have to pay for electricity as well as petrol, but it is more tax efficient, you won’t have to pay the London congestion charge (assuming this is important to you), it’s much smoother, more relaxing and it has better performance. If you’re a business customer then the S E-Hybrid could prove a better buy.

Otherwise, the Panamera Diesel is the best buy for those who hate frequent fill-ups and hate paying for them even more. Book a test drive at your nearest Porsche dealer.