Porsche had a potentially winning formula when it launched its four-door Panamera in 2009.
It was a car that had performance to match the legendary 911, but enough room to take a family of four on a jaunt around Europe. Like the first-generation Cayenne SUV, however, the original Panamera was absolutely gopping to look at.
Its controversial design is no doubt partly to blame for it not being the game-changer Porsche hoped it would be. That, and the fact buyers were (and continue to be) much more interested in upmarket SUVs than a weird sports-car-cum-family-saloon.
While we struggled with its appearance in the UK, it did sell in reasonable numbers elsewhere. Wealthy families in the United States loved the idea of a four-door saloon sporting a Porsche badge, as did Chinese buyers.
Time, and a substantial refresh, have been kind to the Panamera. The latest model, introduced last year, is actually quite a looker, despite being even bigger than before – but that just means it’s roomier inside.
And what an interior it is. The huge array of buttons found in its predecessor have been replaced with a 12.3-inch touchscreen display dominating the dash, while two seven-inch displays take the place of the regular dials. It’s really handsome, with plenty of gloss-black finishes, while Porsche’s red, yellow and black emblem taking pride of place on the steering wheel.
It’s spacious, too. The increased dimensions provide more room for front and rear passengers, with two seats in the rear with enough space for two adults, unlike the cramped 911.
The original Panamera was absolutely gopping to look at
It’s still not as spacious as the Cayenne if you regularly carry passengers on longer journeys. The boot, while big, isn’t the easiest to access, either; you’ll have to get used to lifting bulky items up over the rear bumper.
But you don’t buy a Porsche for comfort or practicality. Our test car was a lowly 4S, yet its twin-turbo petrol V6 provides plentiful power, while tapping the Sport button gives it the bark of a true sports car.
It’ll sprint to 62mph in 4.2 seconds (if you opt for the Sport Chrono pack and its launch control feature) – that’s faster than a 911 Carrera S – while topping out at 179mph.
It also does a good impression of a sports car in the corners. Optional rear-axle steering contributes to this, improving agility at high speeds, while also reducing the Panamera’s turning circle around town. In typical Porsche fashion, it’s immensely capable but not at all intimidating.
Even the most conservative of drivers will find themselves seizing opportunities to overtake lesser traffic, while not holding back on the throttle to enjoy the addictive (if slightly synthetic) sound of the six-cylinder engine.
Porsche has finally produced a Panamera that isn’t only excellent to drive and fantastic to look at, it’s also supremely comfortable to travel in. It can keep its SUVs, frankly, as the Panamera really is the thinking man’s Porsche.
And there’s no end of variations to suit every buyer – you can buy a plug-in hybrid, which combines an electric motor with a V6 or V8 engine – and even a Sport Turismo shooting brake version, for those after needing practical additions.
Everything feels as high quality as you’d expect, but you’ll have to show restraint on the options to avoid running up a big bill. Whatever you need in a car, the Panamera ticks almost every box.