Even a saloon can be sexy when it's made by Porsche

IT was with surprise that we learnt that Porsche was going to build a four-door car. Porsche has always made two-door sportscars, why would it want to sink its teeth into the saloon market? But the same question was asked when they went into 4x4 territory with the Cayenne. There are enough manufacturers out there who do the job well, so why bother? Well, because anything Porsche makes is going to sell. Yes, that&rsquo;s a broad statement but this is a desirable brand with a lot of fine heritage, and with that follows status. <br /><br />We&rsquo;re at Silverstone at the Porsche Experience Centre with its five tracks offering handling tests, kick plate (how the car performs with a tyre blowout), ice hill, low friction (snow and other slippery stuff) and an off-road section. The purpose of bringing us here is to put the car through the many track configurations and ultimately to explore its limits.<br /><br />The Panamera looks like a 911 on steroids with a slightly hunched fastback roofline &ndash; I reckon it works. Unquestionably, it has presence. Step inside and it feels like a huge beast, a vast tonne of very expensive steel, almost a Tardis-like experience. Sitting in the back, there&rsquo;s leg and headroom to be proud of and truly good vision for the passengers. What I can&rsquo;t help noticing is the centre console, which sits high and runs the full length of the interior; it reminds me of the layout of a Vertu phone. The driving position is low and properly cosseted. Porsche points out that you sit &ldquo;in&rdquo; the Panamera and not &ldquo;on&rdquo; it. The build fabrics are also <br />unsurpassable. <br /><br />Of the new introductions, there&rsquo;s an added screen behind the wheel through which you can view the car&rsquo;s info, trip or &ndash; brilliantly &ndash; the satellite navigation.<br /><br />At the business end of things we have a 4.8 V8 twin-turbo charged engine as used in the Cayenne but adapted to suit here, quenching its thirst from a 100-litre fuel tank while producing 493bhp. Given its weight, the Panamera manages to morph into something that feels considerably lighter once out on the track. <br /><br /><strong>GENIUS INDULGENCE</strong><br />I select the semi-automatic mode using the seven-speed PDK steering-wheel-mounted buttons and of the many suspension set ups, choose to go with Sport Plus, which firms the ride up and tightens the throttle response, but cleverly defers the ABS &ndash; I mean, you really don&rsquo;t need to be disturbed by drilling through your feet when you&rsquo;re giving it the berries, do you? We go through a series of avoidance measures on varied surfaces, and on different set-ups, with all aids switched off, entering into a full 360 spin. But with everything switched back on, the car complies with orders and control is regained quickly and effectively.<br />The Panamera follows through corners neatly from the driving seat and steering, and although not 911-sharp, it unsurprisingly offers an impressive amount of feedback. I chose to sit in the back whilst being shown Launch Control (available with the Sport Chrono Package only). In Drive, select Sport Plus. Keep your left foot planted on the brake and watch the rev counter needle move mid way round the dial while you press your right foot down. The launch control button lights up and that&rsquo;s your cue to let go of the brake.<br /><br />Your torso lurches forward followed by your head several seconds later. Eyeballs and teeth follow next. It&rsquo;s utterly bonkers to be able to do that in a car such as this, but what a genius indulgence. Meanwhile, on-road manners are well polished and there is little that upsets the standard comfort and balance of this luxury saloon on motorways or A roads.<br /><br />Standard on the Turbo is Porsche&rsquo;s Traction Management system, all-wheel-drive technology so yes, it&rsquo;s going to be quite at home on a Scottish shoot too. And as for the cavernous boot, well, let&rsquo;s just say that the Panamera is no half-hearted entry into the saloon segment. It&rsquo;s all here with bells on.<br /><br />It went on sale on 12 September with 20,000 in build for the global market. At launch there was an order backlog of six months. Roll up, roll up.<br /><strong>THE FACTS: </strong><br />PORSCHE&nbsp; PANAMERA TURBO<br />PRICE: &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &pound;95,298<br />0-62MPH:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 4.2SECS<br />TOP SPEED:&nbsp; 188MPH<br />CO2 G/KM: &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; 286G/KM<br />MPG COMBINED: 23.2<br /><br />THE VERDICT<br />DESIGN <br />PERFORMANCE<br />PRACTICALITY<br />VALUE FOR MONEY<br /><br />