THERE was a time when the only diesel Porsche you could buy was a tractor. But after Ferdinand Porsche’s tractor designs of the 1950s came the rather more striking and long-lasting 911 and Porsche became a sports car company.
But now the best selling Porsche product is the Cayenne SUV, a vehicle that was widely derided by Porsche aficionados when it was introduced back in 2002. Today Porsche is so successful it owns Volkswagen. This is all quite important because when people think of Porsche they think of a sports car company, but the Panamera Diesel is not a sports car and it is further proof that Porsche is a sports car company no more. It is a car company that also makes sports cars.
Confirmation of this is irrefutable when a man from Porsche points to a chart full of numbers and declares that the number one target of the Panamera Diesel is fuel economy and not performance. I cannot believe my ears. And if a diesel-engined Cayenne SUV is acceptable then a frugal version of Porsche’s four-seater GT Panamera must be as well? Fuel economy is now king even for Panamera owners, of which there are many, because Porsche’s imperfectly-styled grand tourer has become something of a success.
This diesel version is important too. It will almost certainly be the biggest seller in the UK despite the fact that driving it feels quite a bit too slow. The performance figures are just adequate in relation to speed – 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds and top speed is 150mph. This would be acceptable if the car carried the badge of the Audi brand that donated this Panamera’s 250bhp, 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine but on a Porsche it just doesn’t seem so.
So it’s no wonder then that the man from Porsche wants to focus on economy figures. Here the Panamera diesel is impressive. A combined figure of 45mpg is claimed, which theoretically means its 80-litre tank could carry the car for as much as 745 miles. A 100-litre tank option is muted too which will ensure even grander grand tours.
Inside, the car is far more successful than its exterior styling belies. It is a wonderful place to be and overall, driving the Panamera is a fine experience. It’s comfortable and refined and up to speed on the German autobahns – yes, the Panamera diesel is undoubtedly an extremely efficient way of knocking off the miles. But back on the Austrian mountain roads I find myself inching forward in my sumptuous, beautifully-made seat desperately egging it on.
The man from Porsche of course would declare that this is because driving excitement was not the primary goal of this car. And in that context the car is a success. Porsche has made a very economical continent-tourer of a four-seater GT. It is, as always with Porsche products, very well executed. But it isn’t a sports car. Is the Porsche brand any poorer for it?
PORSCHE PANAMERA DIESEL
0-62MPH: 6.8 SECS
TOP SPEED: 150MPH
CO2 G/KM: 172G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 45
VALUE FOR MONEY **