First Drive: Porsche Panamera Diesel

Porsche Panamera Diesel

Panamera Diesel combines sensible fuel economy with a stimulating driving experience

Thanks to the existence of the Cayenne, Porsche is no longer a stranger to diesel technology. In fact, offering an SUV without a diesel option is something of a no-no for all the obvious financial reasons. Even a performance firm like Porsche needs to show willing, and it’s fair to say that its 4×4 oil-burner is a good steer.

Its other big offering, the Panamera, might be a sports car at heart but it’s also considered by many to be a premium model in the same vein as an Audi A8 or Mercedes S-Class. Diesel dominates this market, and now Porsche has done the decent thing and stuck a 3.0-litre lump in its Panamera.

Purists might call this a cop-out but there’s a need to be realistic in a time when fuel prices and associated taxes are rising. And Porsche certainly doesn’t view the inclusion of a diesel as a retrograde step. The Cayenne experience is a surprisingly positive one, with the engine’s torque and the car’s agility successfully complimenting each other.

The Panamera is a different beast, however. Porsche pitches it as an executive express with the pace and agility of a genuine high performance sports car. It has, however, had to move with the times. Introducing a hybrid model was a first step, while the diesel is aimed at drivers seeking a fast and refined grand tourer with all the associated benefits of an extended fuel range. That around half of all UK-bound Panameras sold in a full year could be diesel is a telling statistic.

Porsche Panamera Diesel Powered by a 3.0-litre V6 diesel outputting 250 horsepower, Porsche has calculated a range of 745 miles on one 80-litre fill from the black pump. The car’s 43.5mpg and 172g/km CO2 rating prove that this is a genuine effort, – in part assisted by an unobtrusive engine stop-start system and the decision to make it rear-wheel drive only. Those figures can be improved slightly to 44.8mpg and 167g/km with the car’s optional low rolling resistance tyres. Despite the apparent focus on economy, this Panamera can still nail the zero to 62mph sprint in 6.8 seconds and top out at 150mph.

Some of this performance is due to the engine’s considerable 406lb/ft of torque, available between 1,750 and 2,750rpm. This flat delivery allows you to maintain a constant pace with ease one minute plus bursts of acceleration for, say, overtaking the next. Factor in the car’s eight speed Tiptronic auto gearbox offering smooth upshifts to maximise economy and the option to do it yourself or rely on the sharper actions of the car’s Sport mode, and you’ve got everything you need for a wide variety of driving conditions.

The same is true of the car’s suspension, which in standard trim is a conventional steel set-up. Opt for the optional air system and you can play with the two-mode switch offering firm and firmer settings for those backroad blasts. Tested with the optional system the Panamera delivers a surprisingly agile experience. It’s easy to pigeonhole it alongside more conventional rivals due to its size and price, but the big Porsche comfortably leaves those cars in it wake on twisty roads and is a darn sight more fun, too.

Granted, it might not always have the outright grunt you’d like, but the confidence it inspires thanks to the actions of the suspension when coping with a myriad of surfaces leaves you in no doubt about its underlying talent.

Porsche Panamera DieselThe same is true of the car’s steering, which cleverly offers plenty of assistance at very low speeds but weights up nicely to give the driver plenty of feedback and accuracy at higher speeds – just what you need to help you best position the Panamera for the next bend.

The overriding impression is of a competent, swift and refined grand tourer that’s equally at home on the motorway as it is playing along on your favourite A-road. The cabin is a spacious and plush environment boasting plenty of room for four adults and enough toys on the options list to melt your credit card if you so wish. The extra insulation and fettling of the car’s exhaust have done much to tune out most of the engine’s aural diesel characteristics.

What it won’t do is deliver petrol turbo-like performance – you’ll need, unsurprisingly, a Panamera Turbo for that. This is a car for buyers seeking all the best bits of the Panamera – image, dynamic ability, ease of use, practicality – plus the economy and range of a more conventional executive saloon.

In that respect the Panamera Diesel works very well indeed. The car’s traditional rivals are no less competent when the argument focuses solely on economy, but they can’t compete when it comes to the subjective and personal elements of the driving experience. And in that context the Panamera Diesel doesn’t feel like a compromise at all.

Model: Porsche Panamera Diesel, from £62,134 on the road.
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel unit developing 250bhp.
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 150mph, 0-62mph 6.8 seconds.
Economy: 43.5mpg.
CO2 Rating: 172g/km.

By Iain Dooley

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