‘Jay, you look at the dials,’ I said to my passenger, ‘I’ve got other things to concentrate on.’ We were doing about 270km/h and rising fast.
‘OK, 300,’ came the calm reply a few seconds later as the digital speedo rolled over the magic number. That’s 186mph in our money, and I was happy to back off there and drop up into seventh gear, though the Panamera Turbo obviously had more to come. And it felt about the most stable car I’ve ever driven at that speed, thanks among other things to the lowness, length, active aero, adaptive suspension and four-wheel drive.
My quest for speed sated, we swapped drivers. I texted James May, who recently drove one of these the length of Britain for a telly Top Gear race. ‘Just hit 300k. Amazingly good but not quite as adorable as I’d hoped. You?’ Back came this: ‘Similar. Blindingly fast and composed but dull at ordinary speed.’
Dullness is relative, of course. The Panamera Turbo really is extraordinary in the way it’ll combine comfort with 911-style performance. Not just on straights, either: it’ll chew up and spit out any old stretch of twisting, bucking backroad. It’s like a low pass by a fighter jet, yet inside it’ll feel like a Gulfstream.
Work it hard and it communicates with you. But in the end it’s heavy and long and wide and, no, it never feels as agile as a good GT. A Jag XKR, say, is far lighter on its feet.
So the version I bonded best with was the regular non-turbo 2WD Panamera S. Without the nose weight of front-drive hardware, it’s more keen to change direction and feels more natural. Not by much, but by a bit. It has less torque than the Turbo but massive traction and a superb ESP system, so you don’t miss the 4WD. And c’mon, when was 400bhp really that deficient? Oh, and the manual gearbox is very nice, while the PDK twin-clutch job has issues.
Adoring a car is about more than the driving, of course. Whisper it, the Panamera’s shape is growing on me, especially seen from dead front or rear. But it’ll never be a Maserati Quattroporte. The Panamera is functional, it’s slinky, it’s low and sporty, but it sure ain’t beautiful and it isn’t quite sexy.
The cabin is pretty special though, with everyone getting their own 911-style seat. But, er, if you want to carry four people on a grand tour, wouldn’t they need more than airline handbaggage each? The Panamera’s boot is surprisingly cramped, hatchback or no. So the rationale of owning this car might be flawed.
If it isn’t entirely rational and isn’t entirely adorable, where does that leave a £75-£95k Porsche? With a slightly harder job to do than I expected. It’s brilliant, yes, but I thought it had the potential to be one of the all-time greats and it isn’t. Not quite.