Review and road test of the Porsche Panamera (2009 - 2013)
By Andy Enright
The Porsche Panamera is a car that tends to divide opinion. Some think it's purely there to give the Stuttgart brand the money to develop its sportscar range. Others find its sense of style a little challenging. And then there are finally those who have actually driven the car. They tend to love it. It's a design with a unique feel and one with a fairly narrowly defined set of priorities, but if you fit the demographic, it makes a great used buy. Here's what to look out for.
5dr saloon (3.0 hybrid, 3.6, 4.8 petrol, 3.0 turbodiesel [S, 4S, GTS, Turbo, Turbo S])
Porsche isn't a company accustomed to getting kicked in the nether regions by the automotive press, but upon the launch of the Panamera, it got a distinctly sniffy reception. This car wasn't sleek like a Maserati Quattroporte or muscular like a BMW M5. Instead, it was huge and, to put it politely, from some angles rather awkward in appearance. Critics instantly seized on the fact that Porsche had lost its way. Perhaps the criticisms of its styling were justified, as in 2013 Porsche launched a somewhat sleeker model, but the original car we look at here has a lot going for it in other areas as a used proposition.
It was first shown at the 2009 Shanghai Show and the first UK deliveries began in autumn 2009. The range initially consisted of the 4.8-litre Panamera S and its turbocharged sibling. The 3.6-litre petrol model debuted the following year, along with a series of small upgrades to the range. A Powerkit was offered on Turbo models raising output by 40PS to 540PS. A Sport Design Package with 20" Panamera Sport wheels was added to the options list. And Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus was offered as an option on V8 models.
2011 saw the launch of the 3.0-litre Hybrid model, adopting tech previously seen in the Cayenne SUV. That year also saw the introduction of the diesel version and of the Panamera Turbo S, a 550PS powerhouse to act as flagship for the range. From June 2011, a new wireless internet access was offered on the Panamera, allowing passengers to go on-line while in the car. Further options available from Autumn 2011 included the Lane Change Assist system adapted from the Cayenne. This monitors the area behind and to the side of the vehicle, as well as the critical 'blind spot', and informs the driver via a signal in the exterior mirror if the system has located another vehicle in the adjacent lane. The Lane Change Assist system is activated by a switch on the driver's door and operates between 19 and 156 mph.
What You Get
We'll leave it to you to decide quite how pretty a Panamera is but don't be surprised if friends find its styling challenging to say the least. It is one of those cars that has a definite physical presence though. You'll find yourself checking your reflection in shop windows or casting a look over your shoulder once you've parked it. At 4.97m long, a Panamera is within a couple of millimetres of the length of a Range Rover and the high flanks will make you thankful of its reversing sensors. The standard 18-inch alloy wheels you get on some models look a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of bodywork on display but stick with them if you want respectable ride quality. Go for bigger alloys and you'll then need to shell out for the air suspension. It's standard on cars like the Turbo and the Hybrid.
Inside there's still the same low-slung seating position you'd find on a Porsche sportscar, with a centre console that's festooned with buttons and which seems to have drawn stylistic influence from Vertu mobile phones. The centre console extends from the dash right through the car to the rear seats, dividing the cabin into four individual cockpits. The boot holds 445-litres, which is comparable to your average compact executive saloon. Fold the rear seats down and the Panamera can offer a full 1,263-litres of capacity beneath its hatchback. The luggage bay itself is designed to be deep so that it can take suitcases in the upright position for ease of access.
What to Look For
Check for parking damage and kerbed alloys and make sure all of the electric functions work. Check for a fully stamped-up service record and do an HPI check to make sure the car you're looking at is legitimate. The hybrid drive system has proven as tough as old boots. Tyres are pricey, so do check that your Panamera isn't in need of new boots. Inconsistently-worn tyres will also hint at alignment issues. Virtually all Panamera models will pass through Official Porsche Centres, so you can normally buy with confidence, albeit without expecting a screaming bargain.
(approx based on a 2011 Panamera S Hybrid) Front brake pads can be found for around £60, with rears retailing at £40. A replacement headlight pod costs around £500, while a front bumper is a reasonable £300.
On the Road
The Panamera that most look to buy used is the diesel and this makes some decent numbers. It's respectably quick, although the sprint to 60mph in 6.5 seconds gives little clue as to its ability to cover ground. It's a big car, so the negative effects of the heavy diesel engine are offset. Instead, it steamrollers bumps and crests into oblivion, the gearbox plugging you into the meat of the torque band and providing acceleration on demand. Yes, it might get out-dragged by a few rivals in a straight line but it will certainly claw that deficit back on anything but a pancake flat, straight road. The top speed of 150mph is adequate for all but the most deranged autobahn-stormer and the 750 mile range will see the Panamera sail past most petrol-engined GT cars as they head for juice. Unlike certain Panamera models which drive all four wheels, the diesel variant sends power to the rear wheels only, but so good is Porsche's traction control system that you'll rarely be troubled for grip off the mark. Steel sprung suspension is also fitted as standard, although air suspension is available as an option.
The diesel makes a strong case for itself, as does the GTS. The Hybrid is less attractive from a value perspective and the other 3.6 and 4.8-litre normally-aspirated cars rather pale in comparison to the mighty Turbo. If you can run to it, the Panamera Turbo S is the one to go for. This will smash its way through 60mph from standstill in little more than 3.5 seconds. Granted, that's hardly something you'd replicate every day, but imagine yourself at the wheel of the car as you switch the Launch Control mode on, click the car into gear, dial in the revs and then sidestep the brake pedal. That's acceleration that would ditch a 911 GT3 RS, would demolish an Aston Martin DBS and wouldn't be bettered by a Lamborghini Gallardo. Its 191mph top speed means that it is also pretty handy on a deserted autobahn in the small hours.
There are three standout buys in the Panamera range. Go for a diesel if you're looking to keep a cap on running costs, a GTS if you enjoy flinging a big car around or a Turbo (or Turbo S) if you just want to reduce passengers to g-loaded, gibbering wrecks. Reliability of all these models has proven very good and while the economy of the diesel and the rarity of the GTS has propped residual values up, getting your hands on a used Turbo is often more affordable than you might initially imagine. You'll need to go in with both eyes open as far as running costs are concerned, but if you do take the plunge, you'll realise why Panameras are so highly rated by those who need to travel big distances quickly and effortlessly. There really is little between this and a Bentley Continental if you want to blitz across Europe in style. Highly recommended.
Porsche Panamera (2009 - 2013) review by Andy Enright