Used test: Porsche Panamera vs Jaguar XFR
With a new Porsche Panamera imminent, does the outgoing model make a good used buy, or is Jaguar's XFR a better four-seat performance car?...
List price when new £59,900
Price today £14,000-£50,000
Available from 2009-2015
Arguably the most compelling sports saloon ever to emerge from Jaguar
List price when new £72,266
Price today £25,000-£120,000
Available from 2009-2016
One of Porsche’s most controversial cars – but also one of its most practical
There are times in life when you need to go from right here to a long way over there – and you need to get there quickly. That’s when, given the appropriate means, you need a car that can make the horizon seem just around the corner and, if possible, make it fun to get there.
That’s always been the purpose of the Porsche Panamera. The first generation is soon to be replaced with an all-new model, on which we’ll have a full review next week. So, what better time to find out how the outgoing model stacks up as a used buy?
Another car that fits the Panamera’s brief is the Jaguar XFR. Early examples of this V8 powerhouse are now starting to look like an awful lot of car for the money. They also pack a whole lot of wallop into a body that looks barely any different from that of the standard XF.
That’s no bad thing, however, because the XF is a stunning looking car that still gets heads turning, even now. We’ve just picked it as our used car of the week, in fact. By contrast, the Panamera’s styling has always been loved by some, but loathed by others. Fortunately for Porsche, beauty in cars like this has always been more than skin deep.
What are they like to drive?
They’re fun. A lot of fun. The Panamera S has a 4.8-litre V8 engine that puts out 394bhp, and in this entry-level model, all that power goes to the rear wheels through an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that most buyers specified.
Together, they sling the Panamera from 0-50mph in just 5.5sec, and blast it from 30-70mph in just 4.4sec. It might be a hatchback, then, but it still goes like a Porsche.
Even a Porsche owner would be well advised to avoid taking on a Jaguar XFR, though. Its 5.0-litre V8 has 503bhp and 461lb ft of torque – 109bhp and 92lb ft up on the Panamera. It’s all transferred to the road through a conventional automatic gearbox.
That extra brawn makes a mockery of the fact that the XFR is 121kg heavier than its German rival – 60mph comes up in just 4.8sec, and it’s half a second quicker than the Panamera over the all-important 30-70mph dash, which reflects real-world performance.
So, the XFR has the Panamera licked in a straight line, but straights are dull – it’s the twisty bits that really define a great sporting car. Here, the two are more closely matched.
The Panamera is really wide, but somehow it manages to feel smaller the faster you go, because it changes direction with the speed of a far smaller car, and just keeps on gripping. The variable-ratio steering, which makes parking so easy, stays full of feel as the speed increases, so twisty roads are there to be devoured, not avoided.
Porsche offered adjustable suspension as an option and, if fitted, it allows the Panamera’s body to float and bob a little too much in Normal mode; it’s best to put up with the firmer ride of the Sport setting and enjoy the feeling of the car being more controlled. Keep it this way and the Panamera is extremely easy to drive very quickly.
The XFR is a different beast. It feels heavier, if not cumbersome, and demands more effort from the driver – but the rewards are ultimately higher. The suspension is undeniably firm, but it’s also silkily damped, so there’s no unseemly jiggling of you and your passengers, just unshakeable body control, huge grip and faithful behaviour. It’s a hoot.
The steering is a conventional non-variable set-up, and though it’s heavier than the Panamera’s, it offers almost as much feedback.
The XFR demands respect, though, if only because it has so much power. The electronics are undeniably rather pessimistic, but if you’re foolish enough to turn them off, you could quite easily find yourself facing the way you’ve just come – especially if you don’t buy an example shod with a quality set of tyres.
Going is all well and good, but sometimes you’ve got to stop – and stop quickly. Both have hugely impressive brakes; the Panamera’s are fractionally the stronger, but are let down by a bit too much pedal travel.
Each car cruises well on the motorway, with the Panamera riding fractionally better, but the XFR hits back by being much quieter. The Panamera is plagued by tyre noise, while the XFR hums along with only a faint V8 whisper.