Used test: Porsche Panamera vs Tesla Model S

Porsche and Tesla both offer luxury hatchbacks that combine scorching performance with surprisingly sensible running costs. But which car is the better used buy?...

Used test: Porsche Panamera vs Tesla Model S

The contenders

Porsche Panamera 4S Diesel

  • List price when new £94,234
  • Price today £77,000*
  • Available from 2016-present

This used Panamera has a powerful yet frugal V8 diesel engine. Does it drive like a proper Porsche?

Tesla Model S 90D

  • List price when new £89,380
  • Price today £62,000*
  • Available from 2014-present

Zero tailpipe emissions mean could be a tempting buy for ULEZ commuters. It’s quick, too.

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Power comes in many forms: some say it’s knowledge, for others it’s wealth, and for the more unscrupulous, it’s whatever leverage they have on their opponents. In the car world, things are much simpler: either your car is powered by petrol or diesel. Or, rather, that’s how it was.

You see, electric cars are making headway, proving that a battery-powered vehicle can be much more than the milk float that delivered your weekly ration of semi-skimmed. In fact, they can be made to pull like a dragster away from the lights and have enough charge to accomplish more than 200 miles of near-silent motoring before needing a top-up.

New Porsche Panamera vs Tesla Model S

For those looking for an uber-powerful luxury rocketship, the answer for the past few years has been the Porsche Panamera. We’ve got the ultra-efficient 4S Diesel version here, with a 416bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine making it capable of 0-60mph in 3.9sec and achieving fuel economy of 40mpg or more.

Its challenger is the Tesla Model S 90 D, whose twin electric motors deliver 417bhp from the get-go to produce a 0-60mph time of 4.5sec. It also has a realistic range of more than 250 miles, making it just as capable as the Panamera on longer runs. Let’s find out which one makes the best use of its power and which one is corrupted by it.  

What are they like to drive?

Despite their differences, these two are similarly rapid, posting identical 30-50mph times and being separated from 50-70mph by just 0.1sec. The Panamera is the faster car in a drag race, though, sprinting from 0-60mph in a scarcely believable 3.9sec.

That said, the Model S often feels faster, thanks to the instant punch its electric motors deliver. Overtakes are almost laughably easy, although acceleration does tail off noticeably above 60mph. As for braking, the Panamera stopped quicker from 70mph in our tests.

Straight-line pace isn’t all that matters, of course: handling is just as important. Here, the Model S isn’t quite so impressive, pitching noticeably under hard braking and leaning more than the Panamera in corners. It’s the front tyres that will begin to lose grip first if you push harder, but the car’s electronics are quick to rein things in.

New Porsche Panamera vs Tesla Model S

The Panamera is in a different league. Optional air suspension (a £1541 option when new) keeps its body pancake-flat, making it feel astonishingly agile. It generates huge grip in corners, and its handling balance stays neutral even if you push it hard, so it's more fun to drive than the Model S. The Panamera’s steering is more precise, too, although some might find it a touch heavy, especially at low speeds. Even so, it’s better than the overly light helm of the Model S.

However, it’s unlikely owners will be driving these cars flat out very often, so cruising ability is arguably more important. Here, the Panamera once again comes out on top. Despite our test car’s huge 21in alloy wheels (another expensive option when new, this time £2370), only the worst road imperfections cause its ride to get bobbly. It’s no magic carpet, because the ride is always slightly on the firm side, but the Model S is more easily upset by road imperfections, especially over broken surfaces.

Where the Model S does outscore the Panamera is on refinement. Because it doesn’t have an engine, no vibrations are sent through the controls and it’s quieter on the move. The Panamera’s eight-speed automatic gearbox also shifts slightly jerkily during low-speed manoeuvres, whereas the Model S doesn't even have a gearbox.

Next: What are they like inside? >

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