Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Panamera’s engine lineup consists of a pair of V6s and a pair of V8s, all powered by petrol, but with plug-in hybrid electrical assistance on some versions. The cheapest is the 2.9-litre V6 of the rear-wheel drive Panamera and four-wheel drive Panamera 4. With 325bhp, these models are claimed as being good for a 0-62mph dash of 5.6 and 5.3ec respectively, although we’re yet to try either version.
Next up is the 4S E-Hybrid, which mates a more powerful version of the aforementioned V6 to a plug-in hybrid system for a hefty 552bhp combined output. That’s enough to cut the 0-62mph sprint to 3.7sec, while providing an official electric range of 33 miles if you’re somewhat more restrained with the accelerator. In electric-only mode, there’s enough get-up-and-go to keep pace with the flow of traffic and it takes a big prod of the accelerator pedal to wake the engine. In regular hybrid mode, a much lighter foot is all you need, but both modes have you waiting a moment or two for the engine to chime in and really throw you down the road. Things are different if you prod the ‘Sport Response’ button on the steering wheel, though; it puts everything on full alert so the car leaps forward the moment you put your foot down, making overtaking slower traffic a breeze.
It’s actually even quicker than the Pricier 473bhp V8-engined GTS, in which 0-62mph takes 3.9sec, but we’ll have to wait until we’ve tried one of those to declare which is the more rewarding drive. We have, though, driven the V8 Turbo S, whose 621bhp and 3.1sec 0-62mph time makes it more than capable of embarrassing some supercars; it picks up serious speed with just a flex of your right ankle. But, as the far cheaper 4S E-Hybrid proves more than fast enough in this country, and is our pick of the line-up. The only real reason to buy the Turbo S is for bragging rights.
An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard on all models – no manual option is available. It proves smooth under normal use yet is capable of rapid shifts and instant response when in its sportier driving modes. It can be jerky when making slow manoeuvres such as parking, though. The transition between electric and petrol power in the 4S E-Hybrid is smooth, and that model’s brakes are worthy of mention, too; they feel little less progressive or smooth than the regular models’, and that’s not something that’s always guaranteed in plug-in hybrids.
All models but the entry-level Panamera come with four-wheel drive as standard and so far we’ve so far we’ve only tried versions so-equipped, and which also have the optional four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars. With this kit fitted, the Panamera turns in with an urgency that belies its huge size, cornering with virtually no body lean. If you’re really driving the wheels off it, you’ll notice that the extra weight of the Turbo S’s big V8 makes it a little less keen to dive into a bend than the V6-powered cars, but those clever systems help to do a remarkable job of concealing the extra mass of the E-Hybrid models’ battery packs. Yet, although all Panameras are exceedingly capable on a twisty road, some may find the even sharper BMW M8 Gran Coupé and Mercedes-AMG GT four-door more entertaining.
Neither of those can beat the Panamera for ride comfort, though. The 4S E-Hybrid and Turbo S models we’ve tried so far come with air suspension in place of the mechanical springs and adaptive dampers that are standard on the Panamera and Panamera 4. The ride is firm but is incredibly well controlled across heavily undulating roads and calmer at motorway speeds than the more aggressively sprung AMG. Around town, however, the Panamera can thump clumsily over really nasty ruts and ridges. If you prefer a softer ride over tighter handling, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé will suit you better.
Wind noise is well contained, but the Panamera’s giant tyres generate a fair bit of road roar on coarse surfaces. Nothing like as much as the GT 4-door Coupé does, though.
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