Hugh Haskell-Thomas spends a week in Bahrain with the Porsche Panamera Range.
After attending the media launch of the new Panamera Range earlier in the year, driving the Panamera Turbo and 4S we were very impressed with the vast changes in the cars, with the new models finally delivering on the promise of an exciting executive express. [See Gulf Insider February 2017 for the full review]. However, these launches rarely provide a realistic test of ‘living’ with a car, so it was with great anticipation that I began a week of using the cars in the everyday conditions of traffic congestion, speed cameras and 46 degree heat, together with a few evening trips to flex the cars’ muscles. The focus of the week was on the newly launched Panamera, the entry level sibling of the range, which provides 330 horsepower from a 2.9 liter twin turbo-charged V6 power unit, comparing this to the slightly more mature models of the Panamera 4S (440hp) and the Panamera Turbo (550hp).
It is a truly special car that certainly delivers on the promise of the sportiest vehicle in its class.
The Turbo was the first out of the garage, immediately evoking memories of the driving in Dubai earlier in the year, and reviving the huge grin that I had during that first encounter; it is a truly special car that certainly delivers on the promise of the sportiest vehicle in its class. The redesign of the exterior provided a more 911-like shape and certainly delivered a refreshing update to the original model which cured my long term aversion to the model.
However, one of the main focal points in this huge design overhaul was on the interior and the handling, common to all models, which has elevated the Panamera range to almost iconic levels in its class. The changes have certainly raised the bar, when comparing the cars to their rivals, and have certainly become the target for others to meet. For now, most especially the ‘Business Class’ interior of the Panamera is hard to beat, especially when matched to the performance and handling that all of the models deliver.
One of my complaints in the older generation was the sheer number of buttons in the central console, these have now thankfully been replaced by a completely touch sensitive interface focused on the huge 12.5-inch touchscreen and a glass central console, the latter vibrating when a ‘button’ is touched; very cool! Within the Instrument Console a further two 7 inch screens bracket the central rev counter and offer a range of dynamic functions that can be configured to replicate the content on the main screen, as well as being home to the digital speedo, engine gauges, cruise control functions and navigation. The completely redesigned interior is an audiophile and technophobes dream, coming with a choice of audio systems that would rival most cinemas. The rear seat passengers are equally well looked after with their own console that is also able to interact with many of the systems available to the driver as well as controlling the incredible seat massage and ventilation functions (if fitted).
Other than the power differential between the 4S and Turbo there is little to choose between the top two models, however, with only rear wheel drive, the standard Panamera offers a great combination of power and driving experience. All models are fitted with the 8-speed, dual clutch transmission, which provides an effortlessly smooth driving experience whether in manual or automatic modes. The Active Suspension Management System can be set for both a comfortable and sedate drive, to sharper, harder sports settings when driving more aggressively.
The cars I tested had all of the driver assistance options installed, Lane Change Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and InnoDrive, which when combined with the urban conditions of central Manama gave a much more realistic test of Porsche’s innovation in these fundamental areas of self-driving vehicles; disconcerting at first, but delivering utter amazement in the end.
The morning drive to work, a loosely descriptive term describing the turgid experience of crawling through traffic from home to the office in the city, became a painless experience with the plethora of electronics and sensors in the car removing the stress of Stop-Start traffic queues and traffic lights. I would not hesitate in recommending these options, which provide a very real revelation of how close we have come to the era of autonomous motoring, helping to reduce some of the rigours of inner city driving!
Around town, there is some sense of frustration when driving the Turbo, and even the 4S, as both have extremely potent engines that beg for the open, twisty roads of Europe where they were brought to life, however, this is the Panamera’s playground! With slightly less horsepower the car belies its size and delivers a perfect balance of functionality and performance which is perfect for day-to-day motoring, most especially in the largely urban environment of Bahrain.
In reflecting the week I spent with these cars, the new Panamera has truly redefined itself, both in its design and engineering levels, delivering a rapid, comfortable Grand Tourer capable of whisking four adults effortlessly and in comfort across any country. This new model very much moves the Panamera closer to its goal of delivering a four door 911 experience, with the added benefit of delivering driver and passengers a refined cocoon of sports saloon luxury!
Candidly comparing the cars, I firmly believe that the balance of fuel economy, power, handling and price of the new V6 offers the perfect balance for driving within the constraints of modern day roads and urban living. The 4S and Turbo offer adrenaline levels above the lower powered car, though with the speed restrictions and traffic conditions we all live within, the entry level model of the Panamera range is perfectly matched with the achievable driving experience of both city and out-of-town driving; almost faultless.
The starting prices for the models are Panamera (BHD 40, 600), Panamera 4S (BHD 51,900) and the Panamera Turbo (BHD 71,900).
To book a test drive contact Porsche Center Bahrain on +973 1745 9911.