“Drive a Porsche for us?” they asked. “No problem,” I replied. I’m a kind-hearted soul like that. Things got a little confusing though when I learned that the model in question had four doors and a diesel engine.
Ok, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, as the Panamera has now been out for a while and was preceded by other less-traditional Porsche models, like the Cayenne. Yet the word Porsche always has and always will generate the image of a two-door supercar on a bedroom wall for me. That’s not to say that a four-door Porsche possesses any less kerb appeal than the more traditional body styles do.
In fact, the exquisite sculpting of curves and fine lines that created the Panamera present a car that is both very easy on the eye and which lays a strong claim to the title of the must-have executive vehicle.
That carries over into the interior, where you are met with a sophisticated and – relatively – easy-to-navigate driver’s console, which presents the mixture of features you would expect from a true driver’s car – suspension and chassis settings and the obligatory ‘sport’ button – with the must-have equipment of an executive mobile office. In particular, the in-dash map as part of the navigation system is a helpful feature.
Front and back passengers benefit from a spacious cabin, zonal climate control and sumptuous leather – although less vertically-challenged rear-seated passengers may find the head room a little restrictive. There is also a decent size of boot, further dispelling the childhood image of a Porsche formed in my head.
On a turn of the key, the three-litre diesel engine purrs quietly awaiting further instruction. The unit has benefited from a re-tune in the past 12 months, with an almost 50 horsepower boost as a result. With the Panamera coming in at around two tonnes kerb weight, the driver experience certainly benefits from that extra grunt.
The outset of my drive from Edinburgh Porsche faced the inevitable trundle through town and, while the engine doesn’t complain at the pedestrian speed of town traffic, you know that is not where it was made to be. The low speed does however allow you to gauge the views of admirers, who can’t help but pass a glance at the Panamera as it cruises past. This particular model looks striking in its red paintwork, with optional dimmed headlight and privacy glass extras, and there is no doubt the car has real presence.
Once clear of the city limits you get the feeling of the car starting to stretch itself and preparing to show you what it was made to do. With little encouragement from me, it paced out of town towards the Forth Road Bridge. I then followed the Fife coastal trail up to Burntisland, which gave me a chance to get a feel for the car on smaller roads.
Although it is a big car both in weight and dimensions, Porsche has managed to achieve that balance between the security and comfort of you being in a car of this stature whilst still giving you an edginess to keep the smile on your face when driving it. Running at its most responsive in full sports mode, the acceleration and steering is sharp and the car sticks tightly to the road. Again the Panamera continued to draw its share of admiring glances, despite the natural beauty of the coastal road it was travelling on.
Further into the trip, I took it along a stretch of motorway on the return to Edinburgh and that is, for me, where the car feels truly at home. As much as it handles the twists and turns of the country road with complete ease, it is evident this machine was made to eat up the German Autobahn network and the comfort by which the miles pass while driving are testament to that.
The ride remains luxurious even in full sport mode, with the additional comfort setting offering that added cushioning. It is a place that you would be more than happy to be if you needed to make a long journey, and I would suspect you may even make such a journey needlessly just as an excuse to be there.
Despite its supercar looks and very responsive engine, the Panamera diesel is still able to compete as a real-world car in terms of its efficiency. Across the road test, it maintained a miles per gallon figure in the mid-30s, even in sport mode. That will probably explain why well over 75% of Panamera models sold in the UK are diesels, not to mention the fact that the diesel engine it is fitted with is really faultless in terms of the drive experience it delivers.
My only quibble, and it is genuinely a minor one, is the insistence from Porsche that steering wheels should only be for steering, meaning that there are no volume control, phone-answering or other such buttons at your fingertips. That means that you have to use the centre console for most regularly-used functions – changing a music track, answering or making a call, and the like – which can be a little distracting and frustrating.
This is all the more prevalent for someone like me who has short arms and the light touch of an ox, and I regularly found myself calling and cutting people off at the same time.
It does however take you back to the fact that Porsche builds cars to be driven, and that the toys inside should not detract from the driving experience. Maybe it’s not a bad thing for us to sit back, enjoy the drive and deal with any calls when you get where you are going. That is of course if you ever want to stop driving this car.
Scott Whyte is the managing director at Watermans Solicitors in Leith. The car Scott was driving was a Porsche Panamera (£86,850) supplied by Porsche Centre Edinburgh, Fort Kinnaird, EH15 3HR, 0131 629 9183.