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Review

FIRST DRIVE: Porsche Panamera Turbo S car review

20/09/11

PORSCHE has produced a wonderful variety of cars lately, from the lightweight and beautiful Boxster Spyder to the latest batch of heavyweight and not so beautiful SUVs and four-seaters.

That’s not to say the latter selection are bad cars. In fact, in their own way cars like the Panamera are among the best of their type in the world. Take the recently launched Panamera Turbo S, for example, which takes the existing Turbo and turns it up to 11.

As if the standard Turbo wasn’t quite quick enough at 4.2 seconds to 62mph, the Turbo S, with an extra 49bhp and 74lb.ft going through its four-wheel-drive system, reduces that to just 3.8 seconds. That’s not just fast; that’s supercar fast, and boy does it feel it.

The Turbo S uses a launch control system that will find as much grip as there is available and, providing there’s enough, that 0-62mph time will be despatched with ridiculous ease, pushing you back into the seat as though a giant invisible hand is keeping you pinned. You can feel the two turbochargers working; the first, smaller one giving instant response and the second, larger one cutting in a moment later and giving full power.

Its ability to find grip on the move is another of the Turbo S’s star qualities. On soaking wet Scottish highland roads, its ability to punch out of corners at full throttle and brake hard before the next one without so much as a grumble from any of the tyres is literally unbelievable; it has to be experienced first hand to be appreciated.

This is down to the plethora of electronics managing the power and braking forces, including the latest ‘torque vectoring’ system that acts like a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential, but it works imperceptibly. The latest systems work so rapidly and efficiently that you just don’t know they’re doing anything at all, but the truth is that without them the Turbo S wouldn’t find as much traction.

Arguably, herein lies the car’s one major flaw. It’s so absolutely capable in even the most difficult conditions that its limits are too far beyond those of any driver on the road. Because the car is so much better than you, it’s almost impossible to engage with it on an emotional level.

It also costs over £122,000 before you add any options, and most buyers won’t leave it standard. The carbon brakes are superb, for example, but they add around £6,000 to the cost, or not far short of the price you’ll pay for a brand new Nissan Pixo.

For your money you get two tonnes of precision engineering everywhere it matters. The mechanical and electrical systems work beautifully efficiently, and the cabin is for the most part extremely solid, even under hard acceleration and braking. The only let-downs are the ancillary stalks, which with no exaggeration feel like they’ve been taken straight out of a Volkswagen Fox.

The Porsche Active Stability Management (PASM) suspension system has three settings; Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Comfort is best for trundling around town, where potholes and manhole covers are rife. Sport is a good all-round ‘select and forget’ option, while Sport Plus creates really impressive body control at speed.

Those options are separate to, but mirrored by, the seven-speed PDK gearbox settings. Comfort offers early, gentle gear changes, Sport ups the ante with faster, later, more aggressive ones, and then Sport Plus offers no compromise in search of as much acceleration as possible.

The Panamera Turbo S definitely has a natural habitat, and that’s the open road. It handles corners and difficult roads with amazing ease, and its bulk almost feels like a positive in the context of the car, giving it extra stability. On the other hand, any situation where space or size is an issue becomes the car’s Achilles’ heel.

As an example, trying to negotiate past a tall curb to get to a car park ticket machine isn’t the easiest task in the world, and your local Porsche dealer isn’t likely to let your wallet off with just a light frisking if you damage a wheel or bumper.

The Turbo S is a car that physically can do anything. Whether you’d want to use it for everything is another matter. It’s almost in a class of its own, with few if any cars matching its combination of sheer acceleration, four seats and ability to cover difficult roads at such an astonishing rate.

There’s the Ferrari FF, but at about £227,000 it makes the Turbo S look like a very cheap car. There are more involving cars out there for the money though, so it comes down to whether you choose with your head or your heart.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Porsche Panamera Turbo S, £122,623 on the road.

Engine: 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 creating 542bhp and 516lb.ft of torque (590lb.ft on overboost).

Transmission: 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic driving all four wheels.

Performance: Top speed 190mph, 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds.

Economy: 24.6mpg.

CO2 rating: 270g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy1 (poor fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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