IT has to be said that no other Porsche model, bar the Cayenne, has managed to generate as much of a public stir as the Panamera. Much like the SUV, the Panamera’s introduction seemed to go against the very tenets of what the Porsche brand is all about – albeit tenets that were established by the iconic 911 series. The two-door, coupé configuration and rear-mounted flat-six engine made way for a spacious four-door layout and V-cylinder engines in the nose. Viewed against the traditional benchmark of the 911, these were controversial changes but, as evidenced by the generous praise that has been heaped on Panamera since its launch, this layout has helped to steer Porsche into grand saloon territory in an authoritative manner.
Right, so will the introduction of an entry-level six-cylinder model see this daring move by Zuffenhausen lose any of the firm’s hard-gained ground? Well, in terms of presentation and quality, those in line for a six-cylinder Panamera won’t be disappointed in the least. Visually, the main differences between it and the V8 models are matt-black window surrounds in lieu of the latter’s chrome affairs, oval exhaust pipes as opposed to a quad setup, and the wheels shrinking to 18-inchers. It’s only the latter change that lets the side down a little bit, but thankfully the Panamera V6 wears its more conservative exterior treatment (such as a comparatively discreet front air dam and sills when viewed next to the V8s) very well. Similarly, the interior has lost none of the sheen of its larger-engined counterpart, still exhibiting the same sense of occasion and good accommodation all-round, although the rear seating is strictly for two.
So, the entry-level Panamera certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to style and finsh, but what about the powerplant? The 3,6-litre V6 develops a healthy 220 kW at 6 200 r/min and 400 N.m of torque at 3 750 r/min – outputs that are pretty impressive for a normally-aspirated six-cylinder engine. Our straighline testing saw the Panamera achieve a 0-100 km/h time of 5,89 seconds, narrowly undercutting the firm’s claimed time of 6,1 seconds for a PDK model such as the test unit, fitted with the optional Sports Chrono Plus package. Porsche has endowed its V6 with many of the technological advances that underpin its V8 motors, including direct fuel injection and VarioCam Plus (variable intake and valve-lift). However, the two most noteworthy features of this engine are an optimised version of the company’s automatic start/stop system and an oil pump-driven balancer shaft that rotates within the oil sump.
As its name suggests, the stop/start system shuts off the engine when the brake pedal is depressed for any length of time, kicking the engine back to life once the driver lifts a loafer from the brake pedal. Actually, “kicking” is not the correct term for the manner in which it does this – the actual operation is smooth and unobtrusive.
Augmented by a brake energy recuperation system and a raft of other energy-saving features, this set-up helps this Panamera PDK achieve a CAR Fuel Index of 11,3 litres/100 km. And the relevance of the balance shaft? Well, normally, talk of such a subject would be sufficient to cue a chorus of crickets, but in the case of this motor it forms an integral part of the car’s character.
Many might expect a 90-degree V6 motor to be somewhat gruff in the way that it revs: just think of Mercedes’ current crop of petrol V6s and you’ll know what we’re on about… The Panamera’s V6, however, is one of the most delightfully smooth motors we’ve sampled in a long time – thanks to that shaft. It’s all very civilised, but there’s still a satisfying snarl and plenty of shove when you hoof the loud pedal.
That PDK ’box is just as happy swiftly dropping cogs in anger as it is sliding effortlessly through the ratios in traffic, and there’s still that confidence-inspiring combination of weight and precision about the steering. Testers agreed that the car strikes a fine balance between beguiling agility and a highly respectable level of comfort. Ultimately, the V6’s ride quality may be marginally stiffer than that of an S-Class, but you can’t hurry the big Merc with the same confi dence and poise as the Porsche.
And even though the V6’s footprint on the asphalt is smaller than that of the Turbo, which was shod with optional 20-inch RS Spyder alloys and matching gumboots when we tested it in February this year, the V6 model doesn’t feel as if it will suddenly run out of grip. In fact, fans of classic rear-wheel drive handling traits might revel in their discovery of the “little” Panamera’s adhesion limits.
Although the first crop of V8-engined Panameras were seen as something of a gamble for Porsche, especially given the marque’s controversial foray into four-door territory and the much criticised looks, the range’s popularity has grown in leaps and bounds. The addition of a six-cylinder option really positions the Panamera as a distinctive and more substantial alternative to the likes of top-end executive saloons – and it’s a value-for money proposition (with lots of change for added toys) when compared with entry-level grand limousines. Whether Porsche will potentially dilute its offering by venturing into the equivalent of other premium manufacturers’ no-man’s-land is beside the point. As it stands, the company’s entrylevel Panamera feels anything but that, and is a very accomplished piece of machinery.