Porsche Panamera 3.6 V6 2WD PDK
The Panamera reflects the 911 coupe with its styling
- Smaller engine than the V8 but doesn't feel short on power
- Very comfortable and deceptively spacious in the rear
- Agile and nimble for such a large car
- Stop-start system is refined and effective
- Controversial styling divides opinion
- Physical size can be a barrier to making progress on country roads
- Menu-based infotainment system requires acclimatisation
- Wheel-mounted gear change levers are fiddly in their operation
Arriving in 2009 powered exclusively by V8 engines, Porsche's Panamera was the German manufacturer's first foray into the four-door sector. Now that the model is established, Porsche has introduced a smaller capacity V6 unit to the line-up offering a blend of performance and economy.
With several premium manufacturers boosting their ranges with stylish, coupe-inspired alternatives to the traditional four-door saloon, it made perfect sense for Porsche to call upon its expertise in sports coupes to produce a similar model. The Panamera arrived in 2009 boasting four-passenger doors, four individual seats and a hatchback boot within a sleek body reminiscent of the iconic 911 range.
Powered by varying output V8 engines combined with either rear or four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual or Porsche's PDK seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, the model offered high performance but not great economy. To redress that balance a V6 engine is now offered combined with a stop-start system. Greater fuel economy results.
The 3.6-litre V6 unit is hardly underpowered at 300bhp and Porsche offers a choice of rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive platforms to help transmit the power to the road. The PDK transmission can also be specified. Porsche aims to make the V6 model as much of a driver's car as the more powerful V8s.
The company has also ensured the V6 models are every bit as luxurious. The spacious four-seat interior boasts the same high quality materials and extensive range of suspension management and interior comfort options. Fully adjustable rear seating is available with four-zone climate control. The same exterior styling is present too, ensuring the V6 models command just as much respect on the road.
Our verdict on the Porsche Panamera 3.6 V6 2WD PDK
Divisive styling aside, there's little not to like about the new V6 powered Panamera. Performance is still more than adequate for a car of such status but economy is greatly improved. Refined, easy to drive, entertaining and practical, it's an excellent alternative to the traditional four-door saloon or more recent four-door coupe arrivals. The PDK transmission option means the Panamera can retain an engaging driving experience while offering greater convenience and luxury, too.
With the smaller, less thirsty V6 petrol engine and the stop-start system, the Panamera offers very reasonable fuel economy and emissions for a car of its size and status. Regardless, it's an expensive model to purchase and the tempting options available are steeply priced. Insurance, servicing and perishables such as tyres will not prove cheap.
Space and practicality
Beneath the hatchback tailgate of the Panamera is a good-size boot with enough space for suitcases, shopping or golfing equipment. Folding rear seats increase the car's carrying capacity, while the cabin offers plenty of space to store oddments, mobile phones and the like. Rear headroom in the strict four-seater is surprisingly good considering the car's sloping roof.
Controls and display
Dominating the car's cabin is the button-filled centre console. It looks intimidating but is actually well laid out and quite easy to use. The menu based infotainment system requires some getting used to but the main display screen located above the console is an object lesson in clarity. An additional dial in the instrument binnacle can multitask as a trip computer, audio or sat-nav display. The control and lever layout is largely traditional, but the fiddly operation of the wheel-mounted gear change paddles is a let down.
The four-seat interior has clearly been designed with driver and passenger comfort in mind and, equipped with the Rear Comfort Package offering fully adjustable seats, four zone air-con and a rear blind, the Panamera offers limousine like luxury. The ride is good for a performance car and PDK transmission offers seamless gear changes on the move but can stutter low speed or when coming to rest. Comfort and convenience options can often be found in the options list, however, and not the standard specification.
Naturally, remote central locking is standard via the car-shaped plastic key and an alarm and immobiliser are present. Hidden internal storage is good and a parcel shelf obscures the view into the boot. The lights can be programmed to stay lit after locking to enhance personal safety.
With a host of electronic aids at your disposal, when the driving conditions get tricky the Panamera has been designed to keep you safe when travelling at speed. A full compliment of airbags is present.
Launched several months after the original, powerful V8 models, the V6 Panamera doesn't boast the same outright power and brute force delivery but hardly skimps on performance. In standard rear-wheel drive configuration it feels balanced, poised and sporty, with the engaging driving experience only tempered by the model's size on smaller roads and the fiddly operation of the standard wheel-mounted gear-change paddles for the twin-clutch PDK gearbox. Left to its own devices, the PDK offers responsive performance anyway, and the Panamera is as good a long distance cruiser as it is performance machine.
Family car appeal
The individual rear seats would make an unconventional way to transport children but would be more than up to the task. The high quality interior would not benefit from trial by toddler but older children would likely appreciate the luxury. The boot is capable of accepting pushchairs and associated family paraphernalia.
First car appeal
Too expensive and, even in modest V6 form, too powerful for the novice or inexperienced young driver, the Panamera makes a poor choice and will prove inaccessible to all but the wealthiest.
Quality and image
The Porsche badge retains plenty of kudos because, even as the company has branched out into non-coupe models, performance has remained high. Quality is excellent in terms of build and materials and the Panamera feels special enough to warrant the high price. The V6 models don't offer the performance of the V8s, but still warrant respect thanks to strong power delivery and impressive on-road characteristics.
Being a large car, it's easy to get in and out of the Panamera's cabin. Front seat occupants fare the best, thanks in part to the car's wide opening doors. The low seating position - unsurprising for a sports car - shouldn't prove a problem for the average, agile adult. At the rear, decent size doors offer good access in most situations, but in a tight parking space the thickness of the cars rear haunches can make entering and exiting difficult.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
A feature-rich audio unit is standard equipment and the optional sat-nav is excellent. A touch screen display and a comprehensive trip computer are included. The menu-based system can make finding certain features tricky if unfamiliar however. Sound quality is excellent and ports are included for iPods and portable devices, along with the option of a SIM card reader removing the need to use Bluetooth.
Colours and trim
Big cars like the Panamera can be colour sensitive but, in this case, the wide choice of colours offered all appear to compliment the car's shape and size. Darker hues are, predictably, the most flattering. Inside the choice of trim materials is a wide one with some more successful than others, namely darker upholstery and light trim accents. The sizeable frame benefits from the addition of larger alloy wheel options.
The Panamera's size might appear initially daunting but the car's light but accurate steering and the presence of parking sensors make life a little easier, as does the on-screen radar parking sensor display. The low driving position does impact on rearward visibility though, as do the car's thick rear pillars and the sloping nose can be hard to place.
Spare wheel fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 3.6-litre (300bhp); 4.8-litre (400bhp); 4.8-litre (500bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, seven-speed PDK dual clutch gearbox with a switchable fully auto mode, four-wheel drive standard for 4S and Turbo models, optional with 3.6-litre model. Trim levels: Panamera V6, Panamera 4 V6, Panamera S, Panamera 4S, Panamera Turbo.
Maserati Quattroporte Similar concept but V8 power offers poor fuel consumption
Mercedes Benz CLS Stylish and solid four-door coupe also offers V6 petrol
Audi A7 Style, power and economy for considerably less money
Jaguar XJ Large saloon comfort with sleek coupe-inspired lines