Diesel Panamera is pick of new Porsches
Launched back in 2009, Porsche's first four-door sports saloon, the Panamera, is proof that compromised looks aren't a barrier to sales success. More than 30,000 have been sold worldwide with 1,300 of those finding UK buyers.
According to Porsche, almost half of those UK buyers were new to the brand, drawn to the model by the four seats, interior space, interior design, the performance and even the looks.
Until now, buyers only had the choice of petrol models with the 4S being the most popular but that's all changed as hybrid, diesel and range-topping Turbo S versions have joined the current V6 and V8 petrol fleet.
So how do these new models stack up? Autoblog headed to Inverness to find out.
The first Panamera I drove was the flagship model, the 550bhp Turbo S. Feeling like a supercar with four seats, 62mph comes in an amazing 3.8 seconds and the top speed is a licence-losing 191mph, However, in spite of that performance, the Turbo S wasn't scary to drive, feeling agile and cornering flat.
What also impressed was the 24.6 mpg figure on the combined cycle, partly achieved down to a standard fit stop/start system that cut the engine while stuck in traffic.
Probably too fast for UK roads, I couldn't help but be impressed with the way that the Turbo S covered ground so quickly. Even the ride was reasonably refined, especially considering it was running on standard 20-inch, 911 Turbo II wheels. Finally, the way the spoiler folded its way out of the top of the tailgate was a nice innovation.
Next up for testing was the model that Porsche expects to account for 50% of sales - the 250bhp diesel.
As you'd expect from a Porsche, the Panamera Diesel offers impressive performance with 62mph coming up in just 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 150mph.
However, because it's powered by heavy fuel, you could drive the Panamera Diesel for more than 750 miles from Lands End to Loch Ness on a single tank. That equals a combined fuel figure of 43.5mpg.
The first thing I noticed before I even drove the Panamera Diesel was the very un-diesel like engine note - Porsche's engineers have removed one of the sound boxes which gives the Panamera a deeper, bassy sound.
It was probably not fair to step from the range-topping Turbo S into the diesel, as it obviously felt slower off the mark. What initially impressed about this application of Audi's 3.0-litre twin turbo TDI engine was just how smooth and torquey it is.
The gearbox is a good match to the engine, being smooth if a little slow in Normal mode, although the close ratios do their best to keep you in that optimum torque zone. Move to Sport and it's more responsive and eager to hold gears longer, but for ultimate control you need the manual mode and thankfully the Tiptronic auto works well here.
The steering on the Panamera Diesel is nicely weighted. Our test car was fitted with 18-inch wheels; the ride always feels quite firm and the body control is excellent, but it doesn't feel as sharp as the Turbo S.
The last of the new Panameras to test was one that should appeal most to company car buyers, the Hybrid. Eligible for the 20% tax rate Company Car Write Down allowance, its C02 emissions are under 160g/km.
Employing a similar system to the Cayenne that I drove earlier this year, the Panamera is powered by a 380bhp, 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine combined with a 47bhp electric motor.
Like the Cayenne, I found the sailing or coasting feature the coolest part of the Panamera's hybrid drivetrain. Lifting off the throttle and the engine disengaged, leaving just the electric motor working at speeds of up to 103mph which effectively enables drivers to cruise along on electric power.
It's both strange and slightly unnerving when this happened for the first time and you need to think about the road conditions, but it almost becomes addictive to see how far you can go on zero emissions.
A shame then that possibly the cleverest Panamera felt the slowest off the mark in spite of the 168mph top speed and acceleration to 62mph in just six seconds. It's also £8,000 more expensive than the slightly less efficient Panamera Diesel.
So which impressed the most. Well, in spite of an engine that might seem alien in a Porsche, the Diesel surprises by how smooth and willing it is with appealing fuel economy figures and like the rest of the Panameras I've tried, the interior is a lovely place to be and can be customised to individual taste.