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In-depth reviews

Porsche Panamera hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The Porsche Panamera is incredibly enjoyable to drive, whichever engine you choose, and higher-spec models are blisteringly quick

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4.0 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

5.0 out of 5

The Porsche Panamera is built to go fast and does so with aplomb. Every engine configuration offers more power than you’re ever likely to need, yet despite its prodigious performance, the Panamera isn’t intimidating or difficult to drive. True, its size means parking is tricky (though made easier if you specify the optional reversing camera), and it can feel too big for narrow roads, but the higher spec versions of Panamera can be ridiculously fast in a straight line, and it really shines in terms of its handling.

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Winding B-roads reveal the Panamera is easier to place on the road than its dimensions might suggest, and it’s quite a feat how Porsche’s engineers have managed to make such a large car feel so driver-focused. Meanwhile, motorway cruising is effortless. Overtaking can be accomplished almost instantaneously, and even the entry-level rear-wheel drive car provides enormous amounts of traction.

We drove the latest Panamera 4 and found it to be brilliantly capable, and while there are more powerful options, many buyers will be completely satisfied with its eagerness through the bends. This time around, we felt a surprising amount of feedback through the steering – something that was slightly lacking in the outgoing car. The four-wheel drive system was faultless, even in the wet, giving a secure feel to the Panamera’s drive. We liked the sound of the V6, too, and there was a notable difference in tone when using different driving modes, particularly with the optional sports exhaust system fitted.

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One downside to the Porsche’s sports-focused chassis setup is that comfort can slightly suffer when compared with comfort-focused rivals. Our car was fitted with a complex air-suspension system as standard, and while this did a good job keeping the car flat through the corners, it didn’t offer much give at higher speeds on more blemished roads, even in the least-sporty setting. At lower speeds, though, the Panamera feels comfortable enough, and handles speed bumps and potholes much better.

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While in other areas refinement isn’t an issue, the Panamera does get a lot of road noise in the cabin – most likely down to its massive tyres.

Every Panamera uses an eight-speed, dual-clutch PDK automatic gearbox rather than the old-fashioned conventional type found in the previous-generation model and it’s very quick-shifting. It also does a brilliant job at low speeds – an area where some other dual-clutch systems can struggle.

Porsche Panamera petrol engines

The entry-level Porsche Panamera and Panamera 4 come with a six-cylinder 2.9-litre turbocharged petrol developing 348bhp, enough to take the car from 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, or five seconds with the extra traction of the Panamera 4’s four-wheel drive.

Hybrid engines

From launch at least, the majority of the latest Porsche Panamera’s lineup comprises plug-in models, of which there are three: the Panamera 4 and 4S hybrid, and top-of-the-line Turbo E-Hybrid. These combine even higher performance figures compared to the entry-level petrol models, with the benefit of an electric motor which can be used to waft silently around town for up to around 58 miles to a charge. Should you wish to, the electric motor can be used at speeds of up to 87mph or can be switched to work in tandem with the engine for maximum performance.

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There are multiple drive modes for the hybrid models, including an E-Charge function which helps top up the battery with surplus energy from the engine (while stunting fuel efficiency) or an E-Hold mode, which allows you to save electric power for when you know you’re going to hit a more built-up congested area to use it. Hybrid Auto mode offers the best compromise between the two, and appeared quite good at preserving electric range.

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid uses the petrol cars’ 2.9-litre V6 engine, but produces an impressive 464bhp when paired with a 187bhp electric motor. The result is a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds and 174mph top speed. 

The 4S E-Hybrid makes use of this same combination of V6 and electric motor, but the combustion engine in this model has been amped up to a higher output giving the total system 537bhp. 0-62mph takes a rapid 3.7 seconds. 

We’ve driven the pre-facelift version of the 4S E-Hybrid, and found it to be thoroughly impressive – its performance felt at odds with its ability to deliver such impressive official fuel economy figures, because the Panamera is one of the few cars to have plug-in hybrid variants that quite effectively flaunt their on-paper credentials. Many rival high-performance plug-in hybrids don’t ever feel quite as powerful as their performance figures suggest.

The best news is that the E-Hybrid’s acceleration is immediate when you put your foot down and nothing suggests you’re behind the wheel of anything other than a seriously powerful petrol car. In electric mode, there's just a faint whine if you ask for full acceleration, and in Hybrid mode the petrol engine will cut in quickly and smoothly to pile on more forward thrust.

It has a tougher job convincing the driver it's up to Porsche's usual standards on more challenging UK roads, where it struggles to disguise its 2,200kg bulk. Body lean is still kept in check, but you can feel its momentum and size if you try to push too hard. The 4S E-Hybrid could also do with a better soundtrack, because a lot of the time there's nothing but a distant hum or drone from the electric motor to accompany the view out of the windscreen.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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