ROAD TEST: Porsche Panamera V6

Seeing the Porsche Panamera in your driveway can fill you with a number of different feelings, largely depending on what angle you are looking at it from. Catch it front ¾, from down low and the 911-esque nose and wide, muscular stance makes it look sexy.
However, catch it from the rear and slightly above and it looks like something large and flabby has fallen from a great height and splattered all over your driveway.
But in the great scheme of things that never really mattered, because lighting the wick on the thumping great V8 (or if you were slightly mental, the mighty turbocharged V8…) that lurked under the bonnet was always an experience that was capable of erasing the looks from you mind.
So now there’s a V6 version. And it can’t do that.
The performance of the Panamera V6 is best described as “respectable” – it scarpers to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds, which is certainly not slow, but “respectable” just doesn’t really cut it for something with a Porsche badge on its nose.
It especially doesn’t cut it for something with a Porsche badge on its nose that costs $189,990…
The 220kW/400Nm V6 sounds like a refined version of the Nissan 370Z’s bellowing unit, which in any other car would be a very good thing indeed, but, again, not from something with that badge. It just doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t really go right either…
It does, however, handle right. Very right indeed.
The Panamera is not just a startlingly good handler for something of its size and weight, it is a startlingly good handler full stop. It goes around corners with remarkable alacrity, with the kind of feel and feedback simply not present in most large luxo-barges of a similar size and price.
And that throws up the ultimate conundrum that the Panamera V6 poses; it is simply not powerful enough to be a full-on sports sedan, yet neither is it refined enough to be a luxo-cruiser that its size and price suggest it could well be.
The PDK transmission is jerky and unwilling at round-town speeds and even in the softest setting the suspension is firm and jittery over uneven surfaces. The poor rear visibility makes parking an adventure, even with the backing camera and sensors, and the whole thing just feels like a high-performance car being unwillingly reigned into mundane duties.
Which, you may well argue, is exactly what a Porsche should feel like, and I would agree wholeheartedly – except the V6 Panamera simply doesn’t have the ultimate performance to make up for that low speed lack of refinement.
The simple summation is this; slap an Audi badge on the nose and pricetag on the pricelist and the V6 Panamera would be an absolutely brilliant car. But with a Porsche badge on the nose and the corresponding price, it simply doesn’t feel special enough. It probably could have pulled of “luxury” but they haven’t gone for that. They have gone for “sporty” and it simply can’t pull that off. Not with a straight face, anyway.
I’m sure there will be people who will buy the Panamera V6 simply for the badge on the nose, but they would be a bit silly really, because put it this way; for $182,500 you can buy a Cayenne S with Porsche’s brilliant V8 that will hit 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, make a much better noise doing it, has more usable space, actually looks quite good with the launch of the new model and – largely thanks to the fact that it has a traditional automatic transmission and is shorter and has better visibility – will actually be easier and more practical around town…

This article first appeared in New Zealand Company Vehicle magazine.

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