Nearly 200mph for not quite £24K makes for a performance bargain
By Mike Duff / Saturday, February 26, 2022 / Loading comments
Demographers study changing human populations to try and work out approaching trends. At PH we try to do the same thing with cars, although calling the future of the used market is always an inexact science. But here’s an indisputable fact, highlighted by this week’s Pill: 500hp has never been cheaper, in both relative and absolute terms. The rise in power outputs in the 2000s and 2010s has crossed with the inevitable effect of savage depreciation.
While several examples of this genre have featured in Brave Pill before, this week marks the first appearance of the Porsche Panamera, here in range-topping Turbo format. Our Pill would have carried a £95,300 pre-options list price when it was new in 2009, with options moving that into six figures. Now, wearing an unscary 83,000 miles, it is being offered for just £23,990 – this for a car with a 4.2-sec 0-62mph time and a 190mph top speed. We are living in the gooiest part of the sweet spot.
No car company has ever been defined by a single model to a greater extent than Porsche. Even when we’re not talking about a 911, the iconic ass-engined sports car inevitably gets hauled into any other discussion about Porsche’s products, from those models intended to replace it, but also the ones made to supplement it like the Panamera.
The Cayenne was, pretty obviously, an attempt to splice the DNA of a 911 with an SUV. The Panamera is the attempted synthesis between a 911 and an executive saloon. Porsche had been threatening to do something similar for many years – the 1988 989 prototype was almost exactly the same idea two decades earlier. But the production Panamera that made its debut at the 2009 Shanghai motor show showed its influences as clearly as The Bootleg Beatles, with 911-style headlights, sloped roofline and interior architecture.
In traditional Porsche fashion, there were plenty of Panameras to choose from. Basic versions got the same Volkswagen-sourced 3.6-litre V6 which also did duty in the boggo Cayenne, and which was available with both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Further up the tree came a choice of two 4.8-litre V8s, with the Panamera S and 4S getting a naturally aspirated one that made 395hp and the Turbo’s getting boosted to 493hp. An even brawnier 542hp Turbo S followed in 2011, launched at the same time as a diesel V6 and a plug-in hybrid.
The big mechanical difference over the Cayenne was the the Panamera’s use of a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox rather than a conventional auto for the V6, S and Turbo. Porsche also offered the V6 and naturally aspirated V8 with the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, although this was picked as rarely as a statue’s nose: total sales across both powertrains was reported under 150 cars globally. Beyond some low-speed hesitancy the DSG was a great transmission, deftly snapping its way between ratios with speed and smoothness.
The same two words can be used to sum-up the rest of the dynamic experience, the Panamera being effective but aloof. It was a supreme get somewhere fast machine, especially in Turbo form – as relaxed and comfortable as a private jet when asked to deliver serious cruising speed. But it also lacked the level of engagement that normally comes as standard in Porsche’s sports cars.
I remember driving an early Turbo on a comparison test which pitted it against both a BMW M6 GranCoupe and a Mercedes CLS 63AMG. The all-wheel driven Panamera was much quicker over greasy Welsh roads, getting power down cleanly as the rear-driven pairing scrabbled for traction. But the Panamera finished last to its more charismatic rivals.
The Panamera’s 911-esque cabin also felt a bit try-hard, especially the twin rows of buttons on either side of the centre console. These were fiddly to see and – all being the same shape and size – almost impossible to navigate by touch. On the plus side, it was reasonably spacious for rear-seat passengers and there was something close to family-sized luggage space behind the hatchback.
Porsche always intended the Panamera to exert strongest appeal in non-European markets, and this it definitely did, selling most strongly in the US and China. It managed respectable rather than spectacular numbers in the UK, the first generation never getting over 1,000 cars a year – less than half the volumes the guiltier pleasure that was the Cayenne managed throughout the same period. Many Panamera owners clearly loved them, Porsche saying it has one of the highest repeat business rates of any model it produces.
Our Pill comes from the first year of production and is the cheapest Turbo currently in the classifieds. The dealer has listed every single feature of function within the advert text, but an edited precis reveals the presence of what would have been a a full set of pricey dynamic options: carbon-ceramic brakes, these featuring the distinctive natty yellow calipers, plus the roll-fighting PDCC system and the dash-top watchface showing the presence of the Sport Chrono pack. Under respectful use the carbon discs can last almost indefinitely, despite the Turbo’s chunky 1,800kg kerbweight, although sustained thermal loads can dramatically accelerate wear.
The earlier PDCC system was hydraulic, and as a Turbo our Pill also has air suspension as standard, plus PASM active dampers. All complicated bits of tech capable of throwing up £££ bills. But, presuming all are working as intended, their presence means this Panamera should offer the sharpest possible driving experience for an early 970 generation car. More curious is the presence of an ‘S’ badge on the tailgate as the Turbo S wasn’t introduced until 2011, and its not as if – as a well-equipped regular Turbo – it is exactly lacking in either urge of performance kudos.
The advert makes no mention of the sort of inches-thick service history that provides reassurance in this part of the market, and the advert says the car has had seven former keepers. But even with those provisos the MOT history is impressively clean and green, containing just one minor blemish – a fail last year for worn rear tyres. Other than that there isn’t even an advisory, which suggests an impressive degree of care and attention for something so large, fast and heavy.
First-generation Panamera values are still sliding and, if they follow the trajectory of the Cayenne, there will likely be the chance to write about the sub-£15K and maybe even the sub-£10K Turbo in the fullness of time. Yet this example still looks like a huge amount of both car and performance for the money. It’s not the most exciting Turbo-badged Porsche, but it may well be the most sensible. Sensible can be sexy, right?
See the full ad here
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