Porsche Panamera not just aspires to sports car performance but is also among the chunkiest saloons

In the automotive world, the Panamera is a real mystery. Here's a car that aspires to sports car performance on the one hand, but whose full-fat bells-and-whistles version is among the chunkiest saloons. Where does all this weight come from? You can blame fittings more suited to a luxury sedan, four-wheel drive and big V8 motors to start with. But while the Panamera Turbo is seriously heavy at 1970kg, it's also a Porsche and that means it is more than capable of dancing — no agility has been sacrificed here. But if Porsche reduces the weight, can it make do with less power?

Lighter and faster

This, then, is a sort of Panamera Lite. It has fewer cylinders, lighter steel springs, no heavy four-wheel-drive system and a kerb weight of 1730kg, a full 240kg's lighter than the turbo. The V6 Panamera has considerably less power at 300bhp too. This gives rise to the big question: does it feel slow?

Not in the least. Porsche's first V6 is a purpose-built motor, and that means power delivery, responsiveness and performance have priority. In fact, the V6 is Porsche's celebrated V8 minus two cylinders. But you wouldn't have thought that this car was 100bhp down. Porsche has used shorter gearing to make better use of the power and this seems to have worked pretty well.

For a start, the motor has a lovely, smooth rumble to it. Free-revving in extreme, it thrusts the Panamera off the line quite effectively. Further up the power band, things improve even more. The engine note becomes brassier in the mid-range and the push from the rear wheels is muscular. Performance at 80 per cent throttle is effortless and strong too, and the motor has more than enough grunt for both urban conditions and country roads.

On an empty stretch, the Panamera easily flies past 240kph on the speedometer. It's only when you move up to 90 to 95 per cent that the Panamera struggles to meet the expectations you have of a Porsche. The motor delivers the additional power, but you demand and expect more. After all, you buy a Porsche to drive flat out, don't you? Still, handling and driving pleasure are as good as you would expect from a Porsche. The wide stance of the car and the long wheelbase give it tremendous stability and plenty of agility has been engineered in as well. The steering feels directly connected to the wheels, the Panamera turns into corners without too much coaxing and the overall chassis is so good that you soon forget about the bulk of this car and just enjoy hurling it around. The more challenging the road gets, the more fun there is to be got out of this car.

The front of the Panamera feels like it is glued to the road, everything else is just hanging on for dear life. Porsche can only bend the laws of physics so much; while this car drives better than any saloon, it's not nearly as agile as a fully-fledged sports car.

Feels like an aircraft

On the flip side, the luxury, comfort and build are better than many other luxury cars. Okay, this car seats only four and rear headroom is not good enough for your average NBA star, but here is something that is genuinely different — a much, much sportier take on luxury. The quality of the cabin, wooden bits, metal highlights and plastics are all better than the class and the inside feels like an aircraft cockpit due to the extended central console.

Porsche allows you to spec the insides of both this version and the top Panamera models, and that's fantastic. What's not, though, is the price of this supposedly ‘affordable' version. It retails at Rs. 1.18 crore for a basic car. However, for your money, you do get something that is genuinely unique — a cross between a luxury car and a sports car. And this V6 is good enough to get the job done.