The smattering of Omani school children rotated their heads right to left and back again as the glistening queue of 15 Porsches roared by.
One hour later at the foot of the Hajar mountain range, the orderly convoy became a disjointed coil as the Panameras snaked their way up through the mountains, devouring the dips, climbs and hairpins; the children replaced by wild goats.
This was a press trip for Middle East media, put on by Porsche to experience the second generation of the German manufacturer’s saloon sports car.
The 2014 range of the Panamera offers executive versions for the Turbo and 4S, featuring an extended wheelbase, while the S e-hybrid is the world’s first plug-in hybrid in the luxury class.
As we rolled out of Muscat, the agility and sporty underbelly of the 4S became gradually more apparent as the road opened up in front of us, its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine coming to life.
With 420 horsepower the new 4S goes from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, with 520 Nm of torque. Top speed is 286km/h.
The 4S cannot be described as light, not with more than a fifth of the car’s value coming from optional add-ons – the exhaust package being the only one really worth noting – but compared to the Turbo and certainly the hybrid, it did have a nimble quality that made it perfect for the winding roads.
The Turbo comes with a 4.8-litre twin- turbo V8 engine, delivering 520 horsepower with a maximum torque of 700 Nm. In heavy traffic, it’s a luxury saloon car. On open mountainous roads, it’s a lot of fun.
While probably better suited to a track with straights and high-speed corners that don’t run the risk of a goat or rock fall blocking your path at 2,000 metres above sea level, the Turbo still left the other Panamera models behind.
Though noticeably heavier than the 4S, it’s likely the Turbo will be the best selling model of the new Panamera range for the Middle East.
The S e-hybrid is an evolutionary step for Porsche and a revolutionary jump for the luxury segment. As such, whereas the difference between the 4S and Turbo were – though noticeable – not massive, the change in the hybrid really was significant.
Being an ‘e-hybrid’ you can drive it in three ways – electric, combustion (while the battery recharges) or a hybrid of both.
In its electric mode, the accelerator pedal uses a pressure point system restricting you to a mid-way biting point at 135km/h. Push through the barrier and the combustion engine kicks in.
Despite using the same 3.0-litre V6 engine found in the 4S, the combustion and hybrid options never felt as good. The e-hybrid is heavier, more cumbersome and really struggled to keep up with the other models.
That said, on daily home-school-work routes with inevitable traffic and a desire to save the earth, it works. But with fuel so cheap in the Gulf, it’s not surprising Porsche only plans to sell 200 models here.
The Panamera’s exterior is not hugely different from the previous range. The front fog lights, rear headlights and number plate all shift slightly, but only the trained eye will pick out a new model from the old.
The interiors are as can be expected – befitting of a luxury car – while the extra 15cm in the executive versions make for a comfortable backseat drive.