Porsche Panamera Turbo, Audi RS6 and Maserati Sport GT S

G'day guys
All three line up

Those of you who read WHEELS magazine will have noticed the road test in the March issue with the:

Porsche Panamera Turbo
Audi RS6
Maserati Quatroporte Sport GT S

Thanks to my mate Glen at ACP, I was fortunate to be asked to help out with the test. See below for my recollections of the drive, and look here for a few photos posted on the Club's web site

The Panamera (affectionately nick-named the FAP - Fat Arsed Porsche) is an amazing machine.
Fat Arsed PorschePorsche headlights

Blistering acceleration from its twin turbo 404 kw V8, sublime road holding, and carbon ceramic front brake rotors with 6-pot calipers that give braking which pops your eyeballs. However, the brakes are less than satisfactory in city traffic, as they are so sensitive it's really difficult to apply the little pressure you need to slow down. Just a light touch on the pedal and the car slows so quickly that your body momentum pushes the brake pedal even further. Every stop seems like a panic stop.
Porsche brakesPorsche engine bay

Porsche have controlled the acceleration in traffic though, and it's not very responsive at slow speeds. That's a good thing, as it stops the Porker slamming into the car ahead with every launch. If the slow speed braking matched the gentle acceleration, it would be much more comfortable driving it in city traffic.

The cabin is a little daunting, not very intuitive, and you really need to learn it before you start driving with any vigour. It's distracting to have to search the almost 50 knobs and switches for the one you want when you are travelling at any speed. Cruise control (once you find it) is great - is even applies the brakes if you're going too fast downhill.
Porsche controlsPorsche dashboard

The huge tailgate reveals a small boot, certainly nowhere near enough for four people's luggage. And you can't close it yourself. If you try, an alarm sounds. You have to push a button on the tailgate and it closes itself. You get that when you pay $420,000 (including options) for your Porsche.

The Audi, with it's 426 kw twin turbo V10, is every bit the equal of the FAP and goes like a bullet out of corners. It feels a bit more nervous than the FAP, but the four wheel drive just grips and launches the car wherever you're pointing. You better be pointing in the right direction. The seating is superb, the gauges and instruments are great. It's the only one of the three with a boot big enough for luggage.
Audi engine bayAudi full frontal

I was driving it when it punctured a tyre. We were half way along the Putty Rd on the way to Singleton when a warning light came on - "low pressure front right". We pulled over and sure enough, the low profile tyre had ruptured the sidewall and was gushing air. Now here's the annoying thing. The plastic boot liner in the RS6 is a slightly modified version of the one in the $180,000 cheaper (yes, you read that right) A6 on which it's based. That means there's room in there for a jack and a spare wheel. Perhaps not an RS6 sized spare, but at least a space-saver. But no, you get a moulded round recess for a wheel, and a tyre pump and can of goop sitting in it. Well the goop didn't work, nor did the extra load of goop from the FAP. We had no mobile phone reception, so Glenn the Journo took off in the direction of Singleton to place a call to Audi Assist. Five hours later, a tow truck arrived to take the car to the nearest dealership, a further four hours away. Half a day later, a replacement tyre arrived. Almost 24 hours after the incident, we were on the road again.
Audi under boot floor - room for a spare?

All three cars are luxury four door four seater cruisers. How would you like to be stranded with spouse and two kids on any of Australia's outback roads, with a flat tyre, no spare wheel and no phone reception? Just not good enough for any car in this price range.

The Maserati is just left behind in performance stakes. It's 323 kw is 81 kw short of the FAP and 103 kw short of Audi. It's just 35 kgs lighter than the Audi, but 20 kgs heaver than the FAP. Acceleration is comparatively sluggish, handling a bit soft and doughy, and it washes out a little on fast corners since it doesn't have the benefit of four wheel drive like the other two cars on test.
MaseratiMaserati full frontalMaserati

What it does have is class, and lots of it. The cabin is sublime and just exudes luxury. There's leather and real wood everywhere. Like an Armani suit, every feature has an undefinable Italian style. Just look at the clock for example. One feature I found a bit wierd is the glovebox. You're not able to open it manually, you have to push a button and it opens for you. Sorry, but you have to close it manually. For $339,000 surely they could get a push-button close for the glovebox!
Maserati dashboardMaserati controlsMaserati clockMaserati tachoMaserati glove box - push to open

But the Maserati has an engine and exhaust sound like nothing short of a Ferrari. (Well it should, Ferrari own Maserati.) In Sport mode, the throttle response sharpens, the suspension is tied down a bit better, and a baffle in the exhaust opens. The exhaust melody brings shivers up your spine. When you brake hard into a corner, the gearbox changes down a gear or two for you, the throttle blips with each change and an over-run crackle comes out the big oval tailpipes.
Maserati engine bayMaserati engineMaserati's bum

All three cars have performance and handling well beyond what most drivers can handle and will (hopefully) ever experience. The Porsche and Audi accelerate to our highway speed limit in under five seconds, and a little over six for the Maser. The level of grip offerred by all of them mean that, if you ever do get it wrong, it's going to be an expensive and life-threatening accident. Sure they're great cars, maybe even groundbreaking cars given that they're four door four seaters, but when can you use that potential?
That FAP again!

For me, the decision is easy. I would use the Maserati every day. I would drive it to the letterbox if that's the only chance I got, just to hear the sound of the engine and exhaust.