But being a motoring journalist does offer a few perks, the obvious ones being we get to drive some awesome new cars in some rather interesting places and partake in a lifestyle that is normally reserved for the select few.
And this past weekend was just such an opportunity. Porsche SA now offers an uprated, more powerful Panamera Diesel. And my family and I got to take one of these down to the Drakensberg and live the good life at the Cathedral Peak Hotel for a few days.
But nothing in life comes for free, and because I have recently taken up the sport of mountain biking, Christo Kruger, Porsche SA’s media man, strapped a top-of-the-range Porsche RX mountain bike to the roof of my Panamera and told me to go “have fun”.
Fun? What part of riding up the side of a mountain on a bicycle powered by yourself is meant to be fun? I sometimes wonder why I do this to myself.
Porsche offers something for their more sporty owners in this mountain bike – which features a carbon MMT frame, DT-Swiss XMM 100 with remote lockout air-based suspension fork, Crankbrothers Cobalt 3 seat, post, bar and stem, Shimano XTR gear shift, Magura MT26 brakes, Crankbrothers Cobalt 2 wheels and Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tyres – all weighing in at only 10kg. In the same way Porsche offers extra, Cathedral Peak has a very tough 18km red route, and a slightly shorter yellow route to ride your R64 000 Porsche bike on when you are finished lazing at one of their pools or feeding yourself on their over-the-top food.
So while my girls wisely took to some horse riding on the premises, I tackled the mountain on my bike. I am by no means a mountain bike tester yet, but I can tell you this Porsche bike is so much better and lighter than my Fuji at home.
Having done this and ticked that box, I spent the rest of the weekend taking in the beauty of the Drakensberg and all the leisure on offer from the hotel with my family – from quad biking to putt putt. The bottom line is if you can think of it they probably have it at Cathedral Peak.
But being there was only half the fun. Making use of a Porsche Panamera to get there makes the rest of the weekend that much more special. And when it is an easy-cruising turbo diesel, it gets even better.
For 2014, the Panamera Diesel gets an all-new 221kW 3.0 litre V6 engine. This is a big 40kW increase over the predecessor diesel model, and because of this the car is now able to get to 100km/h in a mere six seconds – eight-tenths of a second better than the old one. The top speed has increased to 259km/h compared with 244km/h.
The only aspect that still remains of the previous Panamera Diesel’s V6 engine is the basic engine dimensions.
The moving parts in particular, such as the crankshaft and pistons, have been completely redesigned and dimensioned with the aim of increasing the power output.
Porsche has also combined its new engine with a water-cooled turbocharger for the first time, and the new turbo provides a greater air flow as well as a higher boost pressure of 3.0 bar versus the 2.5 bar available before.
In addition to the increased power output of 221kW that is made at 4 000rpm, the rated torque has also been increased by 100Nm to 650Nm at engine speeds of between 1 750rpm and 2 500rpm, providing an even better drive at lower speeds.
The eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox has also been retuned to match the extra power on tap. To reduce fuel consumption at higher speeds, the overall gear ratio was made longer, while in gears one to four a shorter gear ratio than before is used for better acceleration.
Fuel consumption is claimed to be 6.4 litres per 100km, along with a CO2 rating of 169 CO2/km; and I can confirm we averaged a very good, fully loaded, 7.5 litres per 100km for the time we had the Panamera.
In addition to the improved power output, dynamic performance has also been optimised for better feel. The diesel now features the controlled rear-axle differential lock with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus fitted as standard for the first time – and the transmission and chassis have also been retuned.
Now these sorts of technical tweaks and additions are not normally instantly felt – but because we had a good few kilometres of rural KwaZulu-Natal and Free State to negotiate to and from the Drakensberg – they were put to the test. And I can say the way this full-size GT car handled the bumpy, sweeping roads was an absolute pleasure.
If you ever want to test a family car’s suspension ability, just put your family in the car and tackle the twisties. When they complain constantly about your driving or that you are going too fast, then your family car has failed the test. The Panamera elicited no such comments from my back seat critics, and I viewed this as a win for the Porsche.
Of course, every creature comfort you would expect in a car that goes for a very reasonable
R1 084 000 or R1 034 000 – depending on whether you opt for the five-year DrivePlan or three-year DrivePlan, respectively – was on board to keep my family safe and comfy for the entire trip.
I have to say, should you be in the market for a full-size family car and have this sort of money to spend, then I’d seriously put the Porsche Panamera on my shopping list. It offers plenty for the family and the sporty driver alike.
For more information on the car and the mountain bike, visit www.porsche.co.za and to check out the Cathedral Peak Hotel visit www.cathedralpeak.co.za.