Fast saloons have always been the ultimate expression of the automotive engineer’s art. While a sports car is allowed all manner of compromises in terms of accommodation, ride and refinement, these larger expresses have to be spacious, comfortable and quiet, as well as quick. Porsche, indubitably one of the greatest sports car manufacturers of all time, had the hardest of tasks when it was developing the Porsche Panamera saloon. It knew any compromise in terms of sporty handling would have a potentially calamitous effect on the image of its whole brand.

Perhaps Porsche set its designers too hard a task, as it is clear it wanted to incorporate as many styling cues from the iconic 911 as possible into what the company describes as a four door GT. While it works just fine at the front, the way the roofline flows from the cabin down into the hatchback isn’t quite so successful.

As soon as you’re inside the car, you’re altogether happier, and not just because you can’t see its outside any more. The Porsche Panamera has a high centre console, which runs the whole length of the cabin. This restricts it to four seats, but like the considerably more expensive Aston Martin Rapide, it gives both driver and passengers a real sense of occasion.

What this Porsche Panamera lacks in ride comfort it makes up for with brilliant handling and economy.

You can get a Porsche Panamera with a petrol engine, from a low-emissions hybrid right up to a snorting, fire-breathing 4.8 turbocharged V8, but the car I tested had the same 3.0 V6 turbo diesel you can get in various big Audis and even the VW Touareg. This, hooked up to an exquisitely programmed automatic gearbox, gives the big Porsche Panamera brisk if not electrifying performance but, unbelievably for such a car, fuel consumption in the high 40s.

Could you see yourself driving to a shoot day in the Porsche Panamera?

Out on the tarmac, you notice more road noise than in something like a Jaguar XJ, and it doesn’t ride nearly as well either. What it does do is handle extraordinarily well. The Porsche Panamera covers ground astonishingly quickly, and can really entertain when you take it by the scruff of the neck – while still being able to deliver fuel consumption that would have beaten even tiny little hatchbacks until a few years ago.

In my view, Porsche’s engineers have succeeded in giving their bosses exactly what they asked for. The Porsche Panamera is definitely the best handling big saloon on the market today, while the diesel can do 750 miles on a tank. However, there is a price to pay, which is in ride comfort and refinement. The Jaguar, and the equivalent Mercedes and BMWs will have more rubber bushes and possibly a whole extra subframe between what’s happening at the tyres and what the driver hears and feels. This means they don’t handle quite as well, but it makes them quieter and more comfortable.

The combination of amazing fuel consumption during the week, and that incredibly involving handling on your favourite moorland road at the weekend, might just make the Porsche Panamera one of the cleverest cars currently in production.

Specifications for the Porsche Panamera 3.0 V6 Diesel Tiptronic S

Price: £63,134
Top speed: 150mph
0-60mph: 6.8 seconds
Combined: 43.5mpg
CO²: 172g/km

3½/5

Ben Samuelson is the managing director of PR and events agency Samuelson Wylie Associates. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/bensamuelson

For more car reviews and other features from Shooting Gazette click here