By Charleen Clarke
I’ve been a South African Car of the Year judge since pa fell off the bus. There have been some unpopular winners in previous years – the Nissan Maxima (remember it?) was one, the Opel Monza (some judges called it the Opel Monster) was another. It’s actually quite awkward at the awards banquet … when a surprise winner is announced, there’s a bit of a hush that falls over the 500-person strong gathering.
This year, when the winner of the WesBank South African Car of The Year (COTY) was announced, there was yet another of those uncomfortable hushes. The winner, you see, was the Porsche Panamera. A fine vehicle, it must be said. However Porsche has won the competition a record four times in six years.
People were aghast.
I was a tiny bit worried too – unlike the majority of the jury, which obviously voted the Panamera into power – I had actually given the Alfa Giulia my number one spot (shhhhhh, please don’t tell the wonderful people from Porsche; I will never get a test car or one of their wonderful cappuccinos again). I was a bit worried that I was losing the plot. After all, the Giulia came third (the Volvo S90 came second).
So, I requested a Panamera test vehicle and, because they didn’t know that I had voted for the Alfa (just kidding!), my request was granted. As such, I blasted off in the direction of Bela-Bela to evaluate the aforementioned WesBank South African COTY winner. I had two questions in my mind:
- Is it really THAT good?
- Is it truly a deserving COTY winner?
The first question is easy to answer. Yes, it is THAT good. It’s a phenomenal car, actually. If you want a long-distance tourer, it’s really hard to beat. Impossible, maybe.
Now, the second question is a tad more complicated. So, let’s look at the scoring categories for COTY – and consider how the Panamera could have fared.
They are: exterior design (too gorgeous for words), interior materials (utterly sensational), interior layout (faultless), technology (don’t get me started here), engine (my test car was the 4S, with a 324 kW motor that propels the car from 0 – 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds… need I say more?) and gearbox/transmission ( the newly developed eight-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung …or PDK).
Then there are a number of other important issues, such as engineering integrity and build quality (superb), ride quality (truly marvellous; you can adjust it if you don’t like it), steering and handling (come on, it’s a Porsche), affordability (it’s right up there with its competitors), value for money (see affordability) and overall excellence (well, it’s simply impossible to fault, so excellent it is).
Now I know what you’re thinking. So many other people said it. But this is an exclusive car. It’s not a people’s car. Yes and no. It’s exclusive – although it’s not badly priced within its segment. It’s not a people’s car per se – whatever that may be. Having said this, one should be mindful of its sales figures. For the period September 2017 until February 2018 inclusive, the Panamera outsold the Volvo S90 and Alfa Giulia in South Africa.
So, is it truly a deserving COTY winner? Well, it’s hard to argue with all the points I’ve raised above. Really hard, actually.
And, guess what? I think that another member of the greater Porsche family will win COTY next year. (Do I hear loud shrieks?) Calm down, people. I’m predicting that the 2019 COTY winner will be the Volkswagen Polo. My prediction is, of course, completely meaningless. We don’t even know if the Polo will be a finalist. Nor do we know which other finalists will be in the running. I don’t know if the other judges will agree. Actually, I may not even judge the 2019 COTY.
So much uncertainty … right now, only one thing is certain: the Panamera ain’t no pretender to the 2018 throne.