It has become one of the country’s most famous – or perhaps infamous – tourist sites, Barnard Castle.
So when I saw the signpost for it, I hesitated. But I had not come to test my eyesight. Instead, I was putting two lovely Porsches under the lens, specifically the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid and the Turbo S.
Rather than head towards the notorious castle, I turned towards the North Pennines a UNESCO area of outstanding natural beauty and a great place to drive these cars.
The Panamera is as near as you will get to a family car with Porsche.
And indeed waiting outside a hotel the other day I saw a young family of three pile in all their luggage as well as a small bike and a large bouquet of flowers. Impressive.
Now the family can add to their Panamera choices with the two new cars Porsche have added to the line-up.
The full fat Turbo S is a beast of a machine that will have you in thrall from the minute you switch on the 4.0-litre V8 engine and it roars into life.
This is the new top-of-the-range model and hardly a shrinking violet with 630PS that will get you from 0-62mph in just 3.1 seconds in Sport plus mode.
And it’s already a winner having just set a new record at the Nurburgring for executive class cars.
There’s a new suspension, bigger brakes, a great selection of tyres and steering control shared with the 911 for even faster reactions as you make those corners.
And corner we did across some incredibly beautiful and testing countryside, the Panamera Turbo S was often the only car on the moors as we powered along making use of the normal, sport and sport plus modes – there’s also an individual one. The Turbo S makes full use of its incredible bite to eat up the miles and demolish the hairpins.
It stands out from its teammates with its bigger air intakes at the front and headlights wider apart for a bolder more aggressive stance. It has a top speed of 195mph, will give you 22.1mpg and emissions are 289g/km.
At the rear one light strip connects the newly designed taillights sitting above the dual exhaust pipes.
The new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid is the same – but different. It has been upgraded from the previous hybrid with a bigger battery (17.9kWh) and a 136PS electric motor paired with Porsche’s eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission and a 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo engine.
The result is 440PS that covers the sprint from 0-62 in just 3.7 seconds.
It has an electric range of up to 33 miles and can be charged overnight on a domestic socket or for just around three hours on a rapid charger.
Power is recouped by braking and decelerating while driving, and here’s the best bit, it self-charges at its optimum when in sport or sport plus mode.
There’s also an electric mode and a hybrid auto. The car starts by default in electric and switches into hybrid auto as you motor along.
Once the car knows the terrain it is covering – or if you input the route in the sat nav – it will intelligently work out the best mode for your journey.
You can also save the electricity to be used, for example, in the city.
The hybrid is distinguished by special badging and acid lime touches – including the brake calipers – and like the Turbo S carries a draft of Porsche safety and assistance features.
It is particularly well balanced on the road because of the battery sitting under the rear of the car. Last year the E-Hybrid accounted for 60 per cent of Panamera sales.
It has a top speed of 185mph with CO2 a mere 50g/km giving you and an astounding 128.4mpg.
The whole Porsche Panamera range has been upgraded but these are the two new models Porsche have added.
They are on sale now with prices starting at £101,690 for the hybrid and £135,610 for the Turbo S. They both come with a three year/unlimited mileage warranty.
And you don’t have to venture to Barnard Castle to test one.
Maggie Barry is an Award winning journalist, she regularly travels in Europe and beyond to test drive cars. A former lecturer in journalism and motoring editor of Media Scotland she has written for and contributed to the Daily Record and Sunday Mail among others. She is on the panel judging the Scottish Car of the Year and Women’s World Car of the Year. She lives near Glasgow with her husband and several cars.
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