The Panamera is a fairly recent addition to Porsche’s line-up of models. Coming after the introduction of the Boxster in 1996 and later on, the Cayenne SUV in 2002, Porsche introduced the Panamera in 2009. In a way, the Panamera would be a spiritual Gran Turismo successor of sorts to the Porsche 928, though the Cayenne beat it to resurrecting the use of a V8 engine, an engine configuration hitherto last seen in the 928.

This time around, when the Panamera arrived, it would retain the same number of seats but with twice the doors. By 1995, the 928 and the 944 – another front-engined Porsche of its contemporary – were retired, the iconic 911 lived on, and subsequent new models would complement rather than try to replace the rear-engined sports car.

And thus two trails were charted for the Panamera – right from its inception, the low-slung four-door has had to put on a distinct duality to its character, that of a luxury cruiser cossetting its occupants in that continent-crossing, grand tourer mould, but at the same time possessing a level of handling prowess and driver involvement which is not only desired, but expected of an automobile bearing the Stuttgart crest. How well does it fulfil those objectives? We’ll soon find out.

In a case of flattery best dished by imitation, the most distinctive angle from which to view the second-generation Panamera is perhaps its rear, where its resemblance with the 911 is most strongly borne.

The ‘squashed Cayenne’ rump now gives way to – to the eyes of yours truly, at least – a more cohesive rear-end treatment which draws from the 991.2 edition of the Neunelfer not just in overall sculpting and silhouette, but also in the three-dimensionality of the rear lamp clusters. Bridging those on our test unit, a Panamera 4S, is a one-piece deployable rear spoiler, which can be commanded from the touchscreen in front. The hypnotically elaborate item you may have seen in footage is exclusive to the Panamera Turbo.

Viewed in profile, the Panamera has a greater challenge of streamlining its four-door roots, but the revised styling manages to carve away some visual heft and leave in its place a tauter, altogether less lumpen sight.

The chrome brightwork which adorns the window line of our test unit helps accentuate the curvature of its posterior. Moving up to its front, the face of the Panamera perpetuates the familiar family look, while the four-point LEDs within the headlamp enclosure book-ends the car with their counterparts at the rear.

If the exterior is compelling, the interior is at once cosseting and invigorating. A slicker package manages to impart a snugness within a wide cabin, thanks to a broad centre console which runs the length of the cabin, front and rear. The sports seats in our Panamera 4S test unit were effortlessly comfortable, if perhaps short on the sheer size and plushness of the ones in an S-Class or a 7-Series.

The dashboard and centre console’s move to fewer buttons and more touch-sensitive (haptic feedback) surfaces is a double-edged sword – while visually cleaner, learning and getting used to its functions and abilities is not the work of a moment.

In terms of materials, however, the Panamera is first-rate, its perceived luxury not even succumbing to the black-on-black colour scheme of our tester. A wealth of materials see to that, a masterful interplay of leather, metal and piano black trim.

There is a certain Windows phone flavour to the icon layout of the central display’s home screen, while the driver’s instrument binnacle retains a nod to tradition with an analogue central tachometer. This is flanked by a pair of digital displays, which will display varying configurations of vehicular or infotainment data with each detent of the multifunction steering wheel’s roller ball on either spoke.

One aspect sure to fascinate and amuse will be the touchscreen-controlled air-conditioning louvres, a method employed for the front and rear central vents. For the latter, they are complemented by vertical vents in the lower B-pillar.

The proof of the weisswurst, as they say, is in the eating. Learning curve of the cabin’s electronics aside, Porsche’s form for ergonomically sublime cabins continues here in the Panamera. Starting with the now-commonplace 918 Spyder-style steering wheel, the tiller feels spot-on for diameter and rim thickness in these hands, and the right seating position could immediately be found.

Meanwhile, setting off from a standstill elicits nothing but smoothness from the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. These have come a long, long way from the binary jaggedness of such transmissions when tasked with walking speeds. Upping the pace, the transmission is as intuitive as can be desired, shifting even more quickly and fiercely in Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Manual shifting is more desirable than necessary, providing instant access to the tonal varieties of the new 2.9 litre V6 that is shared with the latest Audi RS5. Pulling both shift paddles at once invokes momentary neutral, for those gratuitous mid-tunnel throttle blips.

Experience of the previous-generation Panamera some years ago by yours truly was limited to about 15 minutes on a porcelain-smooth banked oval course in Germany. On the mixed urban and country roads in Taiwan, the new 971-generation Panamera immediately impressed with how wieldy if felt, even when threading narrower paths demanded more circumspection.

It’s a brave new world in which Porsche’s V8 grand tourer bearing the 4S badge has been supplanted by an engine with a displacement figure that starts with a “2”, but so it is in the face of EU-mandated emissions requirements.

That barrel-chested baritone growl has been replaced by a slightly more metallic tenor, but its raw numbers vindicate the direction of progress – downsizing and turbocharging yield outputs of 440 PS from 5,650 rpm to 6,600 rpm and 550 Nm of torque, the latter spread across a plateau from 1,750 to 5,500 rpm.

Don’t be fooled by the diesel-esque torque figure, for the V6 petrol loves every last rev within its range you’d care to make it chase. Such is its muscularity in acceleration that the 4.3-second 0-100 km/h time is not in doubt, and despite our exuberance, knowledge of its 289 km/h peak remained academic. There are also hints of snap, crackle and pop on the overrun, though this is surely digitised – Porsche wouldn’t leave engine fuelling behaviour to chance.

There’s a controlled compliance to the Panamera’s softest suspension setting. In fact, all are well judged in their calibration, as yours truly felt even when leaving it thus for the faster and twister stretches of our driving route, or even with a similarly obtuse choice of the stiffer setting for urban, pockmarked stretches.

Never did the Panamera protest too much, with bumps being heard more than felt. Steering feel, even for Porsche, is a precious commodity nowadays, though this helm struck the balance between isolation and feedback just right for grand tourer purposes, and was not found wanting for more accuracy.

Get one’s assassin-escape mode on, and the 4S finds grip and gives response just about believable from a 2.1 metre-wide, near-1.9-tonne car, without the latent fear of being overtaken by one’s own flat-six if corner entry is a bit ambitious. Porsche’s rear-axle steering setup can be credited for marrying the opposing traits of stability and agility here.

If high-exertion chassis behaviour could be visually represented, the Panamera 4S’s would feel as if it was a Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R put through the photocopier at 150% – it has that same perceived appetite for chasing corner apices and tenacity for hanging on, albeit with far more compliance to bumps.

Apologies to Porsche’s car-making countrymen further south-east, but this truly takes some beating as the “business athlete”, such is its agility and response. Wherever the grip limits of the Panamera 4S are, most will never find them on the public road. As for the brakes? Conspicuous by the utter lack of drama, responding to nuances and full-force inputs as you’d wish, with no fade. Full Porsche marks here.

The trade-off for this handling prowess, even on smooth roads, is more road noise than you’d expect from a traditional limousine, as the Panamera 4S wears 275/35R21 and 315/30R21 tyres front and rear. No matter, the 3D sound system by Burmester pipes the tunes for when you prefer to relinquish the engine and exhaust of musical duties. If your mobile devices are of the iOS persuasion, Apple CarPlay gets the job done.

By now, there should be little doubt that the Panamera 4S is a luxury four-seater that places sizeable emphasis on driver involvement. Unsurprising, given the badge on its nose, but it has quite the task in convincing the towkay to sway from the traditional German establishment comprising the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

While in Malaysia the Panamera wears a RM1.1 million price tag in 4S guise, placing it squarely in the ballpark of something like the Maybach S 500 and twice the asking price of a S 400h or a BMW 740 Le, to pigeonhole the four-door Porsche as merely another seven-figure German car would be missing the mark. The Leipzig-made grand tourer is one best enjoyed from the driver’s seat, and so keen drivers in this marketplace will need little convincing.

The rear-seat towkays of this demographic also stand to enjoy what the Panamera has to offer. It won’t replace the two-seater or the proper long-wheelbase limo already in the garage, but rather gives a more-than fair chunk of the sportscar experience with a good dish of opulence, more of the time. In terms of talent spread, think of it as a Victorinox pen knife, complementing the single-blade Opinels.

Turning this approach on its head, if you could have just one, the Porsche Panamera 4S also makes a very strong case for itself as a solitary device, just like that Victorinox.

Does it successfully converge the two trails of luxury and high-performance driver enjoyment? We’d say so. Now, fantasy garage vote – yay or nay? Black exterior on black interior please, with 21-inch Turbo Design wheels, thank you very much.