When I first saw the press pictures of the all-new Porsche Panamera, I thought: “it looks like a giant roach.” At a recent showing at Quail Lodge during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend in California, I had the chance to see it up close. What a difference in person! Not only does it not look like a roach, it’s absolutely stunning in person. Now I know as a member of the Fourth Estate, I am supposed to be composed and non-biased in my writing. Forget it! I am gaga over the Panamera and I don’t mind losing a journalistic point or two by saying it.
The Panamera is the first ever sedan (technically a four-door hatchback) from Porsche, and their marketing tag line for the car is “Four, uncompromised.” And boy did they get it right. It is a true Porsche in every detail, and should have no trouble swaying even the most diehard 911 owner to at least test drive one. Porsche has not always been successful in straying away from the “pure,” rear-engine layout that made the 911 a legend. The 924 was tagged a VW in disguise, and the 944/968 and 928 were blasphemed for having water cooled, front engine layouts. Boxster and Cayman arrived with true Porsche DNA, and the Cayenne literally saved the company. With that trio, the so-called mistakes of the past had been corrected. And now, a Porsche sedan.
Outside, the Panamera is Usain Bolt in sheetmetal. The design is long, lean and muscular. There’s no mistake that it is a Porsche from the front view, with swept headlights and a power dome on the hood. LED Daytime Running Lamps flank each lower corner, a look created by fellow German brand, Audi. The lengthy torso with side skirts gives appropriate depth to the design. The rear looks like a variation of the 911 with a bit more edge, and features a power hatch. It’s an amazing design that dropped jaws throughout my drive along the Pacific Coast Highway and through Carmel, California. The Panamera body is fully galvanized and is made of various metals, including magnesium, aluminum, and multiple grades of super high strength steel. The body is tight, and exceptionally rattle free.
The Panamera comes in three models, S, 4S, and Turbo. S and 4S models are powered by a 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine making 400 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Peak torque is achieved between 3500 and 5000 rpm, a band wide enough for city driving, and for roadway assault missions. Take an engine of the same displacement, add a pair of turbos and intercoolers, and you have the Panamera Turbo with 500 horsepower and a whopping 516 pound feet of torque (with an even wider 2250-4500 rpm band). Base Panameras reach 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. Turbo models achieve 60 mph in 4.0 seconds – 3.8 seconds if you opt for the Chrono Package which incorporates an overboost “Launch Control” feature, temporarily increasing boost by up to ten percent.
Under the skin, all Panameras feature the standard seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission. Let PDK do the work, or shift it manually through console or steering wheel mounted shifters. Panamera 4S and Turbo models feature Porsche Traction Management, all-wheel drive and an electronic multiplate clutch. All three models feature Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). PASM actively regulates damping force at each wheel. Turbo models add an adaptive air suspension for even greater chassis control. Push the Panamera like a luxury sedan, and you’ll think you are in an S-Class. Push it hard, and you know you are in a Porsche! In my drive of the 4S, I noted ferocious acceleration and confident handling. I can only imagine the performance of the Turbo model. My only quibble was a high level of tire noise entering the cabin with all windows up. A simple switch of tire brands often cures this malady.
Inside, you are a pilot waiting for flight. I’ve always liked lots of buttons and controls in a car. Not in a goofy way like the 90s Pontiac Bonneville or Saab 9000, but useful buttons and controls that not only allow you to showcase tech appeal, but actually allow you to change vehicle parameters in a rapid fashion. This is not possible with the ridiculous rotary controllers that are the rage of German carmakers these days. Want to change suspension settings? Hit a button. Want to change from straight to variable exhaust? Hit another. Everything from seat heating to climate control is arrayed in an impressive button format on the center console. The buttons have a reptilian look to them, like the bumps on a Crocodile. Front and rear accommodations are impressive, even for a tall guy like me, and swathed with premium leather, wood and metal trim. The center console continues unabated to the rear, creating a separate cockpit for those being driven and wishing they were behind the wheel. Walnut, Carbon Fiber, Anthracite Birch, Tineo, Brushed Aluminum and Olive Wood are interior finish choices, depending on what color leather you choose. Did Maserati, Rolls or Bentley design this interior? No, but that’s how impressive it is.
Impressive standard features abound on all Panameras. As with any Porsche, you can also choose from a healthy list of options, several notables include eight-way power rear seats and LCD screens for rear DVD viewing. Choose the retractable luggage cover, and four large suitcases are securely stowed in the surprisingly large rear compartment. Want to create a concert hall environment? Select the Burmeister High-End Surround System with more than 1,000 watts and 16 speakers. Amazing clarity, with full iPod integration, of course. An impressive 14 speaker Bose system is standard.
And with any car that can launch you to breathtaking speeds, you’ll want tons of safety in your Panamera. Porsche delivers with ten airbags (including driver and passenger knee airbags, and rear side airbags), and myriad systems to control vehicle attitude no matter the weather.
Panamera models start at $89,800 for the S, $93,800 for the 4S, and $132,600 for the Turbo. Choose options wisely as they are pricey. At any trim level, you’ll get enough standard gear to keep you very, very happy. Four uncompromised? Indeed!
(Stay tuned to Roadfly for Charlie Romero’s video review of the Panamera!)