Porsche Panamera

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Fast Track executive sedan

Porsche has been building cars since 1939, many of them of the sort that get the blood percolating. They’ve built a wide variety of sports cars of the front-, mid- and rear-engined variety. They’ve built a 4-wheel drive sports car and used it to win the Dakar Rally. They’ve even built an SUV, the incredibly popular Cayenne. But Porsche have never built a production sedan—until the Panamera.

New approach

For the global launch of the 2010 Porsche Panamera, held in Bavaria, there were three different versions of the sedan being featured: the rear-wheel drive S, and the all-wheel drive 4S and Turbo, all fitted with the company’s racing-derived PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, first introduced in 2008 on the Porsche 911.

The former two cars are powered by a 4.8-litre V8 that generates 400 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, while the latter employs the same engine, boosted by a pair of turbochargers to create 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. In spending time behind the wheel of each version, one key facet of the Panamera became apparent—in terms of driving dynamics, it represents a new standard for executive-class sedans.

Although the all-new Porsche doesn’t drive anything like a 911, it boasts a unique personality that is impressive in its own right. The Panamera has the lowest centre of gravity of any car in its class and a wheelbase of significant length. These characteristics, combined with an adaptive rear spoiler that deploys and adjusts its angle of attack depending on the speed being traveled (a 4-piece spoiler in the case of the Turbo) give the car an extremely stable presence at high speed.

At one point, we were driving on the autobahn at over 200 km/h on newly damp pavement—the slickest possible conditions. In these circumstances, even some very well-engineered cars will twitch and slide when rounding a bend. Not the Panamera. It clung to the tarmac like a cat on a scratching post.

While high-speed composure is a definite strength of the car, the same is not the case with high-speed transitions—reason being, the Panamera is a large and heavy sedan. Although the Porsche has been infused with lightweight materials, it’s also a car capable of very high speeds—the Turbo can reach 303 km/h—so the engineers have, by necessity, given the car incredible strength to match. To sum up, while the Panamera is hardly a limousine in the classic American sense, it’s also not the most inspired choice for a hairpin-strewn Alpine pass.

The power delivery characteristics of both engines are impressive. The S and 4S accelerated smartly, both accomplishing the sprint to 100 km/h in well under six seconds. Of course, the Turbo set the pace among this group—launching from a standing start to that century mark in 4.2 seconds (and in just four seconds flat with the optional Sports Chrono Package).

The PDK 7-speed proved to be up to the challenge of transmitting all that power to the wheels. The visceral pleasure of a well-sorted manual transmission may never go out of style, but the PDK has a charm all its own—setting aside the shift buttons on the steering wheel, which Porsche has started swapping for optional proper paddle shifters in other models.

All versions of the Panamera feature a very interesting engine management feature: automatic start/stop. While this system has been available in hybrid cars for years now—and is responsible for a significant portion of fuel savings in those vehicles—this is the first application in a production non-hybrid for the North American market. The engine shuts down automatically at speeds under 15 km/h and starts up again as soon as the brake pedal is released. Smart.

Apart from the power and handling characteristics of the Panamera, the most impressive aspect of this distinctive sedan is its lavish interior. With a cabin treatment reminiscent of the Carrera GT, the Panamera is easily the most luxurious Porsche ever built. The most unique aspect is the centre console, which extends from front to back, creating separate “cocoons” for the driver and three passengers.

The console houses the vast majority of the controls, including the audio system switches, HVAC buttons, suspension and engine mapping switches, and gear selector. The central touch-screen allows for clear and intuitive operation of the audio and navigation systems. It’s all very well executed. In terms of comfort, the Panamera also sets new standards for the company. The seats are a marvel and there’s decent headroom and legroom for back-seat passengers, something which was a very clear objective when designing the sedan.

Regardless of all the appealing qualities of the Panamera, many purists likely aren’t thrilled with the idea of a 4-door Porsche. Still others have cast derision on the exterior design of the sedan, which is definitely unique and unquestionably not to everyone’s taste. But these same people were no doubt vocal in their dislike of the Porsche Cayenne, which has been an unqualified success for the manufacturer. Given the superior engineering and luxury on display in the Panamera, there’s no reason to expect a similar level of success isn’t right around the corner.

Plus

Road handling

Engine performance (V8)

PDK gearbox

Overall comfort

Like rolling in a bank vault

Minus

Price

Pricy options

It’s ugly

Spec  sheet

(S, 4S)

V8 4,8 l DOHC, 400 hp @ 6500 tr/min

Torque 369 lb-ft @ 3500 tr/min

7 speed PDK gearbox

0-100 km/h 5,2 s  4,8 sec (4S)

max speed: 283 km/h

fuel economy (100 km) 13,4 l (octane 91)

(Turbo)

V8 4,8 l twin turbo DOHC, 500 hp @ 6000 tr/min

Torque 516 lb-ft @ 2250 tr/min

7 speed PDK gearbox

0-100 km/h 4,0 s

max speed: 303 km/h

fuel economy (100 km) 14,4 l (octane 91)

Tires: S/4S : P245/50ZR18, Turbo  P255/45ZR19 (av), P285/40R19 (ar)

> Dimensions

wheelbase:    2920 mm

length:     4970 mm

width:          1931 mm

Height:    1418 mm

Cirb weight:     S 1800 kg, S4 : 1860 kg, Turbo 1970 kg

Turning radius: 11,9 m

Trunk 445 l, 432 l (turbo)

Fuel capacity: 80 l 100 l (4S andTurbo)

Prices

Panamera S    103 200 $

Panamera 4S    108 900 $

Panamera Turbo    156 300 $

Panamera Turbo S    198 100 $

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