Don't Count the Doors -- It's a Real Porsche.
Let’s cut to the chase: The 2010 Porsche Panamera is big, fast, and comfortable; a genuine four passenger Gran Turismo capable of loafing across continents in giant 130 mph bounds, leaving you relaxed and refreshed at the end of the day at the wheel. Press a few buttons, stiffening the suspension, quickening the seven speed PDK transmission’s responses, allowing the deep-throated dual exhaust to breathe easier, and the Panamera is ready to tackle a snaking mountain pass with the panache of…well, a Porsche.
Is it, as some purists grumble, another Porsche too far; another unnecessary detour from the company’s core values, like the Cayenne SUV? Well, the front engine, V-8 powered Panamera is certainly not a four door 911. The Panamera has a personality all its own. Yet Porsche DNA seeps from every pore.
You see, the Panamera has the same ready-for-anything combination of performance and practicality that made the Porsche 928 S4 one of the world’s most underrated GTs. The Panamera Turbo is four second fast to 60 mph and will hit 188 mph. Yet the rear seats fold to boost the luggage capacity from 15.7 cu ft to 44.6 cu ft, just under what you can fit behind the third row of a Chevy Suburban, and Porsche offers a roof rack and a trailer hitch (as it did for the 928) as factory options. For the record, the Panamera is rated to tow a 4850 lb braked trailer or a 1654 lb unbraked trailer. Try that with your Ferrari…This car is designed to be a daily driver, not a valet parking showpony.
Three Panamera models will be available in the U.S. when the car launches on October 17. Entry level car is the two wheel drive, $89,800 Panamera S. It shares its 400hp naturally aspirated, direct injection 4.8-liter V-8 with the all-wheel drive, $93,800 Panamera 4S. Top of the range Panamera is the $132,600 Turbo, which boasts 500hp courtesy of a pair of turbochargers, and standard all-wheel drive. Although the Panamera S is available in Europe with a conventional six speed manual, all U.S.-spec Panameras will come standard with Porsche’s new seven-speed PDK dual clutch manual transmission.
The 500-hp Turbo V-8 is smooth and punchy, making its peak power just 700 rpm shy of its 6700 rpm red line, and delivering a useful 516 lb-ft of torque from 2250 rpm to 4500 rpm. (In Turbos fitted with the optional Sport Chrono Package, hitting the Sport Plus button on the center console activates an overboost function that increases peak torque to 567 lb-ft from 3000 rpm to 4000 rpm.) Left to its own devices, the seven speed PDK transmission slips imperceptibly between ratios, ensuring a seamless surge of acceleration.
The naturally aspirated V-8 makes 400 hp at 6500 rpm, and 369 lb-ft between 3500 rpm and 5000 rpm. Porsche claims a 0-60 mph time of under 5.4 sec for the two wheel drive S, and under 5.0 sec for the all-wheel drive 4S. Order the Chrono Sport Package, and you’ll shave a further two-tenths of a second off those times, claims Porsche, due to faster shifts, and the launch control function. Our Turbo tester was also fitted with Porsche’s optional ceramic composite brakes (PCCB). These hugely expensive yet hugely effective stoppers can be nuked with impunity on a full-commando run down a mountain pass, but unless you plan on spending a lot of time tracking your Panamera, don’t bother spending the money. The standard brakes are pretty bulletproof, and feel better when you’re soft-pedalling around town.
Naturally aspirated Panameras come standard with steel springs and 18-in. alloys, while the Turbo gets 19-in. wheels and Porsche’s new air suspension. Working in conjunction with the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) hardware, the system can vary the effective spring rates in conjunction with variable shock rates, and vary the car’s ride height. Used with the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), the system can also eliminate body roll through turns. The PDCC system also utilizes an electronically controlled rear differential, and active roll bars which decouple when the car is travelling in a straight line to improve comfort.
The Turbo is the headline grabber, but unless you’re truly desperate for 500 hp or need all-wheel drive, the entry-level S is the pick of the Panamera litter. The naturally aspirated 4.8 lacks the mid-range punch of its turbocharged cousin, but revs sweetly to the 6700 rpm redline with a steely growl. The 3969 lb S weighs 375 lb less than the Turbo, and 132 lb less than the 4S, and feels lighter on its feet. There’s more clarity, more delicacy in the steering, too; in the other cars it’s cloaked by the all-wheel drive apparatus.
While the Panamera Turbo is beautifully controlled on the air suspension — available as an option on the S and 4S — there’s not much wrong with the standard steel spring set up. The PASM system — standard across the range — allows you to manually firm up the shocks, keeping the big Porsche nicely controlled in the twisties. After a couple of days in Bavaria switching between Panamera variants, the hot setup seems to be a base S with optional 19-in. alloy wheels. You could spend extra money on a Sport Chrono Package, but in truth the car doesn’t need it to be one of the most enjoyable four seaters you’ll ever drive.
The Panamera is a truly epic automobile. The controversial exterior styling is still awkward from side on, but on the road, in the traffic, it’s a striking looking car, cutting a wide, rakish path through the traffic, and prowling the fast lane on the autobahn like a predator, hunting down speed-limited S-class Benzes and 7 Series BMWs.
Inside, the Panamera is truly gorgeous, mixing colored leather, wood veneers, carbon fiber, and soft-sheen aluminum in ways that will have Audi‘s interior designers sitting up and taking notice. The interior’s signature item is the angled center console that recalls the Carrera GT. It’s festooned with buttons controlling everything from the air conditioning to the suspension settings, to the rear spoiler. Although the Panamera boasts a state of the art graphic interface at the center of the dash, Porsche designers believe the buttons are quicker to use than playing hunt-and-peck on a touch screen. And after an hour or so behind the wheel, you see their point — everything is within easy reach, and there’s a clear hierarchy to the layout.
The steering wheel is the new Porsche PDK unit, complete with the counter-intuitive buttons — push to change up, pull to change down — that we’ve criticized on the 911 and Cayman. (We hear a change to more conventional and easy to use paddles is on the agenda.) The instrument panel contains Porsche’s now typical cluster of five circular gauges. The second gauge from the right contains a 4.8-in. high resolution TFT screen that gives you access to the on-board computer, via a thumb-scroll on the steering wheel. If you want, the display will show you a section of the sat-nav map, oriented in the direction of travel — brilliant if you’re driving through unfamiliar territory.
You sit low in the Panamera, cocooned by the high cowl and beltline. The Panamera’s rear seat is terrific — which is what you’d hope, given it’s the raison d’etre for the whole car. It swallows a pair of six foot adults with ease, and the ride is remarkably composed, even when your chauffeur up front is hustling through the turns. The secret, says Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Durheimer, is that the rear passengers’ H-points have been kept as low as possible.
The view over the hood takes in Porsche’s trademark high-rise front fenders; squint and you could almost be in a 911. Except a 911 won’t run arrow-straight down the autobahn at 130 mph with little more than a rustle of wind around the A-pillars and a muted hum from the tires, allowing you to enjoy a quiet conversation with your passengers — or the sparking clarity of the optional 1000 watt, 16 speaker Burmester high-end sound system.
Porsche’s iconic 911 has been both a blessing and a curse, defining the company’s unconventional sporting spirit while at the same time threatening to trap it in a timewarp. Porsche has dreamed of building a sporting four door for decades, but somehow the 911 always seemed to get in the way. Until now. The good news is, the Panamera has been worth the wait.
|2010 PORSCHE PANAMERA|
|Base Price||$89,800 – $132,600|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, RWD and AWD, 4-door, 5-pass sedan|
|Engine||4.8L/400-hp/369-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve direct injection V-8; 4.8L/500-hp/516-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo V-8|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch manual|
|Curb weight||3969 – 4344 lb (mfr est)|
|Length x width x height||195.7x 76.0 x 55.8 in|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||N/A|
|On sale in U.S.||October 2009|