Sports-car specialist Porsche outraged the traditionalists when it strayed from its heritage by launching the hulking Cayenne SUV (circa 2003); so at least the automaker was prepared to handle the latest huff over the Panamera, Porsche’s first-ever sedan.
See, the Porsche faithful insist that nothing with more than two doors can truly be a Porsche.
The Panamera’s a big car and it’s definitely got more than two doors, so the purist position says those basics alone make it wholly unqualified to wear the Porsche crest. But after a week with the all-wheel-drive Panamera 4S, we say this: it isn’t quite a sports car, but it might be the most satisfying high-performance luxury sedan in the world — and feels every bit as exclusive as any of Porsche’s pure-performance machines.
Porsche’s new Panamera piggybacks on some of the chassis and driveline components already in service for the Cayenne.
The Panamera is unquestionably big — larger in most dimensions than many of its competitors — and, to complicate matters, is a hatchback.
This was one of Porsche’s boldest and riskiest moves, and many critics can’t come to terms with the hatch or the car’s decidedly different styling. But the more you see it, the more sense it makes: it allows the Panamera’s rear to carry the same wide-tailed look that’s made Porsche’s 911 one of the most enduring and iconic shapes in the auto industry.
When you key up that 4.8-liter, 400-horsepower direct-injected V-8 you an extra treat: the engine computer automatically gives a big-attitude blip of the throttle that spits out a luscious “stand-clear” growl from the four thick exhaust tips.
The delightfully right-sized V-8 is good most of the time, if a little thrummed in certain rev ranges. We expect anything that can hustle 4,101 pounds of Porsche to 60 mph in under 5 seconds — and to a top speed of 175 mph — to be a little rough around the edges. But the power down in those aluminum lungs seems endless: at 90 mph the V-8 is just getting interested and triple-digit-speed cruises (not that we’d ever do that) are child’s play (we surmise).
The Panamera’s standard dual-clutch, 7-speed automated-manual transmission is a testimony to high-tech gear swapping.
It’s a big part of what makes the Panamera such a technology statement, and is a treat when the going gets tough, but it comes up a little short in driving situations where finesse is required, such as pulling away gently from a stop or reversing uphill. Yet when you’ve got the throttle pinned to the floor, nothing shifts as quickly or as satisfyingly.
Aside from its booming performance, the Panamera’s best impression is made when you get inside and get the first look at the center console: no fussy, mouse-mimicking “multi-controller” here. The layout was purposely designed to be like that of an aircraft, and it works. The efficient and high-legibility gauges mimic the 911’s layout and there’s no improving that. Everything inside is sumptuous to see and feel, the assembly is faultless, the front seats are a dream, and the deep twin rear seats almost their equal.
For 2011, Porsche expands the Panamera lineup from three to five trims with a starting price of $74,400 and topping out at $135,300 for the 500-horsepower turbo model.
The storied sports carmaker might have silenced Panamera critics with only a couple of different development decisions: first, Porsche should’ve found a way to engineer its classic but evermore brilliant “boxer” opposed 6-cylinder engine for Panamera duty. And although it’s almost unheard of in contemporary luxury flagships, we reckon the Porsche should at least offer the option of a true manual transmission.
Many look at the size and styling and say the Panamera’s not a Porsche. Those are the people who haven’t driven it. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters
PORSCHE PANAMERA S
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 4-passenger AWD sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $93,800 (as tested: $114,515)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 32-valve DOHC V-8
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 400 at 6500 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 369 at 3500 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 7-speed automated manual
WHEELBASE____________________ 114.9 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 195.6 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 39.3 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 26.4 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010