Some people believe Porsche should offer one car and you get to choose the color. Porsche, well, they don't think that way. And even though the Panamera isn't much of a looker, it's a hell of a driver.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche loaned me a Panamera after driving the 2015 Macan to take to Sweden. GF Williams took these fantastic pictures of it [You'll notice there's no badge with the score on the top shot. We didn't want to put a wart on art.] We also may or may not have taken it on Koenigsegg's runway. Maybe. Maybe not. I ain't saying nothing…
…Ok. We took it on the runway.)
The Panamera is the car that Porsche has used to continue its expansion from sports car manufacturer to full line performance car maker. While the Cayenne may not have fit directly with Porsche's ethos as a manufacturer, it made them a shit ton of money, which is a technical term.
Thing is, a four door sports sedan would fit Porsche's ethos. I always kind of imagined that the 928 would have evolved over the years into a car with both two and four door variants. It just feels like a natural extension of the brand.
But Porsche took their sweet ass time bringing the Panamera to market after the Cayenne came out. Like six years. It makes sense because Porsche was cash strapped when the Cayenne was released, and they just didn't have the money to jump start the development of a sedan. And unlike the Cayenne (and now, the Macan), the Panamera shared nothing with VW or Audi.
It was a from scratch Porsche design that was a huge investment. Many think that investment only went to engineering and the design was made on a napkin. I'm in a small minority, since I've liked the Panamera since day one. That also means that most people think that I have a major issue with my ocular nerve or that I'm not sure what style is.
Both might be right, but I know what I likes and I likes this.
Originally, the Panamera S and 4S had V8 engines and about 400 horsepower going down throughout Porsche's magnificent PDK transmission. For 2014, Porsche has downsized to a brand new 3.0 turbo V6. It makes more power than the old V8, consumes less fuel, and sounds way less evocative. The styling has also been tweaked. Some say for the better, others for the worse.
So, has un-V8ing Porsche's spiritual 928 successor gotten rid of the charm? Or is it still the finest driving, strangest looking sedan money can buy?
Some cars look better at night than during the day. That's either because of unique lighting signatures or because the cars are butt ugly.
In the new Panamera's case, well, it isn't a good looking car and it has a unique lighting signature. That makes it the ultimate car for a vampire or maybe a family of raccoons. The small tweaks that have been made to the styling are a mixed bag. From the front, the lights look similar but have a defined oval section to hearken back to the 911. Out back, well, I don't much care for it. Even though the strong shoulder line over the rear haunches and hatch look great, something about the hatch, and I can't put my finger on it, make it look like a faceless villain. The character isn't there like it was before, it feels anonymous.
That is partially made up for by the rear LED lights, which have a great signature when on at night, they actually look almost exactly the same as the Cayman. In the front, the LEDs are places in a square around the headlight, which I'm not necessarily sold on. It's also not that creative. With other manufacturers doing truly creative daytime running lights with LED strips, the idea that Porsche has literally settled on four LEDs in the light as its signature reeks of them just going "they say we need LEDs, we shall give them LEDs."
But you aren't looking at the Panamera when you're driving it, are you? No, you're inside, where it's a simply wonderful place to be. There are large, clear gauges, a leather wrapped dash, and a great wheel with wonderful paddles. The seats are comfortable for the long haul. The center console is chock full of buttons. Like it has every button. There are no buttons left for anyone else.
Thing is, it's simple to operate once you know where buttons are. Though I should note that where I rested my hand to operate the touch screen repeatedly turned on the heated seats. I though my copilot GF Williams was playing a trick on me and trying to burn my ass. I blamed him repeatedly until I realized what was happening. Still, that is a good prank. Try it out sometime.
It looks expensive inside, which is a good thing because it is expensive inside. I drove Christian von Koenigsegg in it to a coffee shop, where he commented that it looked great. He also noted that some of the stitching looked like it was uneven, which he also thinks was done on purpose to make it look handmade. Clever if true, Porsche.
The change from V8 to V6 increased power and decreased weight. That's a great combination to improve performance and fuel consumption.
But it's not like the Panamera lost 700 pounds like the F150 and the new Range Rovers. Acceleration isn't massively improved to be like "holy hell, this thing is in a new league." It's quick, but on the Autobahn it had acceleration similar to a C320 Estate that I was running with. It was a little quicker than the C320, but not able to leave it in the dust.
Still, it has no problem getting to 240 kmh (the limit of the snow tires that were on the car). If you want real nutso speed, get the Turbo or Turbo S. The 4S is fast, especially with launch control, but it isn't shocking in any way.
This test car has Porsche's carbon ceramic brakes on them. They don't heat up as fast as the steelies, which is good, because this is a heavy car.
The pedal travel is progressive with the meat of the action starting to occur when the pedal is pressed halfway. If this were a track car or a high performance road car, I'd be complaining that they don't grab harder and sooner, but for an executive class sedan needs smooth braking as to not disturb the premium business dynamism that's occurring inside.
This is one of those rare cars that can seamlessly blend comfortable highway cruising with back road and track aggression. And it isn't just the smooth perfection of the Autobahn that makes it ride great. It masks the imperfections that you don't want to feel and communicates what you need to know.
That's in the regular mode. There's really no need to put PASM in Sport or Sport Plus. That makes it way too stiff and uncomfortable. Just leave it alone. Like people tell you not to change and that you're great the way you are, the same can be said for the Panamera's standard suspension tuning.
You keep on bein' you, Panamera!
Like the ride, the handling is also much superior to cars like the CLS, A7, and 6-Series Gran Coupe. The steering just feels like a Porsche, dumbed down slightly for so it isn't as aggressive as that in a 911 or Boxster.
You'd also think that a 4S would be unable to slide. Well, that just isn't true. Turn off the traction control, put it in second, crack the wheel to the left (or right, whichever), step on the gas, and it will get the tail out for a sweet controllable slide. Not that I tried that on Koenigsegg's runway. No way. Sliding a big sedan around on a runway is totally not a thing that I'd do. Nope.
It's a bunch of fun and it hides its weight well. But I also doubt that the majority of owners will really flog their cars. Those that do will be pleasantly surprised.
PDK is still the tops in terms of a double clutch gearbox. The Panamera, especially on the highway, wants to be left in automatic mode. It's mostly brilliant and works as well as an torque converter auto with shifts that can only be described as Usain Bolt levels of fast.
The V8 rumble is gone, replaced by a V6 thrum. At cruising speeds, it's rather quiet, though when you accelerate it has a nice rasp to it. I don't like its rumble as much as the old big dog 4.8 liter, but it gets the job done.
This Panamera had the Bose stereo, not the top o' the line Burmester. Still sounds good, but it isn't the auditory journey that Burmester uses to take you through space and time.
There's one glaring omission from the Panamera: A backup camera. Now, no, I'm not a rube who can't back up a car, but the rear view isn't the best out of the hatch, so a camera would be a welcome addition.
But other than that, the Panamera is very well equipped. There's heigh adjustable suspension, parking sensors (so parking by braille), active cruise control, reconfigurable displays, it had a car phone (because it is 1992 apparently), and all the other bibs and bobs that the people expect.
The base price of the 420 horsepower Panamera 4S is $98,000. This one, which was Euro-spec, probably cost about the equivalent of $120,000. It had carbon brakes, great wheels, PASM, and a bunch of other little diddies that push that price way up there.
Here's the thing, for the same $120,000 (well, less, actually), you could have an Audi RS7, which is unbelievably fast and a damn good car. It's not as sharp as the Panamera, but you're getting so much more car for that money.
I hate to harp on this, but the Panamera (and all Porsches, for that matter) is not a value proposition. You get a Porsche because you want the sharpest, best driving car in its class and you're willing to pay extra for it. You don't buy it because it looks amazing for its price or is the most powerful for its price.
It's seriously good and, as far as I'm concerned, is the best car in its class.
Engine: 3.0 liter turbo V6
Power: 420 HP at 6,000 RPM/ 384 LB-FT at 1,750 RPM
Transmission: Seven-Speed PDK
0-60 Time: 4.6 seconds (4.3 with sport chrono pack)
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 4,123 pounds
Seating: 4 people
MPG: 17 City/27 Highway
MSRP: $98,000 base price (this one was closer to $120,000)
Photo Credits: GF Williams