I don't think Porsche is pushing the Panamera Turbo S as a kid-hauler. I think it's more targeted at rich guys who have friends that get embarrassed when you remind them they're a Baron. Probably three such friends, otherwise our hypothetical Baron would be driving a 911.
Even so, the Panamera Turbo S makes a remarkable toddler-wagon. If money was no object, it's hard to imagine a better baby-car. That is, except for the ever-constant danger of orphaning your child or forcing them to grow up with a parent in prison.
Before I go any further in talking about my experience with the Panamera as a family car, the issue of the price has to be addressed. The car, as tested, was right about $215,000. That means when parked in my driveway, my property value went up by at least a third or more. It means that other than for Porsche's willingness to loan one to me, there is no way in hell I'm ever going to be able to drive one that didn't have a chili-gorged bear poopsplode in it. This is a Rich Person's car, in every possible way. The tires are $900 each, it drinks premium gas like my uncle drank gin, and any remotely major servicing would separate me from a kidney. It is SERIOUS BUSINESS.
That said, it's a blast. The Turbo S spec of Porsche's big sedan means there's a twin-turbo V8 driving all the wheels with 550 big, fast horses. It'll go from a standing start to 60 MPH in about three and a half seconds. And it's worth remembering that's in a large, four-door, 4343 lb whale-shaped spaceship that has my kid in the back. It's astonishingly fast.
I don't want to get sidetracked, though. And this car is full of sidetracks— speed, price, the number of buttons on the center console (45, not counting the nav screen)— but I'm here to talk about how it works as a baby car. Porsche was nice enough to send the Panamera over with two baby seats— one for a toddler, one for smaller kids. Otto, my offspring, is about 20-21 months old, and weighs just under 25 lbs, which put him in the baby seat over the toddler one.
The baby seat was quite nice, looking for all the world like a sub-scale racing seat, and it was extremely well-bolstered and did a great job of clamping that baby in there while daddy was an idiot playing with the launch control. My only complaint about the seat is that whatever fabrics they're using in there have some incredible heat-trapping properties, because he always came out of the seat really sweaty. Just the back of him that had been in the seat, like you'd held him prone and dunked his back in a font of Porsche-generated toddler sweat.
Baby placement and extraction is very easy. The rear doors of the Panamera open very wide and have a useful ovoid jog in their shape that makes clearing soft baby heads a snap. Compared to the last baby test, the FR-S, getting a baby in and out of the Panamera is like parking a Bugeye Sprite in an empty two-car garage.
There's other things that make the Panamera a surprisingly good baby car. You know those suction-cupped-on windowshades you see clinging to the windows of many SUVs and minivans? They're usually there to avoid cooking the tiny human you have restrained in the back of your car. The Panamera has windowshades built into the rear windows. Just give the rear window switch an extra tap and up go the shades. One of the eleventy hundred buttons on the center console brings up one for the back window as well. It's pretty great.
There's also separate climate-control controls for every seat in the car, so you can stay adult-level chilly up front without refrigerating your kid. As I'm typing this, I'm realizing how much temperature control seems to be involved with having a child. Weird.
The rear seat is roomy and extremely comfortable, though the four-bucket seat layout does prevent mounting the baby seat in the middle, as you would do on a normal bench rear seat. This makes access easier, but eliminates the ability to carry a baby and more than two other people.
The trunk is big enough to hold our largest stroller, the bike-wheeled jogger, and the trunk lid opens on its own with a button on the key fob— very handy when you have a squirming 25 lb little kook in your arms. The one issue with the trunk is that, like all of the Panamera, it is instrumented and sensored all to hell. That means it checks to see if something's going to impair its automatic closing, and then it stops closing the lid and beeps at you. It will occasionally do this when you know it'll fit in there fine, until you get frustrated and just close the damn lid like you would on any old car.
What's really puzzling about the Panamera as a baby-mobile are that the things that make it awesome are also the things that cause you trouble, baby-wise. Take the key, for example. Well, it's really one of those wireless fobs, and it's essentially a toy version of the car. It's painted the same color, it's a little streamlined version of the car you can hold. That's pretty cool, right? Well not half as cool as your little kid thinks it is, who wants to play with that little car SO BADLY he's gonna pop. And the amazing interior? There's no plastic crap in here— it's all leather and alacantra and what I suspect are blackened eagle beaks. Should I be putting this sloppy little kid in here? It's nicer than my house!
And the performance. Sweet Speedgod in Fast Heaven, the performance. It took my wife and son and I a full half a weekend to find a road open, straight, and empty enough to try out the launch control. Because, you know, safety first when launching a $200,000 land-rocket with your whole family in it. It was, however, worth it. Put it in Sport Plus, stand on the brake and gas, the computer display gives you a little go ahead, you let go of the brake and holy fuck what the hell is happening. The car hits 60 before the urine's touched your underpants, so much weight has shifted to the rear that the nose points up and I swear to Steve McQueen's dybbuk that you feel like you're going to take off.
It's absolutely bonkers. And the desire to step on that gas pedal is like a little self-destructive troll that never leaves your right foot. It's so easy to pass almost anything in the Panamera, it takes a conscious will to keep shit under control. You find yourself looking in the rearview mirror, at the goofy, ecstatic face of the toddler having a blast back there. Don't kill him. Don't drive at 160 MPH into the median. Don't do anything stupid by that cop and get your ass thrown in jail. Don't, don't, stop, no.
Luckily, the brakes are pretty stellar, and can very quickly get you back to human-grade speeds. The real issue is this car, as comfortable and climate-controlled and usable as it is, just isn't really something built for normal roads. It tries, a bit, sure. It has stop/start on the engine to keep gas mileage not quite so awful, in comfort mode the throttle response is a bit muted, but it's all a sham. You can tell by the absurd speedometer— it's calibrated to 220 MPH, which means in normal driving the needle moves all of an eighth of an inch at most.
Driving this as your baby car is like using racehorses with jetpacks to pull one of those carriages around central park. Nothing you're going to do is going to tap what this car is capable of, and that's actually pretty frustrating.
Not that I didn't have a blast driving the Panamera for the generous two weeks Porsche let me have it. It was great. My wife loved it as well, and if you have the money and need something of that size it's hard to picture something better. I'm in the minority, but I even like the looks— to me it feels like what a modern Tatra might look like (though it'd need a dorsal fin).
But even in my wildest wealth daydreams (I save a planeload of orphans and write a hit musical about it, that I star in) I don't think I'd actually buy one of these. I know if I had something like this, sooner or later the Right Foot Troll of Speed would get the upper hand and I'd end up dead or arrested or both.
My wife says she'd happily drive one, though. I guess not being an idiot has occasional rewards.
So, will the Porsche Panamera Turbo S baby? Sure, if you have the money and trust in your own self control. I'm a bit short on both.
(Photo credits: Sally Torchinsky)