2010 Porsche Panamera
2010 Porsche Panamera Expert Review: Autoblog
Porsche invited us to Germany to be one of the first to drive its all-new Panamera, the company's first four-door sedan. We spent three days assailing the Bavarian Alps, streaking across the German Autobahn, and meandering through picturesque Alpine towns. We touched 170 mph at one point and sat stagnant in city traffic during another. What were Porsche's objectives with this new sedan? How does it drive? Who's going to buy it? And, most importantly, does the Panamera deserve to wear the coveted Porsche crest? Find out after the jump...
All Photos Copyright ©2009 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
In 2002, the venerable 911 and relatively young Boxster were joined by an all-new third model that had loyal Porsche purists up in arms. Their favorite automaker had partnered with Volkswagen to introduce a Porsche-branded sport-utility vehicle called the Cayenne. Critics cried foul, enthusiasts wailed, and doomsayers predicted the end of the brand.
Within a few years, Porsche's SUV had become the best-selling model in the company's lineup – a true automotive success story. The profits from the Cayenne were used to develop next-generation 911 models including the GT2, GT3, and the LMP2 RS Spyder racing program. The cash also helped fund the development of an all-new program, the Panamera Gran Turismo -- Porsche's first sedan.
As expected, pundits have again raised their eyebrows in doubt while Porschephiles have resumed shedding soppy tears. The countless expressions of drama and doom continued... before anyone had ever driven the car.
Porsche set out to design the world's first uncompromised four-door. The automaker maintains that the Panamera Gran Turismo is yet another success story waiting to be written and claims the all-new model is the new class benchmark for performance, exemplary efficiency and personal comfort. The vehicle's world-first innovations within the segment include the first double-clutch transmission, the first with an engine start-stop system, the first with an air suspension with on-demand air volume, the first with active aerodynamics, and the first with an available "Sport Chrono" package elevating performance at the touch of a button.
With the exception of the family-oriented Cayenne SUV, all of Porsche's current offerings are generally second or third vehicles in most households -- most 911, Cayman, and Boxster owners own another daily driver. The Panamera is the fifth addition to Porsche's range and the automaker is determined to break that barrier by offering a four-passenger sport sedan that is spacious and comfortable enough to be the primary vehicle.
Unlike the BMW M5, Audi S6, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG -- all competent family sedans gussied-up to masquerade as sport sedans -- the Porsche Panamera is built with the sole objective of being the only clean-sheet high performance sport sedan in the segment. Even the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, arguably one of the Panamera's closest competitors, pales in performance.
While a traditional three-box sedan would have been a no-brainer, the team stuck with the philosophy that form would follow function. The vehicle had to seat four passengers comfortably, and their full complement of luggage had to fit in the trunk. Most importantly, the center of gravity had to be sports-car low. The result, from its slightly raised front fenders to the muscular rear shoulder line, makes the Panamera instantly recognizable as a Porsche. Even if it lends itself to controversy.
But the hue and cry from the marque's ardent devotees overshadows the significance of the automaker's first sedan. Call it unique. Call it daring. Call it stylish. Call it unsightly. Regardless of what descriptor you use, most of us seem to agree that it looks like the unlikely five-door offspring of an illicit tryst between a Porsche 928 and a Chrysler Crossfire. Interestingly enough, the more time we spent with the Panamera the more we understood, appreciated, and genuinely started to value its looks.
The Panamera is physically more substantial in person than it appears in pictures. By the tape, it is slightly larger than the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63. Its overall length is 195.7 inches (2.7 inches longer than the CLS 63), and the Porsche rides on a 115-inch wheelbase (2.6 inches longer than the Mercedes). Its stance is significantly wider too. The front track is 65.2 inches (up 2.2 inches) and the rear is 64.8 inches (up 2.5 inches).
The four-seat design, with tapered back rests and integrated head restraints, is instantly recognizable as classic Porsche. Unusual at first site, it almost appears as if the automaker has installed its unique front seats in all four passenger positions. The advantage to this layout is immediately apparent as all seating positions are extremely comfortable and supportive, with or without the optional sport seats. As an added benefit, passengers in the rear don't feel relegated to "coach."
Unlike the dashboard of the 911, Boxster, and Cayman -- each a derivative of the other -- the cockpit of the Panamera is unique and innovative. The primary cluster is comprised of five circular dashboard instruments. As is racing tradition, a large analog tachometer sits in the middle. The speedometer, oil pressure and oil temperature gauges are to the left. To the immediate right is a high-resolution 4.8-inch color TFT multi-function digital display presenting a selection of on-board computer information, or a close-up of the navigational system map. The fuel and water temperature gauges reside to the right of the digital display and a seven-inch high-resolution touchscreen sits high in the middle of the dashboard, the centerpiece of the standard Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system with navigation.
As expected, the Panamera pampers its occupants with yards of leather, fine wood (or carbon fiber), aluminum trim, and high-quality plastics. A long, button-laden center console runs the length of the cabin, effectively keeping passengers divided as optional multi-zone temperature controls (up to four) adjust each occupant's microclimate. Overhead, another console controls cabin lighting and the sunroof. While intimidating at first glance, the sea of buttons are logically placed into quadrants of climate control, suspension settings, vehicle settings, and emergency (hazard lights, door locks, etc...). After some familiarization, their individual operations are readily absorbed.
Active aerodynamics are standard equipment on all variants of the Panamera, but they alter slightly based on trim level. The Panarama S and 4S feature a one-piece rear spoiler that is retracted and flush with the bodywork until the sedan reaches 56 mph, at which point it moves into an angle of -3 degrees. At 100 mph, the wing angle lifts to +5 degrees to increase downforce. At 127 mph the spoiler moves to its maximum deflection of +14 degrees. The spoiler on the Turbo model is fitted with two additional flaps that extend to increase surface area. It too deploys to -3 degrees at 56 mph, but then locks at +10 degrees at 127 mph and up. The rear spoiler is designed to prevent lift, not increase downforce (and increase drag). The drag coefficient of the S and 4S models is .29, while the Turbo is slightly higher at .30; the frontal area is the same for both.
Under the skin, Porsche developed an all-new chassis for the Panamera. The design goals focused on strength and safety, yet overall mass was also scrutinized. The end result is a fully galvanized lightweight hybrid platform manufactured from a variety of strong, yet weight-saving, materials. The body in white is comprised of 25% light alloys (aluminum, magnesium, composites, and plastics) and 75% steel (deep-drawn, super-high-strength micro-alloy, polyphase, and boron-alloys). The front sub-frame, and most of the suspension components, are aluminum alloy. The hood, fenders, doors, and rear lid are aluminum. The door structures are aluminum as well, while the window frames are magnesium. Magnesium alloy is also used in the front radiator mounts to save weight in the nose of the vehicle (mass is more detrimental to handling as it moves further away from the center of the vehicle). Overall, the Panamera's weight distribution is roughly 52/48 percent (front/rear). Curb weights range from 3,903 lbs. (S), to 4,344 pounds (Turbo). These aren't exactly in 911 territory, but they are respectable within the segment.
The Panamera S (base MSRP $89,800) and Panamera 4S (base MSRP $93,800) share a 4.8-liter normally-aspirated V8. While it's based on the V8 units sold under the hood of the Cayenne, the all-aluminum engine has been significantly re-worked for the four-door sports car. The engine features Porsche DFI Direct Fuel Injection and VarioCam Plus (one-sided variable camshaft management with adjustable valve lift). To lower its position within the vehicle, and improve handling, the oil sump was flattened and the final drive on the front axle of AWD vehicles is connected directly to the engine.
The standard gasoline-fed unit is rated at 400 bhp at 6,500 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm. The standard wheel package shared by both models includes 18-inch wheels with 245/50ZR18 tires up front, and 275/45ZR18 tires in the rear (19- or 20-inch wheels are optional on all models). The standard tires are specially designed Michelin Pilot Sport PS2. According to Porsche, the Panamera S will sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.2 seconds. The AWD Panamera 4S, putting power down through four fat contact patches, will do the same run in 4.8 seconds. Both cars share the same 175 mph top speed.
The Panamera Turbo (base MSRP $132,600) shares the same 4.8-liter engine (with a lower compression ratio), but twin-turbochargers boost its power to 500 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque from 2,250 to 4,500 rpm. If the driver selects the "Sport Plus Mode," an "overboost" function increases turbocharger pressure for up to ten seconds to bump torque to 567 lb-ft, an impressive 10% gain. The Turbo is fitted with standard 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 255/45ZR19 tires up front, and 285/40ZR19 tires in the rear. The tires are also Michelin Pilot Sport PS2. Porsche, usually conservative, claims the Panamera Turbo will sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.0 seconds flat and it won't run out of steam until it hits 188 mph.
All three models are fitted with Porsche's impressive electronically-controlled double-clutch transmission. The so-called "Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe" (German for "double-clutch transmission") or simply "PDK," features a seven-speed gearbox with a multi-plate clutch controlling the gear changes. The driver decides whether to leave the shifting in full auto mode, shift with the center console-mounted lever, or shift manually via sliding levers on the steering wheel spokes. Three driver-selected settings (Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus) vary shift speed and authority from Cadillac-soft to Formula-One-severe.
Fuel economy figures are still in the works, but Porsche is promising the Panamera models will be some of the most efficient in their class. In addition to the lightweight building materials, engineers micromanaged the small details hidden from view. They focused on things like reducing residual brake forces on the rotors, a power steering pump with on-demand control, and engine start-stop technology (reportedly good for a 10% increase in the city cycle alone). The team even worked with Michelin to develop a reduced rolling resistance, yet high-performance, tire.
We've never been disappointed by Porsche brakes, and the Panamera lineup continues the impressive trend. The Panamera S and 4S both wear massive vented and grooved 14.2-inch rotors (1.42 inches thick) with six-piston aluminum monoblock calipers up front. The rears are 13.0-inch (1.10 inches thick) in diameter wearing four-piston calipers. The Panamera Turbo bumps up to vented and grooved 15.4-inch rotors (1.50 inches thick) with six-piston aluminum monoblock calipers up front. The rears are 13.8-inch (1.10 inches thick) in diameter wearing four-piston calipers.
According to Porsche, the standard brakes on the Turbo deliver 1,700 horsepower of braking force and are identified by their red calipers. Like all other models from Porsche, the automaker offers its Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) package with unique yellow calipers. Stunning, oversized 16.1-inch rotors (15.4-inch on the S and 4S models) crowd for space within the 20-inch front wheels. The rear rotors are nearly as impressive at 13.8-inches.
The aluminum suspension is a double-wishbone arrangement up front, and a multi-link setup in the rear. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), an electronic damping control system, is standard on all Panamera models. The driver selects one of the three aforementioned modes based on driving style: Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus. Regardless of the chosen setting, the system continuously monitors driving conditions. If the suspension is in "Comfort" mode and the driver swerves suddenly, the dampers and springs automatically switch to a firmer setting to improve maneuverability. Likewise, if the setting is in "Sport Plus" mode and the road surface becomes irregular, the system will drop into a softer setting automatically. The Turbo models are fitted with PASM combined with an adaptive air suspension that includes automatic leveling (based on calculated load), ride-height adjustment (dropping nearly an inch at high speeds), and the ability to vary the spring rates by reducing the volume of air in the system.
Our introduction to the Panamera took place in Germany, the machine's natural habitat. We opened up all three models on the "no-speed-limit" stretches of Autobahn, and twisted them through spectacular canyons in the Alps. All told, we spent a considerable amount of time behind the wheel.
Porsche handed us the keys to our first car, a rear-wheel drive Panamera S with ceramic brakes, at the airport. We opened the power-assisted rear hatch and dropped in two pieces of checked luggage, two carry-on bags, and our large camera bag. It swallowed all with room to spare.
In a very gentleman-like fashion, we swung open the front door and settled our six-foot two-inch frame behind the wheel. After a quick tilt and telescope adjustment of the wheel, and some toying with the multi-mode seat controls, we immediately found our ideal driving position with the three-spoke steering wheel falling into our hands and the transmission shifter just inches to our side. Visibility out the front and side is good. On the other hand, the three-quarter view over the shoulder is a bit limited by the thick C-pillar, while the view rearward is hampered by the smallish back window.
To the left of the steering wheel is where Porsche always locates the key slot, and the Panarama is no exception. Keyless entry ("Porsche Entry & Drive") or not, all models require a physical twist to initiate ignition – there is no push-to-start button. The 4.8-liter V8 fires immediately and settles into a mellow rumble. With the suspension and transmission in "Soft" and "Normal," the PDK transmission is placed into "D" and we leave the parking lot...
Before the rear wheels hit the two-lane airport access road, we notice the steering. Without a window sticker or options list to confirm our suspicions, we're forced to assume our car is fitted with Servotronic speed-related power assistance as the effort is unnaturally overboosted. Thankfully, the steering effort increases with our velocity as we head through the airport grounds, and our attention is quickly focused elsewhere.
At our first stoplight, the Panamera shut its engine off. It was unnerving, but completely normal as part of the advanced Auto Start-Stop function. Working like most hybrid vehicles, all Panamera models will shut down the engine when the vehicle is stopped and the brake pedal is held. When the pressure on the brake is released, the engine springs back to life and the driver proceeds forward without much of a perceived delay. The system is smart enough to monitor available battery power and climate control temperature. If either deviates too far, the engine will restart automatically. (All U.S. vehicles will have the switch-activated Auto Start-Stop function default to "off.")
In its softest setting, and at low speeds, the Panamera drives like most other large German luxury sedans. Unlike a 911, it feels heavy and substantial around town – especially pulling away from a standstill when the laws of physics have to be coaxed to release the two-ton Porsche. Throttle response from the normally-aspirated 400-hp V8 is good, never lethargic. The weight seems to fall off as our speed increases, unlike the Panamera's closest competitors.
To our delight, the steering is responsive and accurate to our inputs, allowing us to easily navigate through the narrow European roads with light traffic. It's about 150 km (80 miles) to our hotel, so we make our way to the Autobahn for some double-time to catch dinner.
Outside Munich, the local stretch of Autobahn is limited to 120 km/h (75 mph). It's frustrating, but it gives us plenty of time to acclimate ourselves with the new sedan. At U.S. highway speeds the Panamera is a very stable platform nearly absent of wind noise. It's comfortable and mindlessly numbing, just like a luxury sedan buyer expects.
Heading further south, we finally hit an unlimited-speed section of the Autobahn. Set free, we bury the throttle. The PDK transmission, leisurely content in seventh gear, instantly springs to attention. It quickly drops a few gears and the engine growls loudly as it spools around the tachometer. Each redline instigates a quick shift, and the engine snaps back into the power band eagerly climbing upwards once again. The speedometer is moving too, but at a slower pace. We bring the Panamera S up to about 230 km/h (142 mph) and hold it there.
Watching us close the gap in their rearview mirrors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW drivers recognized the Porsche and immediately moved out of our way. One fellow, in an older S-Class, tried to hold us off for about a kilometer before he eventually conceded to the rival from Stuttgart. The road opened up, and we pressed faster.
At 272 km/h, our maximum velocity thanks to the traffic that afternoon, the Panamera was kissing 170 mph. Although we were cutting through the air at Boeing 737 take-off speeds, the Porsche was confident and attentive. Even more so, it was relatively quiet (a 911 at 150 mph is a different story). At those speeds, the rear spoiler is at maximum deflection and the suspension automatically adjusts for the conditions (although our "S" model was not equipped with air suspension, the pneumatic shocks on the Turbo model would have lowered the chassis by 25 millimeters).
The ease at which the Panamera cruises above 150 mph is impressive, but it's the braking that blurred our vision. One of our many high-speed excursions was cut short by a VW Golf that ventured into our lane to make a pass. Pounding the brakes at nearly 235 km/h (145 mph) would unsettle most cars, but the Panamera shook it off with less drama than hitting week-old road kill. Porsche's PCCB ceramic brakes seemed so completely unfazed that we deliberately tried our "brake test" several more times when the road cleared. There was never any sign of fade or increased stopping distances. We can't image anyone in the States overdriving the Panamera's stoppers.
Off the Autobahn, and pressed through the canyons that first day, the rear-wheel drive Panamera did its best to impersonate a 911. It was neutral in the corners, and a real pleasure to drive fast. In similar fashion to a 911, it enjoys being pushed hard and never breaks a sweat. While the 7 Series, S-Class and Audi A8 dance like football linebackers, the Porsche sedan demonstrated moves akin to an experienced receiver.
Sadly, the weather was less-than-cooperative the next day during our first date with the Panamera Turbo. We suffered through more than our fair share of frustratingly wet roads, but they never really seemed to concern the 500-hp all-wheel drive sedan. Cozy in our heated seats, the flagship model delivered gobs of torque at the slightest touch of the throttle. It remained unfazed as we pushed it harder and harder, never really getting past seven-tenths before one of the wheels would break free and slip sideways on the slick wet pavement. Porsche's stability control raises its intervention threshold based on the driver selected the sport settings (stability control may be completely defeated at the touch of a button). We wisely left the switchgear in "Sport" for a bit of a tail wagging, without any overzealous plans to depart the pavement.
The all-wheel-drive system, or Porsche Traction Management (PTM), is self-contained within the PDK housing. In normal operation (dry road), nearly 100% of the power is sent to the rear wheels. When the road becomes slippery, power is automatically routed to the front wheels as needed. Under severe braking, the front wheels are disconnected completely, so the stability control, or Porsche Stability Management (PSM), can more accurately intervene.
The road did eventually dry long enough for us to try the Turbo's "Launch Control" program – standard on all vehicles with the "Sport Chrono" package. Simply select "Sport Plus" mode, hold the brake with your left foot, and send your right foot to the floor. The engine screams for a second or two and then the dashboard illuminates with the "Launch Control" alert. Release the brake quickly and the Panamera Turbo digs all four sticky Michelins into the pavement as it rips to 60 mph in a hallucinatory four seconds. The automaker claims the car will hit 160 km/h (100 mph) in 9.0 seconds flat. Yes, it runs faster than Porsche's own GT3! We can't recall another production sedan that can do that.
That afternoon, we took a Panamera 4S out for a run. Identical to the Panamera S model, yet heavier by a couple hundred pounds thanks to the all-wheel drive PTM, it didn't seem one bit slower or less responsive (in fact, it launches to speed faster thanks to the additional grip). Focusing on the driving dynamics, we could only feel a slight difference in the steering feedback when we encountered cobblestones or rough pavement. In our dry climate, we still prefer rear-wheel drive.
On our last day, we grabbed the keys to a Panamera Turbo for the long drive back to the airport. For the first half of the drive, through some incredibly scenic back roads, we switched the transmission and suspension settings to "Sport" and enthusiastically enjoyed our last few hours with the car. Towards the end of the drive, when the weather shifted gears and the skies opened up, we dropped everything back to "Comfort" and basked in the serenity it delivers. The Panamera is a true dual-personality car, at the simple touch of a few console buttons.
Over the course of three days, we willingly spent about two hours in the back seat of the Panamera sedan. There was plenty of leg and headroom, and we never felt cramped. Porsche calls it a "cockpit for four," and it's very obvious why. Although optional, rear seat passengers are presented with their own center console complete with vents, controls for their own eight-way power seats with heat and ventilation. For once, a back seat in a premium luxury sedan is more comfortable and accommodating than it looks in the glitzy pictures.
Without question, we really liked Porsche's new Panamera. There are, however, a few quibbles that deserve mention. Our biggest gripe is centered on those maddening, and non-intuitive, steering wheel mounted PDK sliders -- just give us a standard set of paddle shifters (upshift right, downshift left). In addition, the limited visibility out the rear half of the car requires head craning during lane changes and backing maneuvers that will keep your vertebrae limber. The long hood does its part to mask the location of the front corners during parking, requiring more time behind the wheel for familiarization. The steering is light at low speeds, and that cool center console loaded with buttons just isn't intuitive when attempting to operate by touch (it's most irritating when you want to change suspension settings at 135 mph). The lack of a push-button start is also puzzling.
These minor criticisms shouldn't keep BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi owners from perusing the Porsche showroom this October 17 when the Panamera goes on sale. Even in today's depressed economy, the automaker is predicting 20,000 units will be sold in its first year, with one third of those finding garages in the U.S.
Every Porsche executive we spoke with was beaming with pride about the new Panamera, and none seem fazed by those questioning the logic behind the launch of the brand's first-ever four-door sedan. The proud Germans from Stuttgart have seen a fair share of debate surrounding their products in recent years (automatic transmissions, water-cooled engines, and that Cayenne issue), and have always prevailed as their faithful acclimate to innovation.
We believe that time will once again vindicate Porsche's latest decision to hurl itself into the competitive luxury sport sedan segment. Our three days with the Panamera left little doubt that Porsche has achieved its program objectives in its first-round attempt. Not only is it painstakingly engineered and truly enjoyable to drive... most importantly, the all-new Panamera has earned the right to wear the Porsche badge.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Historic new four-door sedan worthy of the Porsche name.
The 2010 Porsche Panamera is the marque's first-ever four-door sedan. Aimed at the Audi A8, BMW M5 and 7 Series, Maserati Quattroporte, and Mercedes-Benz S Class, this grand tourer is somewhat different. Instead of a traditional three-box sedan shape, the Panamera is a two-box hatchback to provide a roomy rear seat and useful cargo space.
And it is truly roomy, with back-seat headroom, legroom and hip room that rivals that of a Mercedes S-Class sedan or any of the other cars in this class. This surprised us. The other thing that surprised us was its refinement and smoothness. It's impressively smooth and serene when cruising along like a luxury car, which belies the world-class handling and performance available whenever the driver starts pushing hard on the pedals.
Beyond having four doors, the Panamara is different from traditional Porsches. Unlike the 911, which has its engine mounted in the rear, the Panamera has a more common front-engine design. It is offered with two flavors of V8 power. Panamera S and Panamera 4S models use a 400-horsepower V8, while the Panamera Turbo model features a 500-horsepower turbocharged version of the same engine. Both engines are mated to a new seven-speed automated manual transmission Porsche refers to as the PDK.
The Panamera S comes with rear-wheel drive, while the 4S and Turbo have all-wheel drive.
All Panameras are fast. The normally aspirated V8 in S and 4S models has plenty of power at any speed, and can launch the car from 0-60 mph in as little as 4.6 seconds. The Turbo cuts that time to 3.6 seconds, with little if any turbo lag and a rush of power that pins you back in your seat. Those numbers don't tell the whole story, however. The Panamera S feels lighter on its feet than the Turbo, and is in some ways more entertaining to drive. The 4S falls between the two.
Slightly smaller than a BMW 7 Series, the Panamera offers the sporty performance of a world-class sports sedan with the comfortable ride and refinement of a luxo-cruiser. A lot of engineering went into the car to make those extremes possible. To achieve the desired balance, Porsche built the body from lightweight materials and placed the engine low and as far back as possible. Porsche also used two forms of adjustable suspension to turn the ride from soft but stable to racetrack-ready.
The most luxurious Porsche ever, the Panamera is quite well appointed and equipped. Leather upholstery is standard, as are a choice of carbon, aluminum or five varieties of wood trim. The fit and finish and quality of the materials rival that of any competitor.
Space is impressive, too. A standard full-length center console divides the car into four distinct and comfortable seating positions. The feel from the driver's seat is much like that of the 911, only higher off the ground. The rear seat has enough head room for an NBA point guard and plenty of leg room, too. All of the seats are supportive without being too firm or too deeply bolstered. With this much room, the Panamera would work just as well as a chauffer-driven vehicle as it would a driver-oriented sports sedan.
The hatchback design makes the Panamera useful as a family vehicle, too. With the rear seats up, the rear cargo area is as roomy as most trunks, and with the seats down the Panamera has as much cargo room as a Subaru Impreza hatchback, which is a lot.
Bottom line, the 2010 Porsche Panamera is a great way to expand the Porsche lineup. It performs well on the street and the track, and offers enough passenger and cargo room to make it a no-compromise luxury sedan. Put simply, the Panamera enters the market as one of the world's best luxury sports sedans. Be careful with options, though. As with any Porsche, they can get awfully pricey when you start checking off the boxes.
The 2010 Porsche Panamera is offered in S, 4S and Turbo models. Panamera S and Panamera 4S are outfitted with a 400-horsepower 4.8-liter V8, while the Panamera Turbo gets a turbocharged version of the same V8 making 500 horsepower. Both engines are mated to Porsche's PDK transmission. Panamera S comes with rear-wheel drive, while Panamera 4S and Turbo have all-wheel drive.
Panamera S ($89,800) and 4S ($93,800) come standard with leather upholstery; automatic climate control; interior air filter; eight-way power-adjustable front bucket seats with driver's seat memory; heated front seats; split-folding rear bucket seats; tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel; cruise control; power windows, locks and mirrors; power rear liftgate; Homelink universal garage door opener; anti-theft system; 11-speaker, 235-watt AM/FM stereo with CD/DVD/MP3 player; Porsche Communication Management system with seven-inch touchscreen, navigation system and trip computer; auto-dimming outside and rearview mirrors; sunroof; automatic bi-xenon headlights; adaptive rear spoiler; Porsche Active Suspension Management adjustable suspension; and P245/50ZR18 front and P275/45ZR18 summer performance tires on alloy wheels. The 4S adds all-wheel drive with an automatic brake differential.
Panamera Turbo ($132,800) upgrades with adaptive air suspension with load-leveling and adjustable ride height, adaptive headlights, 14-way power seats with memory, power tilt/telescoping steering column, alcantara roof liner, full leather upholstery and interior trim, and P255/45ZR19 front and P285/40ZR19 rear summer tires.
Options are numerous, and you can get just about every part of the interior trimmed in leather, alcantara, wood or aluminum on an a la cart basis. Major exterior options include 19- and 20-inch wheels in several designs ($1,560-$3,380), nine colors and five special metallic colors, thermal and noise-insulated glass ($1,120), keyless access and starting ($1,090), roof rack ($400), and a rear wiper ($400). Performance options include the adaptive air suspension ($1,990); Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with rear differential lock ($4,460); variable assist power steering ($270); Sport Chrono Plus package with analog and digital stopwatch, Sport Plus button and launch control ($1,320), ceramic composite brakes ($8,150); sport exhaust system ($2,950) with modified silencers, special tailpipes and an interior button to change the exhaust note. Front park assist and a rearview camera are bundled ($1,255).
Options inside include a full-leather interior ($3,655) with memory for the driver's seat and driver's side mirror; full-leather interior with 14-way power seats ($3,655) with power steering column and memory for lights, wipers, A/C, door locks, instrument cluster and PCM settings; and a full-leather interior with 18-way power sport seats ($5,360) that includes the same additional memory functions. The 14-way ($1,705) and 18-way ($3,210) seats are also offered without full leather. Also offered are front park assist ($600); adaptive cruise control ($2,490); large rear center console ($2,300); eight-way power rear seats ($1,835); front and rear seat ventilation ($1,600); four-zone automatic climate control ($1020); heated steering wheel ($210); power sunscreens for rear side windows ($450) and a power rear sunscreen ($340). Audiophiles will appreciate the 14-speaker, 585-watt Base surround sound audio system ($1,440) and the 16-speaker, 1000-watt Burmester surround-sound audio system ($5,690). Other audio options consist of XM satellite radio ($750), Bluetooth cell phone connectivity ($695), 6CD/DVD changer ($650), and a Universal Audio Interface ($440) with auxiliary input and USB jacks.
Safety features that come standard include dual front airbags, dual front knee airbags, front- and rear-side airbags, curtain side airbags with rollover deployment, tire-pressure monitor, rear park assist, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control.
The Porsche Panamera owes its design to two main factors, heritage and packaging. In conceiving the car, Porsche wanted a coupe-like profile for a sporty look, the backseat room of a sedan, and the cargo utility of a wagon. Those parameters lead the company to choose a rounded four-door hatchback design instead of a traditional three-box sedan body style. The hatchback allowed for generous rear headroom while also offering the desired rear cargo utility and the sporty coupe rear profile.
The Panamera also had to look like a Porsche, and that means it needed elements of the 911. The 911 influences include the signature shoulders or haunches around the rear wheels, a hood that sits lower than the front fenders, a front end with lower air intakes but no grille and the rounded rear end. The sensor for the available active cruise control degrades the appearance of the car from the front. Hidden at the back of the car is a cleverly designed active rear spoiler. It rests under a chrome trim strip and pops up at speed to increase rear downforce.
The result is a car that looks awkward from some angles. The length added by the rear doors and the high rear roofline appear to stretch the car too far. It seems like it would look better if you could take about 18 inches out of the rear roof area and give the roof a sharper slope. But if Porsche did that, it would look a lot like a front-engine 911. The rear end looks bulbous, reminding us somewhat of the old 928. In short, we think styling is this car's weakest point.
The design may not be elegant, but the Panamera does have presence in traffic. It attracts attention when it pulls up to a luxury hotel or fine restaurant or other gathering. On the road, that large rear end stands out.
Porsche claims the Panamera is its most luxurious car ever and with good reason. The base materials are top-notch, with supple, soft-touch surfaces, and more luxurious trim is available. We found the fit and finish excellent in all the models.
Panamera S and 4S models come standard with three partial leather upholstery choices, while the Turbo gets full-leather upholstery in four colors. Three different two-tone combinations and natural leather in two colors and one two-tone combination are also available. Interior trim consists of carbon, aluminum, and five real-wood options. And those who really want to personalize their vehicles can opt for an alcantara roofliner (standard on Turbo), extra leather on just about everything, including the rearview mirror, steering column, air vents, and the top of the dash. It's all very handsome.
The center console is replete with buttons, upwards of 32 of them. Other functions are controlled through the standard seven-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash and another 18 buttons surrounding that screen. Another 4.8-inch multi-function display is housed in one of the gauge pods in front of the drivers. It pairs with the navigation screen to show just about any information the driver might want. Porsche opted for a button for every possible command rather than a centralized controller along the lines of BMW's iDrive. We found all those buttons overwhelming at first, but it became simpler as we became accustomed to them. The buttons are logically grouped by function and easy to reach. A central controller might look more elegant but it would be even harder to learn. In short, Porsche's system is easier to learn than BMW's iDrive. We found the navigation system hard to figure out. For example, three of us, veteran automotive journalists all, could not in an hour-long drive figure out how to switch from the bird's-eye view to map view.
Instruments are housed in five tubes, with the tachometer front and center in white with black numbers. The speedometer, marked in hard-to-read 25 mph increments, sits to the left of the tach, and the multi-function display is to the right. Both of these contrast with the tach, using black backgrounds and white characters. If you can't read the speedometer, that's OK, because a digital speed readout is provided at the bottom of the tach. Two smaller gauge pods flank the speedometer and multi-function display, creating the five-pod arrangement. These pods include readouts for the fuel gauge, water temperature and oil pressure and temperature.
Buyers can opt for three levels of audio systems. The base system, with 11 speakers and 235 watts of power is quite good. The optional Bose surround sound system, with 14-speakers and 585 watts, is loud and clear. It matches anything you'd find in most luxury cars. We found the 16-speaker, 1000-watt Burmester surround sound is as clear as any we've ever heard, and we've herd some good ones.
We found the front seats firm and comfortable. Hop in any seat and you'll notice that the full-length center console, which rises toward the dash, creates four distinct seating pods, each of which offers all the room and comfort the vast majority of passengers would ever need. This is one sports sedan that doesn't compromise rear seat room. The center console was inspired by the unit in the Porsche Carrera GT, and the seating position is similar to that of the 911. Supportive bucket seats can be found at all positions. The base seats have 8-way power adjustments in the S and 4S and 14-way adjustments in the Turbo. Those who really want to spoil themselves can choose the 18-way front sport seats and the 8-way adjustable rear seats.
Rear-seat headroom is especially impressive, and can accommodate occupants well over 6-feet tall. We found the rear seats comfortable, like buckets. The copious space front and rear would make the Panamera a fine chauffer-driven vehicle, though giving up the driver's seat wouldn't be easy. Rear seat heaters are available, with rear-seat climate control.
Rear visibility is limited. The angle of the rear window makes it look like a rather short slit from the driver's seat. Otherwise, the mirrors provide good coverage.
Storage up front includes a cupholder at the front of a shallow center storage console, the glovebox, and door map pockets. In back, there is another cupholder, a shallow storage tray, and a small storage cubby in the fold-down armrest.
Cargo space is quite massive. The hatchback design provides plenty of space for larger items. With the rear seats up, there is 15.6 cubic feet of space behind them, which is about as much space as a large sedan's trunk. Those rear seats fold almost flat with the touch of two finders to open up 44.2 cubic feet of cargo volume. That's enough room for a family of four and their luggage on a weekend trip. Four suitcases fit easily in this car.
The Porsche Panamera is enjoyable to drive and it's easy to drive. The Turbo delivers breathtaking performance that's almost too easy to control. The standard Panamera S feels lighter and livelier, however, and is more entertaining on winding roads. The four-wheel-drive Panamera 4S falls between the two. All three have that feeling of being carved from one solid block of rigid aluminum.
That's probably due to the car's advanced engineering and extensive use of lightweight aluminum and magnesium for portions of the body structure. The engine uses a dry sump oiling system rather than a standard oil pan so it can sit low in the chassis, and Porsche has placed it as far back as possible.
The Panamera comes with two forms of adjustable suspension, a standard system with gas shocks, and a full air suspension in the Turbo. The suspension adjustments allow the Panamera to drive like a luxury car or a racetrack-ready sports sedan, and it always feels smaller than its considerable size (which slots between a BMW 5 Series and a 7 Series). Most adjustable suspensions are either too soft or too firm. That's not the case with the Panamera. The base suspension's Comfort mode provides a smooth but controlled ride, while the Sport setting makes the car react quicker without ruining the ride. The Turbo's adaptive air suspension adds a firmer Sport Plus mode that's tuned for driving on a track or twisty road. The air suspension can also lower the car one inch for better handling and raise it 0.78 inch to help the front end clear curbs. Porsche also offers Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which comes with active anti-roll bars. To counteract body lean in turns, the system twists the roll bars to make them firmer. The system can also disconnect the roll bars to improve straight-line comfort on bumpy roads. Given all these controls, you can transform the Panamera from firm and race-track ready to smooth and refined with the touch of a couple of buttons.
We had the opportunity to test the Panamera's potential on the 14-turn, 4.1-mile Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Though large and heavy, the Panamera was at home on this long racetrack, with quick, communicative steering and a relatively flat attitude through turns (especially with PDCC). The Panamera's willingness to change direction and respond to driver inputs puts it in a league with the world's best sports sedans (such as the BMW M5).
Road America has a lot of long straights, and the Panamera's brakes weren't entirely up to that challenge, exhibiting a pulsation that may have indicated warped rotors. On the road, the brakes are more than enough to be perfectly capable. Drivers intending to drive their Panameras on a race track or tackle twisty mountain roads on a regular basis should consider opting for the expensive but impressive composite ceramic brakes.
The Panamera is very fast. The base V8 in the S and 4S models provides more power than anyone really needs. It offers willing response across at all rev ranges, starting with a burst and delivering plenty of passing punch. With rear-drive in the Panamera S, 0-60 mph takes just 5.2 seconds. The all-wheel-drive system in the 4S does a better job of putting the power down, cutting the time to 4.8 seconds, in spite of its additional weight. Add the Sport Chrono Plus package with its launch control feature and both 0-60 times are 0.2 seconds quicker.
The 500-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 in the Turbo is brutally fast, knocking the 0-60 time down to 3.6 seconds with launch control. Kick the throttle and the power knocks you back in your seat, not letting up until you do, or 188 mph, whichever comes first, though we didn't check this last feature. Thanks to standard direct injection, turbo lag is minimal, if at all existent. Sure, the Turbo is overkill, but we like it.
The seven-speed PDK automated manual transmission works well as a smooth automatic if left in Drive, and becomes race-ready when the driver chooses the Sport or Sport Plus modes, which hold gears longer to make power more readily available. Those who want to shift manually, can tap the steering wheel buttons in any mode. We found that the Sport Plus mode chose the appropriate gear for track driving 95 percent of the time.
For all that power, the Panamera goes fairly easy on gas. It comes with a start/stop feature that imperceptibly turns the engine off at stoplights to conserve fuel. EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the S models and 15/23 mpg for the Turbo. No Panamera is subject to a Gas Guzzler tax.
The Porsche Panamera offers the best of both worlds. It is a fine luxury sedan and debuts as one of the best sport sedans in the world. It's fast in a straight line, handles like a dream, carries four in comfort and has plenty of cargo room. All that capability doesn't come cheap, but a reasonably equipped model seems to be worth the price. Be careful, though, because Porsche's numerous options can add as much as $60,000 to the price of the car.
Kirk Bell performed his test drive of the Panamera at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough contributed to this report.
Porsche Panamera S ($89,800); 4S ($93,800); Turbo ($132,800).
Options As Tested
keyless access and starting ($1,090), adaptive air suspension ($1,990), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with rear differential lock ($4,460); Sport Chrono Plus package with analog and digital stopwatch, Sport Plus button and launch control ($1,320), front park assist and rearview camera ($1,255).
Porsche Panamera S.
2010 Porsche Panamera Information
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