By: Mike Ginsca
In 2009, Porsche unveiled the production version of what was supposed to be a four door 911. However, the short answer is that this is not a four door 911. Not even close.
Performance – Underneath the Porsche badge on the hood you’ll find a not so Porsche-ish V6 engine. Not a flat-6 like the ones you find in a normal 911 nor even a V8 or a turbocharged V8 in some of the higher trimmed versions of the Panamera. The V6 displaces 3.6L and produces a mere 300hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The reason why I don’t sound that impressed with the output figures of the engine is because these days nearly all manufacturers have at least one sedan that is offered with that much power for half the price. If I was going to spend $95,000 on a Porsche, I’d want it to easily outperform a car like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 or a Subaru Impreza WRX STi but this V6 Panamera would get humiliated by those cars at a race track. While the V6 is a smooth engine for daily commuting, it struggles to get the 1870kg body up to speed. The engine also doesn’t sound particularly pleasing to the ears. It obviously doesn’t have a V8 rumble but neither does it have the wonderful mechanical noise of the flat-6 that’s found in the 911. If Porsche really wanted to make a four door 911, they should have left the Panamera with just the V8 options or placed the new 3.4L flat-6 engine with 350hp that’s in the current 911 as the base engine option.
The Panamera does however redeem itself a bit when the roads get twisty. If it’s one thing that Porsche’s engineers know, it’s how to make any vehicle feel fantastic and joyous to drive around a corner. With a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the Panamera feels agile on its optional 20” tires and the all-wheel-drive system gives the driver a sense of stability and surefootedness even when the driving conditions are less than ideal. Obviously with the much larger body than the 911 it doesn’t have the same steering feedback but it fits in the slot between a sports sedan (such as the BMW M3) and a sports car like the 911.
Comfort – I’ve said it in the past and I will say it again, at the moment Porsche has the best designed interior of any luxury auto manufacturer. To some it may look cluttered with the array of buttons on the dashboard and center console but all of the buttons are grouped together and they’re placed where you’d expect them to be. In a Porsche, there is no need to use an overly complicated multi-media system that has menus and submenus and more submenus just to extend the spoiler or open the valves in the exhaust. There’s a button for that. Also, like all other Porsche products, the fit and finish of the cabin is second to none and it feels like you’re in an almost 6 figure vehicle.
Interior comfort and space is very good. There are 4 seats with large bolsters to keep you from moving too much around corners and in the back there is an adequate amount of room even for taller adults. Trunk space is also larger than one would expect from a Porsche but you have to be mindful of the narrow trunk opening due to the unique styling of the Panamera. With the optional 20” wheels outfitted to this Panamera you’d think that the ride quality would be no better than sitting on a rock but you’d be wrong. The Porsche Panamera’s suspension manages to be firm and responsive enough to provide a splendid driving experience but also soft enough to keep the passengers comfortable on long or short driving trips.
Odds and Ends – From the moment that Porsche revealed the production version of the Panamera, it was ridiculed for its … unique styling. Porsche wanted the Panamera to look like the 911 so that it still has some appeal to the Porsche enthusiasts but it didn’t end up looking that good in person. Compared with its rivals from Maserati, Aston Martin, and even BMW’s M5, the Porsche Panamera will most likely never win a beauty contest. It looks unproportional with the long hood and short 911 style back arch and bumper.
Overall the Porsche Panamera is a car that was designed to be a car to suit a wide range of customers rather than Porsche purists. It handles well, it is comfortable for daily commuting, it feels exquisite, and if you opt for the V8 model, fast as well. But it just doesn’t feel like a 911 with four doors.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the car.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.