by: Mike Ginsca
In 2009, Porsche unveiled the production version of what was supposed to be a four door 911. As it turned out, there was a large market for this vehicle because it has quickly become one of Porsche’s bestselling vehicles.
Performance – Underneath the Porsche badge in the front, you will not find a storage compartment as you would in a traditional Porsche but rather a 4.8L V8 engine. The naturally aspirated V8 in this 4S model Panamera is capable of delivering 400hp and 369 lb-ft of torque to all 4 wheels via a 7-speed PDK transmission. There are other engine options to choose from for the Panamera. There is this same V8 but with 2 turbochargers bolted on which is capable of producing 540hp and an almost unbelievable 590 lb-ft of torque with the optional high output turbo kit. Then there is a 3.6L V6 with a miniscule 300hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. I have driven the V6 version before and it felt slow, un-enjoyable, and like any other entry level sports sedan but with an almost $50,000 price hike and a Porsche badge. The V8 engine options should be the only choices to choose from when purchasing a Panamera because only they have enough power to pull the 1800kg body. The naturally aspirated V8 in this “S” model has a lovely burble when you put your foot down on the far right pedal and there is an abundance of torque throughout the rpm range to accelerate the 4 door Porsche to 100km/h from a stop in approximately 4.5 seconds.
However if you prefer a calmer atmosphere in the Porsche Panamera, it has different drive modes to suit the driver’s preferences. In Normal mode, the Panamera’s PDK transmission sets off in 2nd gear for a smoother launch and the shifts are slow and almost automatic in feeling. The suspension is also at its most comfortable setting and the engine feels a bit lazier in its response to driver inputs. But push the Sport or Sport Plus buttons on the center console and throttle response is instantaneous, the suspension firms up to reduce body roll, and the PDK dual clutch transmission becomes what feels like a racing transmission with fast and crisp gear changes.
The normal mode on the Panamera is best suited for daily driving and cruising conditions in a city or on a highway but the Sport and Sport Plus modes are ideal 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 Porsche 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.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.