High on the highway: The Porsche Panamera is remarkably stable and displays fantastic levels of pace and control
As youll probably know, the Panamera is a four-door, four-seat, fastback sports car at luxo-barge prices. But its really a grand tourer. Porsche says that their new flagship sits somewhere between the Cayenne and 911 in concept, borrowing practicality from the former and dynamics of the latter.
In design, the Panamera exhibits traditional Porsche style — the sloping back, typical cut-out bonnet shape, smiling front air vent — you know the drill. It comes with V8 petrol engines derived from the Cayenne SUVs units. In normally aspirated form, that gives it fast-sports performance or, in the Turbo form, supercar-baiting potential.
Natural rivals? Think top-end versions of existing luxury cars, like AMG S-classes or the Maserati Quattroporte. But if the Panamera reveals the latent dynamism its supposed to have, think also of more overtly sporting cars like the BMW M5, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and the Jaguar XFR.
The front and back seats dont look and feel as wide as those youd find in traditional luxury saloons but the Panamera seats four comfortably. Its seats make up for what they lack in width in support, although theres more room in the back of a regular saloon.
The rear seats are set slightly inboard so shoulder room is good. Because this is an honest hatchback, the rear seats split and fold, giving up to 1263 litres of boot space. You can even order a towbar.
In the low-set cabin, the drivers-seat position is similar to a 911s in relation to the front wheels. Its a cosseting cockpit architecture, one that Porsche has been itching to use since it introduced the Carrera GT, with a high transmission tunnel running the length of the passenger space, a high-set gear lever and clear switchgear and dials. The Panamera feels beautifully built too; plastics and materials are beyond reproach.
UNDER THE HOOD
This Porsche features a twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 sourced from the Cayenne, but modified to allow it to sit rather low, and be less off-road-proof. This big engine gives 493bhp and 71.5kgm, resulting in 0-100kph taking 4.2 seconds and a top whack of 301kph. If its equipped with the Sports Chrono package, you can add launch control to that and take another 0.2 seconds off the 0-100kph time.
As standard, the Turbo gets Porsches seven-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission, driving all four wheels through six driving gears and, for touring economy, an overdriven seventh. The gear lever shifts up on forward pushes and the steering wheel buttons enable both upshifts and downshifts.
The air springs on the Turbo have three modes of stiffness. In their softest mode, theyre more compliant than the coil-sprung S and 4S models, although theres a little sproing and a slightly hollow noise over smaller bumps.
Five hundred horses from a 4.8-litre motor with two turbos isnt an outrageous output, and peak torque is developed only from 2250rpm, so this is a broader power band. Theres no shortage of oomph as it heads towards peak power at 6000rpm, however. You can even make the exhaust louder by flicking a button.
My time spent in the Panamera mirrored the use that the car will get: lots of cruising and using good roads to the fullest.
I spent 10 hours in the drivers seat in one day and emerged with no complaints or aches. Theres a 100-litre fuel tank and ergonomically the Panamera is sound, down to a brilliant new screen nestled among the dials that can flit between trip details, car info and a satellite-navigation screen.
On the Porsche scale, the Panamera edges closer to a Cayenne than a 911. Youll want to take the suspension out of its softest setting as you drive, moving the suspension settings through Sport and into Sport Plus.
The Panamera never totally shakes off its weight, while managing to go down the road at a proper lick pretty well and it steers very positively, with good precision and a rack whose speed increases further away from straight ahead. As in other Porsches, you dont really notice this lack of linearity; it just means you can leave your hands where they are for most bends.
On the road, the high grip limit is sounded by a squeal from the outside front tyre, though the electronically-controlled rear differential can help to straighten the Panamera on corner exit. Power always goes to the back and is apportioned to the front wheels when needed.
Driving this Porsche wont blow your socks off. But the levels of control and pace that the carmaker has installed in it are truly impressive.
Is it one of the best performance luxury cars to drive? Yes. Is it a proper Porsche? Here too, yes, because its dynamism feels so absolutely unwearying. And with its carbon-ceramic brakes, it stops on a dime.
The Panamera feels impeccably solid and rigid. Its a fine luxury performance flagship, and for many thatll be enough. But — and theres a but — itll lighten your fortune by about Rs 2.2 crore!
Does the Porsche really justify spending a Boxsters worth more than a Jaguar XFR? Ill reserve final judgement until I know whether it rides a furrowed road as well as the Jag, but to say Id be surprised would be an understatement.
Impressive though this Turbo is, I cant help thinking that the Panameras sweet spot is probably lower down the range.
Porsche Panamera Turbo
Price: Rs 2.2 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Top speed: 301kph
Engine: V8, 4806cc, twin-turbo, petrol/ front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive
Power: 493bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 78.5kgm at 2250-4500rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed double-clutch (PDK)
Suspension (F/R): Double wishbones, air springs, anti-roll bar/ multi-link, air springs, anti-roll bar
Brakes (F/R): 390mm ventilated discs/ 350mm
Tyres (F/R): 255/45 R19 and 285/40 R19