Car reviews - Porsche - Panamera - range
Cabin ambience and technology, exterior design, all-new V6 and V8 engines, sports exhaust, breathtaking performance
Room for improvement
Fiddly auto gear shifter when trying to put it in reverse, lack of toe room in rear
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13 Feb 2017
PORSCHE is staggering the rollout of its all-new second-generation Panamera and it has started with the V8-powered flagship – for now – Turbo from $376,900 plus on-roads and the V6-powered all-wheel-drive 4S from $304,200.
Buyers wanting the more affordable Panamera (base variant), Panamera 4, E-Hybrid or 4S Diesel have to wait a little longer.
Judging by the pre-launch orders – it currently stands at about 59 – fans of the new-gen car can’t wait to get their hands on one.
And for good reason.
The latest Panamera represents far more than a step change over the original that made its Australian debut in 2009.
The all-new-from-the-ground-up model introduces comfort, convenience and safety tech new to the Porsche range that also puts it ahead of a number of its high-tech rivals.
The upper-large premium segment that the Panamera competes in also includes the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8, as well as more exotic fare such as the Maserati Quattroporte and Aston Martin Rapide.
Aside from the Rapide, the Panamera occupies a unique space as a four-door, four-seat coupe in this company, offering buyers a point of difference from the usual crowd of mostly Europeans.
The new design is striking in the metal, particularly in white, and whatever your opinion of the previous version, Porsche’s stylists have done a brilliant job smoothing out lines and mimicking the 911 roofline.
It is longer, wider and taller than before and, despite the loss of the humpback tail, clever engineering has meant that rear seat passengers sit lower to ensure basically the same headroom in the back as before.
The Panamera doesn’t look nearly as big as the previous car, even though it is, another win for the designers.
If the overall look of the Panamera doesn’t impress you, the cabin surely will.
While the overall cockpit-style layout of the seating position and centre stack are familiar, everything else has changed.
Porsche’s switches are gone in favour of haptic touch controls on the gloss black console that surrounds the gear shifter, and sitting above it is a beautifully integrated 12.3-inch full colour display.
The car-maker has put almost all of the functions into the Porsche Communication Management system, but for ease of use when driving, many controls are also found on the centre stack, above the gear shifter.
The screen is clear, uncluttered and clever. You can control the direction of the air vents by directing the image of them on the display. It’s a neat trick.
Even the gloss black switchgear looks and feels special.
However, putting the car in reverse can be fiddly as the shifter is not as intuitive as expected.
The dash layout and design, beautiful steering wheel (inspired by the 918 Spyder) and fit and finish of the materials are all first class, with the only analogue element in the instrument cluster is the centrally mounted tachometer.
All of the Panamera’s competitors in the segment do a great job of making occupants feel special, but Porsche’s unique, techy take on an executive express cabin is segment leading.
Step into the rear of the cabin and the seats (as with the front seats) are superbly designed and offer the perfect amount of support without falling into the too plush category.
Knee and overall leg room is more than adequate, without bothering the likes of a 7 Series, but the lower setting of the front seats means rear toe room is poor.
Best then to flick through the rear seat display where you can find the seat massage setting, if it is optioned, or dictate the destination via the car sat nav system.
We could spend a good amount of time in the rear seat (and did) and had no complaints about headroom.
The cargo area is shallow but long and it can haul 495 litres of luggage (1304L with the rear seats folded), not far off the 7 Series that can swallow 515L.
Despite offering loads of comfort in the rear, Porsche buyers tend to prefer the front seat.
Our first taste of the Panamera was in the 4S, which is powered by a new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine producing 324kW at 5650rpm and 550Nm from 1750-5500rpm, paired with a new eight-speed PDK transmissionPorsche says it can race from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds (4.2s if you have optioned the Sport Chrono package) and we tend to believe that figure.
Weight has been taken out of the suspension, engine and other parts of the Panamera and the 4S weighs 1870kg – about the same as the outgoing version 4S – owing to the addition of new tech and gadgets.
Perhaps due to the new steering setup, new suspension (Aluminium double wishbone up front and multi-link at the rear) and new engine, the Panamera feels significantly lighter than the first-gen car.
Where the original felt a bit lardy, the new model is positively nimble.
Whatever the clever engineers have done, it has worked.
The Panamera 4S picks up pace rapidly and the eight-speed PDK slices through the gears with minimal fuss, except in Sport mode when it felt a little harsher.
Our test car had a $7000 sports exhaust option fitted and it added a nice amount of drama, burbling on downshifts. This is definitely an option worth considering.
The all-wheel-drive system ensures that the 4S can be pushed through tight bends surprisingly well for a vehicle of its size and weight. Not once did the 19-inch tyres skip, nor did it get tail happy. It remained planted to the road.
During development, Porsche tried to find that balance in the suspension setup of sporty yet soft.
It’s a good effort but on some surfaces – particularly NSW’s poor B-roads – it feels stiff, but never sportscar stiff. In fact the Panamera 4S is just as happy pottering around town as it is blasting through twisty regional roads.
Acceleration is even better in Sport mode, and launch control is also a bit of fun. Not that you need it.
Next up was the Turbo that uses an all-new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 404kW at 5750-6000rpm and 770Nm at 1960-4500rpm for a 0-100km/h dash in 3.8s.
It weighs 1995kg – again about the same as the old version – but also does not feel anywhere near that weight.
That extra power and torque makes for brutal, yet smile-inducing acceleration, and the engine and exhaust note is sublime.
Steering is a little heavier on the V8 compared with the V6, but just as sharp, and while the nose feels slightly weightier than the six, it can still handle a corner with ease.
We spent more time in the V8 on freeways and highways than fun back roads, and as a long-haul cruiser, it is a winner.
Again the suspensions setup – particularly in Sport and Sport Plus – is a touch on the stiff side, but certainly not enough to rule the Panamera out.
We understand why cashed-up buyers wouldn’t even consider a V6 and the aural drama of the V8 is probably a big part of it.
But, the V6-powered 4S is no compromise. It is just as enjoyable to drive, and could be the easier car to live with.
Porsche has lifted the bar with the new Panamera. It is sophisticated, stylish, offers a cracking cabin experience and has performance that its more traditional sedan rivals can only hope for.
Before putting large amounts of money down on one of the usual executive jets, take a spin in the Panamera.
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