Car reviews - Porsche - Panamera - Turbo
Genuine supercar performance, interior fit and finish, eye-catching styling, tricked-out rear spoiler, communicative steering, versatile suspension settings
Room for improvement
High asking price, glitchy instrumentation display screen, you can’t appreciate the gorgeous exterior from inside
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4 Aug 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
PORSCHE has managed to maintain its position as one of the top premium sportscars brands on the market thanks to its iconic 911 and critically acclaimed open-top Boxster and Cayman coupe.
However, with the expansion of brands including Mercedes-AMG and more offerings than ever from the boffins at Audi Sport, Porsche has had to diversify more than ever to stay at the top of the game.
The Stuttgart-based car-maker now caters to more practical buyers with the Macan and Cayenne crossovers, which make up the lion’s share of overall sales, and gives the brand two competitors in the booming SUV segment.
However, for those not yet convinced that a high-riding wagon is the way to go, Porsche also has its Panamera four-door luxury limo – which launched in second-generation guise in February.
Kicking off the range at $210,000 before on-road costs, the Panamera line-up is currently headlined by the Turbo variant costing $376,000 tested here.
With the aim of blending supercar-shaming performance with the comfort and practicality of a sedan, can Porsche buyers have their cake and eat it too with the Panamera Turbo?
Price and equipment
Porsche’s new second-generation Panamera launched in showrooms back in February this year with the range kicking off from $210,000 before on-roads, but our flagship Turbo variant wears a much heftier pricetag of $376,900.
Less polarising in design than before, Porsche has massaged the rear hump of the Panamera into a more aesthetically pleasing shape and silenced critics who called the first-gen ‘ugly’.
Also fresh for the second iteration of the Panamera are new engines, a new transmission, updated styling and bigger dimensions, as well as standard equipment which includes LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights, panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, privacy glass, automatic tailgate, 14-speaker Bose sound system, digital radio, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Splash the extra cash for the flagship and Porsche will shoehorn a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine under the bonnet with power fed through an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission to all four wheels ensuring the Turbo is the quickest in the Panamera line-up (more on that below).
Buyers will also gain Matrix LED headlights, sports bucket seats with heating for all four occupants, full-leather interior, Alcantara roof-lining, Turbo-specific door sills and automatic dimming mirrors.
Our test car also came with a few extra goodies, including a $6950 sports exhaust, $5890 Night Vision assist, $4790 Sport Chrono package, $4410 21-inch Sport Design wheels, $1980 Carbon interior package and $1190 high-gloss black-trimmed side mirrors – equating to a total cost of $402,110.
Pricing of the Panamera Turbo also makes it about on par with other ultra-lux limos including the $392,428 Mercedes-AMG S65 and $419,000 BMW M760Li xDrive.
As a luxury sportscar builder, Porsche needs to do more than simply cram a monster engine under the bonnet, they also need to craft a refined, comfortable interior for occupants to be ferried in.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, owners are treated to a large, central tachometer that places vehicle revs front and centre for perfect shifts. The instrumentation is flanked by two high-resolutions screens shaped like four additional dials tucked behind the centre tacho.
These extra displays can be customised to showcase information including GPS data, trip read-outs, fuel economy, night vision (if optioned) and phone connectivity.
We love the mix of old and new in the instrumentation and Porsche has to be commended for inventing a new way to display driving information that is not a copy of Audi’s great ‘virtual cockpit’ display.
However, the one and only gripe we can level at the Panamera Turbo’s gorgeous instrumentation is that we sometimes encountered a glitchy screen on one of the digital displays.
Likely just a glitch in the software that controls the screen, the display be come full of ‘fuzzys’ for a while and would disappear after a time. While not a deal breaker in any way, it was still a little disappointing to see a near perfect interior let down by something that could simply be fixed with a software update from Porsche’s technicians.
Towards the centre stack, a smorgasbord of buttons is littered around the shifter, and, while overwhelming at first, most are self-explanatory and all have a tactile, premium click when pushed.
The central high-definition 12.3-inch screen with Porsche Communication Management displays all relevant information – most of which can also be shown in the instrumentation – while the central air-vents are finished in a gloss black and close flat when not in use.
While the high-definition touchscreen is responsive, we found the system took a bit of getting used to especially when the widescreen display shows multiple settings and it becomes a little trickier to navigate all the on-screen buttons.
In the second row, Porsche’s Panamera Turbo is just as pleasant, with plenty of leg- and headroom as you would expect from a car that measures 5049mm with an impressive 2950mm wheelbase.
Sitting in the rear also gives users access to the centre console buttons for climate settings, privacy blind, front passenger seat position, map information and multimedia settings – ensuring that users will be just as comfortable behind the drivers seat as they are behind the wheel.
One minor gripe we could level at the Panamera Turbo is that Porsche uses the sports seats for the second row as well as the first, meaning the back seats are a little harder than we would have liked from a luxury limo.
Luggage capacity is also respectable, with 470 litres available with the rear seats up, expanding to 1310L with the rear pews folded.
Overall, the Panamera Turbo interior is still a resounding win, deftly blending both luxury and sportiness. Every single touchpoint feels premium and it is presented with a level of polish barely seen elsewhere in the automotive world.
Engine and transmission
Powered by a force-fed 4.0-litre V8 engine with the two turbos mounted within the bank of the cylinders, the Panamera Turbo offers up 404kW between 5750-6000rpm and a mountainous 770Nm from 1960-4500rpm.
While engine outputs sound formidable, the mighty V8 has to motivate almost two tonnes (1995kg) of metal and is paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission.
As a result, Porsche’s range-topping Panamera (at least until the Turbo S E-Hybrid lands) will spring from zero to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds and will max out at 306km/h.
While we never got a chance to accurately test Porsche’s performance claim, from our sophisticated and well-calibrated ‘butt dyno’ we are very comfortable to report that the Panamera Turbo is indeed, terrifyingly quick.
Plant the right foot and performance simply powers on without any hesitation or turbo lag, and will continue to climb in the same effortless fashion, we imagine, well past legal road limits.
While the Panamera Turbo is frighteningly quick, what is even more unbelievable is that the luxury limo’s powerplant can manage to be both a sportscar-shaming beast and a comfortable around town cruiser.
With cylinder deactivation technology to drop half its cylinders during light engine loads, Porsche says the technology can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 30 per cent.
From our time with the car, we could not actually detect when the car was in V8 or four-cylinder mode, a testament to how seamless the technology works.
With a week of heavy city driving and a long country road jaunt, we managed a fuel consumption average of 12.6 litres per 100km, a littler thirstier than official figures of around 9.4L/100km.
The transmission is also quick-shifting and smooth, much like the PDK transmission found across the rest of the Porsche range.
Cruising at 100km/h, the Panamera Turbo will happily stay in seventh gear and not shift into its final ratio. Even when we switched to manual mode and prompted the next cog with a flick of the shifter, it would quickly downshift to seventh again.
Clearly then, the gearing is designed for countries with higher speed limits, the German autobahn or top-speed runs at an empty racetrack.
Ride and handling
Porsche has fitted its second-generation Panamera with a new lighter-weight aluminium suspension set-up with a double wishbone configuration up front and multi-link at the rear.
Panamera models also come equipped with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) as well as Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus.
Although Porsche explains what each of these systems do individually, the combined result is nothing short of witchcraft.
The Panamera Turbo does not steer or handle like a two-tonne four-door limo, the suspension systems, torque vectoring, chassis control technology and four-wheel steering make it feel more akin to a lightweight sports coupe than anything else.
Turn-in is sharp and precise, and the rear-end is light and communicative resulting in a car that will absolutely carve up backroad corners just as confidently as it will cruise at triple-digit speeds.
While four-wheel steering systems can at times feel like driving on ice – especially when changing directions quickly from side to side like navigating a roundabout at speed – Porsche’s system is implemented in a much more organic and natural feeling way.
Brakes are taken care of by six-piston front callipers clamping down on monster 410mm rotors, while the rear features four-piston units with 380mm discs. As expected of such big brakes, the Panamera Turbo stops assuredly every time.
Riding on air suspension at all four corners, the Panamera can be switched from Normal mode for a cosseted in-cabin ride all the way to Sport Plus for cat-like agility and handling.
However, we did notice that pot holes and large road imperfections are especially noticeable.
If it were our money, we’d stick to the standard 20-inch wheels instead of the optional 21-inch hoops fitted to our test car for the better road manners.
Safety and servicing
The second-generation Porsche Panamera is yet to be tested by either ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
However, the flagship Panamera comes equipped with safety systems including airbags, ABS, surround-view cameras, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, Porsche Traction Management, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
Our test car also came fitted with optional Night Vision Assist, a forward-facing camera that can detect pedestrians, animals and obstacles even in the dark.
While we never encountered a situation where it was essential, drivers can view the camera display at any time on the dashboard with potential obstacles highlighted by a red box outline.
If drives down darkened roads or streets filled with wild animals is part of the daily drive, we imagine the added security of Night Vision Assist would come in handy.
At times, it almost felt that nay-sayers were just nit-picking at the first-generation Porsche Panamera. After all, Porsche developed a vehicle that could fulfil multiple roles for the well-heeled customer.
Both a sportscar and a practical family sedan, it was unfortunate that the rear hump design kept the model from becoming an instant classic.
For the second go around however, Porsche has polished the Panamera to an absolute mirror sheen – especially in top-spec Turbo form – and fixed the one styling gripe which divided punters.
Cramming a volcano 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is only part of the reason why the Panamera Turbo stands head and shoulders above the competition.
The updated and refined interior, ultra-agile handling characteristics, sharp steering and genuine real-world practicality all combine to form a car that can simultaneously be a barnstorming brute and ultra-lux limo.
BMW M760Li xDrive from $419,000 before on-roads
While the BMW just edges out the Porsche in the zero to 100km/h time (3.7s vs 3.8s), the M760Li xDrive has to do with a 448kW/800Nm 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12 engine. The Beemer also beats the Panamera Turbo in terms of comfort and in-cabin technology, but the Porsche is the sharper steer.
Mercedes-AMG S65 from $392,428 before on-road costs
With a 435kW/900Nm 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet, the Mercedes-AMG S65 is more than a match for the Porsche Panamera Turbo. However, its in-cabin décor is beginning to date and the nameplate still can’t shake its ‘old-man’ appeal.
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