When Porsche debuted the four-door luxury Panamera in 2009, Porsche-philes erupted with the same outraged dismay they heaped on the Cayenne SUV in 2002. Some dared suggest that the Panamera wasn’t even a true Porsche. Ouch.
Sorry, naysayers. Porsche’s game plan is clearly working. It just wrapped its best year ever, delivering a total of 237,778 vehicles around the world, about 6 percent more than 2015, which was also a banner year — 19 percent above 2014.
The all-new-from-the-wheels-up Panamera is already contributing to 2017’s success — sales are up almost 66 percent over March 2016.
What’s not to like? It has power, style, comfort, performance and technology to spare, along with that ineffable Porsche cachet of exclusivity.
Let’s start with what excites Porsche purists most: engines. Two new twin-turbochargers are available — the Panamera 4S has a 24-valve 2.9-liter V6 cranking out 440 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The slightly redundantly named Panamera Turbo boasts a 32-valve 4.0-liter V8 with 550 horsepower and 567 pound-feet of torque. (Both the 4S and the Turbo are all-wheel drive — the base model Panamera has a turbo V6 good for 330 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque with rear-wheel drive.)
Both new engines feature a centrally located direct-injection nozzle, which optimizes both mixture injection and combustion for greater efficiency and increased power delivery. The twin-scroll turbos are located within the “V” of the V-engine architecture. This reduces the distance that the exhaust stream has to travel to reach its respective turbo, thereby delivering a more rapid response.
What that means in English is that there’s plenty of power available from both engines to satisfy purists and Porsche newbies alike.
Porsche purists might even like the brand-new, eight-speed Porsche PDK (Doppelkupplung) dual-clutch gearbox, developed especially for the Panamera but expected to appear in subsequent vehicles, including the much-anticipated hybrid Panamera later this year.
This eight-speed PDK is a game-changer in that it’s powerful enough to handle a hybrid’s explosive power while delivering smooth, lightning-fast, almost intuitive shifts. The long seventh and eighth gears keep revs low even at highway speeds, greatly extending fuel economy. And smooth? Really, the only way you know it’s shifting is to watch the analog tach, which, in true Porsche fashion, sits at the instrument cluster’s center.
The new Panamera borrows exterior-design cues from the 911 for the roof line, rear windows and tail. Like the 911, there’s a horizontal light strip and slimline, three-dimensional LED taillights with four-spot brake lights. The front wheels have been moved forward a half-inch and the body is slightly longer (1.2 inches) and wider (a quarter-inch) than the prior version. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but when taken together, the new Panamera looks more sleekly athletic than the prior version.
Purists will surely approve of the new suspension, which includes Porsche Traction Management (PTM) on the 4S and Turbo models. It’s an active all-wheel-drive system with electronic and map-controlled multi-plate clutch ensuring optimum distribution of drive force whatever the situation. Whether you’re powering through long straights, tight corners or sketchy road surfaces, you’ll feel firmly planted. Bigger brakes bring all that go to a whoa in a hurry.
There’s also an optional ride-height adjustable adaptive air suspension, electronic damper control (Porsche Active Suspension Management, PASM) and an enhanced electromechanical Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) system with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus). And don’t forget the optional rear-axle steering — it’s all there working quietly behind the scenes, keeping you maximally stable and maneuverable at all speeds.
Also cool: the new Porsche InnoDrive system, which includes adaptive cruise control and uses high-res navigation data from video sensors and radar to compute and activate optimal acceleration and deceleration rates for the next 1.8 miles ahead.
Amid all this tech, what you’re most likely to notice, aside from the luxuriously appointed, leather-lined, mercifully button-free cabin, is the Panamera’s amazing performance range. Opt for the Sport Chrono Package — you’ll love launch control! — and use the steering wheel switch to dial up Normal, Sport, Sport Plus or Individual mode.
Normal is just that, a dignified and comfortable ramble. Sport is pretty fun. But we like Sport Plus best, because we’re basically 11 years old at heart. We didn’t have time to program the Individual setting but it’s probably pretty fun, too. It’s like tailoring the Panamera to be a luxury boulevard cruiser or a drag-racer or anything in between, all at a touch.
The all-new Panamera 4S starts at $100,950, while the Turbo starts at $147,950. Not cheap, certainly — but, hey, it’s a Porsche. A REAL Porsche. Even purists will have to agree that this time around, there’s no doubt about it.
Brian Melton inherited his love of cars from his mom: She drove T-Birds, Jaguars and a much-loved silver Mercedes 450SL with an unrepentant lead foot.
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