Feels Like Home
Porsche Panamera. Embrace the moment.
by Bob Beck
Porsche likes to speak of its DNA. Study the Porsche family of cars and you'll understand what Porsche's DNA is all about. It’s a family
of technology, passion and proportion in motion. It is perhaps best said
that nothing drives like a 911. If you are going to build the
ultimate sports car it goes without saying that it will be compared to a 911.
Introduced in 1964, the archetype 911 defines the sports car.
On the other hand if you
are going to build an ultimate sports sedan it would typically be compared to
an Audi/Mercedes/BMW/Maserati-ish sort of thing. There are a lot of good choices
in the luxury sports sedan category – A8, M5, CLS AMG, Quattroporte. At one time it would have been hard to choose, but no longer. Today there is really only one choice
and it is unequivocally the Porsche Panamera. It’s that good. You simply
need drive it to understand.
As a born skeptic, I
traveled off to sample the new Panamera as a 911 man. On
the roads of Milwaukee and the track at Road America, I would test
the Panamera as a 911 devotee. Being a 911 man I really don't
do automotive change well. With
apologies to Porsche, I haven't even completely accepted the Cayenne. I have
owned or driven every type Porsche made and enjoyed them all but I'm a 911
man at heart. There is something intangible that gets in your blood with the 911. It is
Now, frankly, my automotive
world order has been rocked. A middle age fog could be clouding my vision but
I'm rethinking the whole 911 man thing. Maybe a Panamera could fit in
my garage, too? Maybe I’d like to
take the wife and kids when I lap the Nürburgring. No, my manhood is not withering as we speak. I am still loyal to the 911 but
the Panamera is an amazing car. Perhaps it’s even worthy of consideration
as the perfect Porsche.
The technology and numbers
of the Panamera have been well documented by now. It brings a lot to the
game with an efficient direct injection engine mated to a smooth 7-speed PDK
transmission with all of the suspension and engine tuning buttons one could
dream of located on the center console. S and 4S versions sport a 4.8-liter,
400 hp V8 engine, while the Turbo version pumps out a conservative 500 hp to
all four wheels. When the launch control feature activates, it’s nothing short
of amazing. Prices range from $90K to over $130K.
All this tech goodness
delivers stunning performance. The performance is beyond the sports sedan
expectations. It’s really a super sedan. The Panamera Turbo
has a Porsche stated zero-to-sixty of 3.8 seconds, only three-tenths slower
than the 911 Turbo. In usual Porsche fashion, these numbers are a bit
conservative as the street times are rumored to be 3.5 for the
Turbo Panamera. The 400 hp normally aspirated Panamera turns in
a healthy 5.2 second zero-to-sixty. Tie this together with the legendary Porsche
chassis and brakes and we're off to the races.
But numbers and factoids
don't make a Porsche. (Heck, the Corvette has good numbers but it ain't no
Porsche, my friend.) The roads and race tracks of the real world is where
Porsche has earned its’ reputation. My Panamera test drive came
with real world extremes. Milwaukee has some of the worst weather rutted roads in the
world. Contrast this with Road America, just outside of Milwaukee, one of the
best driving, well-storied tracks in the country. So how does it drive?
As expected in a six-figure car, the Panamera is prefect for a long haul
drive in the city or country. The long wheelbase and sophisticated suspension
tuning make for a perfect compromise of supple ride and top of the class
handling. With smooth PDK transmission, efficient direct injection power
in the 400 or 500 hp range, it takes off like your favorite executive jet. To complete the experience, Porsche adds
to that what it calls an “executive class interior” (think Bentley meets Lear Jet).
an ark seemed more appropriate than a brand new Panamera in this
Porsche is very, very good
at most things, but they have yet to master Mother Nature. So I tackled Road
America in the wet... very wet. An
ark would have been more appropriate for the biblical proportions of
rain. Chassis dynamics and physics come to play much earlier in this kind
of weather. Fortunately for me I had Porsche factory driver Patrick Long
riding shotgun to help temper my driving skills.
Belted in a six-figure car
with 500 horsepower on a very wet track I had never driven, Patrick and I
paddled up to speed. Once settled into the cockpit, I would have sworn I had jumped into a 911. It felt like home. The IP and cockpit are designed to feel
like home for the 911 driver. The
power and handling are world-class good. The car feels completely neutral and begs to be pushed hard
even in the wet. The steering is
precise, but a little numb on feedback compared to the 911, but this is understandable
with the large engine up front. The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s offered amazing grip as I found out when I unleashed
the 500 hp Turbo on the back straight. The thrust was astonishing. The only thing that felt out of
sorts were the sweet engine sounds coming from the wrong end of car. Oh well, lots of Le Mans winning cars
have had the engine up front.
A lot has been made of the
exterior design. Some say it’s not the best looking car ever made.
Certainly, the same was said of the original Beetle and even the first 911, the 901. The Panamera looks
like a Porsche and one must see it in person to judge how well form follows function.
My experience is that when you see it in person and drive it at speed and the Panamera morphs into a thing of absolute beauty. Form so very much follows function. The proportions of the
car in motion define its beauty. Porsches are not static objects. Touch the Panamera, drive it, and
you will see the beauty. Whether driving on Road America or up to your favorite
valet parking event on Saturday night and you are front row material.
Patrick Long behind the wheel.
The most important design feature of
the Panamera is the interior. Fittingly this is the first Porsche that focuses
on passengers as well as the driver. It is a unique interior synthesis between
sports car and luxury sedan. It is a distinctly Porsche interior with a splash of
English-like coachwork and luxury to boot. This the most luxurious interior
seen from Stuttgart. Four things immediately stand
out: first, the ascending center console, reminiscent of the Carrera GT;
second, the four individual seats, all 911-style sport seats for great support;
third, the amount of space in the rear, where even taller passengers will find plenty
of legroom and headroom (with room for those well over 6 feet tall); and
fourth, the versatility of the luggage compartment, thanks to the folding rear
seats. The driver feels coddled by all the dynamic features of the Panamera interior - seat position, pedal placement, instrument panel and so on. Fortunately
the dynamic luxury the driver feels is shared with all the passengers - the experience is indistinguishable from one seat to the next. The
center console extends into the rear seats, so the
rear passengers can access their individual gadgets for climate control
and seating options. Every surface can be covered in the rich leather with wood
and metal touches. In fact the only
people who are not going to enjoy this interior are the folks at Mercedes
or Bentley. It is stunning.
I sense a paradigm shift coming and it is the Panamera.
Perhaps this is the first archetype for the super sedan. Porsche definitely
built a better sedan and in the process they may have built one of the best
Porsches ever. Sixty plus years ago, Dr. Ferry Porsche built the car he
wanted and the world loved. Now Porsche has built the car you and your family
will want. The Panamera has arrived. Embrace the moment and take a trip to your local Porsche