Munich, Germany – Three diagonal lines on a circular sign-board means only one thing in Germany: unrestricted autobahn. The new 2,9-litre turbopetrol V6 in the 4S clears its throat while the eight-speed PDK (dual-clutch) transmission swiftly selects the appropriate gear relating to the fast-forward command from the driver.
The thrust and rate of building speed are impressive and only slows marginally after an indicated 230 km/h. When traffic conditions eventually curtail the storming run, the needle is nudging the 260 km/h mark. Impressive given the fact that the occupants are cocooned in the serene cabin and largely oblivious to the tarmac streaking beneath them.
The performance potential of the old Panamera was never in question, but the same could not be said about the odd-ball styling. This was one of the main focus areas of the new vehicle. Built on the brand new Modular Standard Drive Train Platform, the latest Panamera is 34 mm longer, 6 mm wider and 5 mm taller than the model it replaces. The dimension change that impacts the proportions most is the 30 mm increase in wheelbase that allowed the front axle to be pushed closer to the nose, minimising that overhang. The silhouette is clearly still Panamera, but now also more “sportscar”.
It is prettier
Up front, the clean nose design is highlighted by the LED headlights (featuring 109 elements each) and the four-point daytime running lamps are reminiscent of those on the WEC Porsche 919 racer. The rear is clearly modelled on the 911, with horizontal elements running between the slim tail units. The end result is a vehicle much more aesthetically pleasing than its predecessor.
Porsche decided to launch its new Advanced Cockpit concept in the Panamera and the result is a leap in technology and design. Centre stage is a vast 12,3-inch touchscreen display connected to a new infotainment system. It has similar operational functionality to a smartphone, including two-finger zooming and scrolling via a swipe motion. The instrument cluster still features a central, analogue rev-counter in true Porsche tradition, but it is flanked by two seven-inch screens that are fully customisable via the control buttons on the steering wheel. Gone are the fuzzy buttons and chrome inserts on the centre console, replaced by neater, touch-sensitive surfaces.
Plenty of space
Interior quality is top-notch with only the best materials used. The four beautifully crafted single-piece seats can now be ordered with optional massage functionality (both front and rear). The driving position is low to the ground, giving the impression that the driver is one with the vehicle. The cabin is spacious enough to comfortably seat four tall adults and even the boot space has increased to 495 dm3.
Sport Response button
The test units were all fitted with the Sport Chrono package, which includes the rotary driving mode selector (for Normal, Sport Sport Plus and Individual modes) on the steering wheel as first seen in the 918 hypercar. This allows the driver to easily alter the behaviour of the transmission, engine and air suspension to suit the specific driving conditions. The Sport Response button in the middle of the selector allows the driver to immediately select the most aggressive settings, something that lasts for twenty seconds. This is especially useful when cruising up to a slow vehicle and hitting the button, before the trigger is pulled to execute a swift overtaking manoeuvre.
Is it agile?
The Panamera feels agile to pilot with the standard four-wheel-steering set-up enhancing the notion of the vehicle “shrinking around the driver”. It is only when another vehicle approaches from the opposite direction on narrow country lanes that one realises how wide the Panamera actually is.
How does it handle?
Pushing on in the 4S is an exciting experience with the growling soundtrack from the direct injection, twin-turbo (with “hot V” layout to improve response) engine encouraging more aggressive throttle inputs. Although the steering feedback is minimal, grip levels are extremely high and, in combination with the all-wheel-drive system, result in excellent acceleration when exiting a corner. The mass of close to two tonnes is only really felt during tight corner sequences.
The new Panamera is an improvement in all measurable qualities over the outgoing model and, subjectively, it looks a whole lot better, too. It offers anti-SUV buyers a sportier alternative to a luxury saloon with little compromise to comfort.
Engine:2,9-litre, V6, turbocharged petrol
Power:324 kW at 5 650 – 6 600 r/min
Torque:550 N.m at 1 750–5 500 r/min
0-100 km/h:4,2 secs
Top Speed:289 km/h
Fuel Consumption:8,2 L/100 km
Transmission:8-spd dual clutch
Maintenance Plan:3-year/90 000km maintenance