There are few cars in Porsche’s illustrious five-decade-long history that have been more polarising than the Panamera since it burst onto the scene in 2009. Its raised fastback rear end design and odd proportions have long been points of controversy. Automotive journalists certainly haven’t been kind.
The Panamera’s odd looks can be attributed to the need for all Porsches to look, well, like a Porsche. In plain terms, all cars bearing the company’s brand need to be instantly recognisable. That means they have all got to look like a 911. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
Instant brand recognition is worth its weight in gold for a car company. However, for Porsche, that need for conformity has resulted in some truly odd looking cars. Another example would be the original Cayenne SUV, which the former hosts of “Top Gear” described as a Porsche that backed into a shed and got stuck.
In spite of the controversy, the Panamera became a sales success. Looks aside, the first generation Panamera was generally regarded as one of the finest performance sedans money can buy. The last first-gen Panamera GTS Business Insider tested blew us away with its luxurious cabin, pin-point-precise handling, and gutsy V8 engine.
In June 2016, Porsche unveiled the second generation Panamera. Unlike Porsche’s first effort at a production sedan, this time, the automotive critics were enthralled. With a new rear end design, Porsche’s ugly ducking is suddenly the belle of the ball.
With the controversial styling cue fixed, the automotive world went berserk over the Panamera.
In November 2016, Business Insider became the first journalists to drive the second generation Panamera in North America, after getting behind the wheel of a Panamera Turbo in New York.
Recently, Porsche dropped of another Panamera Turbo for us to take an extended look at its new high-performance luxury sedan. Here’s what it’s like to drive.
The new Porsche Panamera Turbo starts at $US150,000 while our option-laden test car came out to about $US180,000. The base Panamera starts at a more affordable $US85,000.
Here it is! The new Porsche Panamera! Even though it's built on VW Group's new Porsche-developed MSB platform, you won't mistake for anything other than a Panamera.
In addition, the rear fascia was redesigned to mimic that of the company's current generation sports cars.
Although the Panamera was the first Porsche sedan to make it into production when it arrived in showrooms for the 2010 model year, the company had actually been mulling over the idea for some time. More than two decades ago, Porsche built the 989 prototype to be a sports car for the whole family. The 989 was powered by a 4.2-litre, 350-horsepower V8 engine, and Porsche claimed it could hit a top speed of 173 mph.
The car was scheduled to enter production by 1995 but never made it. During the early 90s, Porsche had fallen on hard times and was on the brink financial ruin. As a result, the 989 was axed. Instead, Porsche turned its attention to the Boxster and the 996 -- the first water-cooled version of its iconic 911 sports car. Not all was lost. As you can see, a lot of the 989's DNA made it into the 996.
In the marketplace, the Panamera competes directly with other ultra-premium performance sedans like the Aston Martin Rapide S,...
The Panamera is also available with a choice of two V6 engines, at 303 horsepower and 440 horsepower. There are also two performance hybrid powertrains to choose from, one with 462 horsepower and another with 680 ponies.
All Panamera's come standard with a new 8-speed twin-clutch PDK transmission while all but the base Panameras come with all-wheel-drive.
According to Porsche, our Panamera Turbo can hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 190 mph. While we didn't do any meter performance testing, those number sound on point.
Step inside its cabin and be prepared to be wowed. The Panamera marks the debut of the all-new Porsche Advanced Cockpit which replaces traditional buttons and knobs with touchscreen and touch-sensitive surfaces.
The Panamera's cabin is large and roomy, something to be expected of 16 and a half foot long, 4,400-pound luxury sedan. The interior is covered in fine leather while the metal and carbon fibre accents give a premium luxury feel without compromising its sporting DNA.
In front of the driver is Porsche's signature center analogue tachometer flanked by a pair of seven-inch digital displays.
In addition, the Panamera is loaded with a host of driver's assistance including adaptive cruise control, traction management systems, adjustable driving modes, active aerodynamics, lane change assist, and even night vision.
The center stack is dominated by a massive 12.3-inch high-definition touchscreen. It's running the latest version of the company's Porsche Communications Management infotainment system.
The PCM system is a major leap forward for the German sportscar maker. It marks a major improvement in terms of capability and usability over the company's previous infotainment system.
In fact, PCM is really the nerve center for the entire car with controls for everything from the Panamera's active aerodynamics to...
Overall, the Panamera's new infotainment system is a success. It's quick, responsive, and packed with features. However, the system is complicated to use. It's an unfortunate byproduct of Porsche trying to deliver so much functionality in such a small about of real estate.
Another portion of the Porsche Advanced Cockpit is a touch panel center console. In a major departure from the first-gen Panamera's festival of buttons, the second gen's center console is virtually devoid of switchgear. Unlike previous applications of touch panels by other car makers, Porsche has managed to make this work. The controls are intuitively laid out and precise enough under most driving conditions.
Speaking of the rear seats, they are remarkably comfortable. Due to the center console, there is only room for two, but those two passengers travel in style and comfort. Incredibly, the raked rear roofline offers sufficient legroom for most people not playing in the NBA.
Outback, the Panamera's rear hatch opens to expose 17.6 cubic feet of cargo room. With the rear seat folded down, that number increases to 52.6 cubic feet of capacity.
Shut the rear hatch and you'll see the Panamera's new rear fascia including its nifty IKEA-esque expandable folding spoiler.
The new Porsche Panamera has a lot to live up to in terms of driving experience. While its predecessor wasn't always the best to look at, it offered up driving excellence every time.
For me, the new Panamera delivers. The raging brute of a V8 under the hood and PDK gearbox team up to provide effortless power on demand with no turbo lag to speak of. On the highway on-ramp, 60 mph happens in the blink of an eye and the speedometer will easily glide its way into the triple figures if you don't pay close attention to your right foot.
In the corners, the big Porsche sedan feels solid, as if it were hewn from a single block of iron. The chassis feels tight and the car feels composed at all times. Only under extreme acceleration does the rear end feel a bit nervy as it hunts for traction. In most daily driving conditions, the Panamera feels like it's riding on rails.
With that said, my colleague Matt DeBord, who liked the Panamera, felt that the sedan didn't quite drive like the four-door 911 he was expecting. He opined that you couldn't drive the Panamera in the same way that you could drive the brand's iconic sports cars.
The new second-generation Porsche Panamera is an absolute gem of a car. The combination of old-school driving pleasure, state-of-the-art tech, and refined luxury make it a compelling option for anyone looking for a vehicle in this genre.
Even with a brand new chassis and electronics, the new Panamera is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In keeping with the previous car's exquisite driving dynamics, Porsche was very careful not to throw away the baby with the bathwater when it gave the luxury sedan a much-needed makeover.
However, with the makeover, the Panamera now has the matinee idol looks to go with its world-class ability. And with this, Porsche has created the finest sports sedan in the world. It's certainly not cheap, but boy is it good. If you are one of the blessed few who can afford a new Porsche Panamera, don't think, just do it. Your life will be better for it.
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