It’s not every day that the reigning car of the year ends up on your driveway for a test. Actually, scratch that, this was a unique testing opportunity. I was invited to collect the car from the Porsche head offices. The host took some time explaining the car. From that moment, I knew this was going to be a unique experience.
A bit of history. The Panamera is considered to be fruits of the 989 concept car from the 1980s. That car never came to being due to declining profits. In a strange twist of fate, and once the company was in a much healthier space, the Panamera was developed and came into production as part of a strategy to grow Porsche’s reach and sales. The Panamera, a four door saloon, was not received with a lot of enthusiasm by Porsche purist who felt that it went against what made Porsche what it is, particular, mainstay light two-door rear-engine sports cars like the 911. The Panamera is a large four-doors car with its engine mounted in the front. The first generation, launched in 2009, was with its long hood and rear hatch bore resemblance to a stretched 911. Those days are gone and, now in its second generation, the Panamera has come into its element and earned its place amongst the Porsche greats.
Our test Porsche was the Panamera 4s with its mighty twin-turbo petrol V6 with 324 kW and 550 Nm of capable of taking the large luxury car from 0 – 100 in 4.4 seconds. That is pretty quick considering the size of the large sedan. We pause the talk about power and performance for now and look at how the Panamera fares as an everyday car. It is pitched as an alternative to the large luxury sedans offered by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, although it probably compares better to the likes of other four-door performance cars on the market such as the Maserati Quattroporte and Aston Martin Rapide.
The Panamera 4S is no small car. It is 5 metres long, 1,4 metres high and 1,9 metres wide. Naturally, you may think this is hard to maneuverer but this is not entirely correct. The Panamera is actually simple to move around once you get used to the dimensions and that does not take too long. Apart from adjusting to the car, anxiety might visit you when parking but this was not an issue for us as our car had parking sensors and surround-view cameras to help us keep an eye on all sides of the car. The size of the car is not only a status symbol but is felt in the cabin. There is ample legroom for the front and rear passengers. The boot is also large with 520 litres of storage space which extends up to 1,390 litres when the rear seats are down and it is loaded to the roof.
Apart from being spacious, the Panamera’s interior is well appointed. Undoubtedly the elimination of a lot of dials on the dash makes it look super classy. The 12.3-inch touchscreen featuring online sat-nav, Apple CarPlay integration and an updated voice control system dominates the dash. Notwithstanding this, the car is still very much driver-focused. The instrument cluster has 5 screens. In the middle is the classic Porsche tachometer (rev counter) and to its left and right are two seven inch displays showing information like range, fuel consumption, and other vehicle systems. That may seem like a lot considering you have a 324 kW beast under your control but all of this is simple to use and quite intuitive, especially the 12.3-inch screen which is a touchscreen and actually shows submenus when it senses your hand hovering above it. The back passengers are not left wanting. They can control their own climate, heat and adjust their own seats.
The exterior design of the Porsche Panamera makes quite the statement. You will not be short of onlookers and some will even verbally express their admiration. This is not by accident. The car is beautifully designed. The front and back have been redesigned. A stand out feature in all Panameras is the air outlet vents in the front wings. In our 4S, the air outlet vents were painted finished in high-gloss black. Striking lines dominate the side profile and are balanced out by equally dramatic wheel archers. The design of the back is dominated by the roof spoiler, the powerful sports car shoulders, and a horizontal strip containing the “Porsche” logo and the LED rear lights with four-point brake lights. Above this horizontal element, a narrow light strip runs across the entire width of the vehicle, which make the Panamera stand out at night. As if that is not enough, our 4S had two round twin tailpipes finished in brushed stainless steel. The front is a typical beautiful face with our model standing out with its four-point LED daytime running lights.
The Panamera 4S is quick for a vehicle of its size. It moves from 0 – 100 in 4.4 seconds and can reach a top speed of 289 km/h. The power of the Panamera 4S is matched by excellent steering and handling. Being a sports car based vehicle, you would expect the ride quality to be on the harsh side but the Panamera is superbly comfortable. One of the few “criticisms” against the Panamera 4S is fuel consumption. Porsche claims a combined fuel consumption of 8.3 to 8.2 l/100 km (New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)). We never got close to those numbers. The best we ever did was 12.5 l/100 and consistently averaged 14l/100. This is probably not a deal-breaker for a practical luxury saloon that you can enjoy every day with your family. The other non-deal breaker criticism is the 4+1 proposition. The two individual sits at the back are great (you can adjust them) but the middle passenger’s sitting area is slightly on the impractical side. You are not likely to sit someone there and perhaps the option to do so is an advantage.
The Panamera is an overall brilliant car. The built quality is excellent, it looks good and it is a practical everyday car.