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Porsche Panamera Sedan Launched, Shows

2009 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

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The five-door hatchback liftback has never been very well-received by American buyers. Yet Porsche intends to buck that trend with some 20,000 projected annual sales of its new Panamera, a grand touring sports saloon that's been talked about for months as Porsche has coyly leaked cryptic photos.

From the Chevy Citation to the Chevy Malibu Maxx (not to single out Chevrolet), Americans seem to perceive the hatchback as a frumpy style more suited to economy cars than sleek sports sedans. And as such, they haven't really stuck around in the U.S. marketplace. Is it any wonder that other sporting sedans in the luxury territory offer a proper trunk? The sumptuous Maserati Quattroporte, brazen new Lamborghini Estoque, Bentley Continental Flying Spur, and sleek four-door "coupes" like the Mercedes CLS and new Volkswagen CC all feature a traditional trunk. Even the Infiniti J30 had a trunk, though its dramatically sloping rear end won it few accolades in the styling department and mediocre sales on the dealership floor.

Our first impression is that Porsche is taking a pretty hefty risk here. Yes, the sloping rear profile keeps Porsche's heritage departure view intact (i.e. 911, Cayman), but the overall effect of the truncated rear on a four-door vehicle is a bit odd, especially from the side profile. From the rear it looks quite pleasant, but oddly like Infiniti's new EX35 Crossover, hardly the stuff of adrenaline and sweaty palms. Hmm.

Will Americans buy such an unconventional design with a massive, vision-obscuring C-pillar? Porsche has been successful with the Cayenne, the hefty SUV that aficionados feared would water down the Porsche brand and garner dismal sales. But the Cayenne is different enough from the rest of the automaker's sportscar stable. The Panamera seeks to replicate the Porsche sportscar magic in four-door form, but takes another risk with a front-mounted engine, another realm where Porsche has had limited success in the past. Throw in the hatchback, and we're just not sure.

None of this is to say that we wouldn't love to drive one. With direct-injected V-6 and V-8 engines ranging from 300 to 500 hp, Porsche promises us swiftness and efficiency, and we don't doubt it. Transmitting power from engine to wheel will be a six-speed manual or their new seven-speed PDK (dual-clutch automated manual).

The new model goes on sale in the United States in the spring 2009, at which point sales and interest will tell the rest of the story. We don't envy any automaker releasing a high-priced sportscar in this dismal market, but perhaps the rare air of the Porsche buyer is unaffected by market whims and world crises.--Colin Mathews

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2009 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

Enlarge Photo

2009 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

Enlarge Photo
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Comments (11)
  1. Christ, what a dismal future this predicts.

  2. This is a huge, heavy car, surprisingly tall for its curvy profile.
    The front overhang looks terrible, and, Colin, I assume RWD did not save it from having one. I am sure there is a reason for it (probably Aerodynamics), but it looks pathetic on any car, let alone a $200k or so car.
    I am not as concerned about the liftback, though.
    PS I saw these pics on Autoblog days ago.

  3. Actually, Ed, Panamera will be offered in both RWD and all-wheel drive. I'm not an enemy of the liftback, though I do think it looks awkward on this Porsche. Agreed - front overhang ain't pretty.

  4. Colin: of course, I am aware. i was only teasing you because in our prior discussion of Front overhang you blamed the FWD for them, which of course is not true, as both this one and the MINI (FWD, but practically zero overhangs!) prove.
    Consumers will be the judges. The Porshe 928 sold for more than the 911 back then, but is almost worthless today, while the classic 911 retained a lot of its value (esp. the aircooled Turbo)
    Same with the Ferraris, the 430 or 460 lists for much less than the bigger v12s, but it actually appreciates in value (!!), while the other depreciates.

  5. I have no problems with a Porsche 4 door. Or even a 5 door.
    It's just I'm not certain what the rear end is saying. The look reminds me of a Chrysler Crossfire. Or a late 30s, early 40s sedan.
    The front looks like a Mazda3 or 6.

  6. touche ed ;-) you got me on the FWD/RWD/overhang issue. Though I maintain that keeping a minimal front overhang in a front- or all-wheel drive vehicle is more challenging than in a rear-wheel drive vehicle. But, as you point out, it clearly can be done with a modicum of effort and intelligent engineering. BMW seems to be the leader (designer of the Mini as you know), with front wheels pushed right to the front corners of the vehicle. Great look, great driving dynamics. Re: value to brand and brand reputation - Porsche has managed the Cayenne well, despite the naysayers. Will they do it with this Panamera? One can only hope.

  7. BMW bought the Mini. The original Mini in the late 50s also had zero overhangs, and BMW had nothing to do with it, it was its original ingenious designer Alec (Sir Alec) Issigonis who came up with the idea of pushing the wheels to the edges to maximize the small interior.

  8. This is an absolute beauty! The question is, will I be able to fit two or three chicks in the back seat?

  9. Tjhe car is huge, I have seen the dimensions, both the weight , length and height are way bigger than the 911, it is near S-class coupe territory.
    So you can obviously fit 3 'chicks' in the back seat, unless they all look (and weigh as much as) like Rosie O' Donnel (JJKD's "girlfriend")
    (Or were you talking about REAL Chickens, JKD?? (or maybe a goat? LOL)

  10. I like chicks; you should try it one day; you may like it unless you were born with it. With all that screaming and complaining like an old hag, it may be in your genes after all. I'd be bitter too. An operation may be the only way out for you.

  11. JERKD:
    Your problem is that chicks don't like YOU, apparently.. LOL.

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