Sports car handling, German engineering, Porsche styling and...four doors? The 2010 Porsche Panamera once again breaks the Porsche mold, straying outside its well-trodden sports car heritage to become one of the world's best sports sedans. High Gear Media recently got the chance to take the wheel of the Panamera, and the experience was eye-opening.
The 2010 Panamera delivers huge power, great handling and ample room for four real-world adults. Priced from $90,750-$133,550, it's up against some of the finest sedans in the world, including the Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes CLS- and S-Class, and BMW 7-series.
Though the Panamera comes through on nearly all performance and accommodation accounts, the always subjective matter of styling proves problematic for the sedan. While the rear seat easily seats people over six feet tall, the resulting roofline has drawn fire from all quarters. Even the characteristically sleek Porsche front and rear fender styling can't distract from the lack of proportion. The imbalance is accentuated by the low nose, which draws attention to the awkward rear profile.
The cabin's combination of wood, leather and plastic comes out a bit heavy on plastic, especially considering the Panamera's price bracket. Borrowing a trait from the 911, the Panamera's ignition sits to the left of the steering wheel. The rest of the cabin, like the exterior, heads off in a new and, for the most part, unsuccessful direction.
Though well-executed leather and wood is the order of the day at both front and rear center consoles, the front is mired in wide flanks of buttons, giving the incongruous look of gills. A minor shortfall in quality is found on the spindly control stalks.
Unusually for all but the higher-end executive limos, the Panamera's rear seats are even more comfortable than the front. Roomy and well-outfitted, the rear of the Panamera is the next best place to be after the driver's seat. The Panamera actually offers more headroom than the rear of a 2010 Ford Taurus, despite the slightly higher positioning of the rear seats relative to the fronts. The rear seats also feature power adjustment and ventilation, though on some models, only the seating surfaces themselves are upholstered in leather.
Under the hood--rather than mounted at the rear--lurks a 400-horsepower, direct-injection 4.8-liter V-8 engine. Panamera Turbo models add a turbocharger to the already heady engine for full 500 horsepower on tap. Even the base S model offers compelling performance, taking just 5.2 seconds to dash to 60 mph, a feat the all-wheel-drive 4S model manages in just 4.8 seconds. The 500-horsepower Turbo takes just 4.0 seconds, while all models can shave two tenths of a second with the optional Sport Chrono pack's launch control feature. The S and 4S models top out at 175 mph, while the Turbo can run all the way up to 188 mph. Despite the brutal power and acceleration, the Panamera evades the gas guzzler tax, as the non-turbo cars rate 16/24 mpg and the Turbo gets a 15/23 mpg rating, with the stop-start feature potentially saving even more fuel.
Power is sent to either two or four wheels through a seven-speed, dual clutch PDK automatic transmission that uses Porsche's push-pull shift levers. Equipe the Sport Chrono package and you'll be able to change gears in manual mode, running the car right up against its 6,700-rpm redline. Open the Panamera up on a road course at 140 mph you'll find the 911's flat-six ripple replaced with a more industrial-sounding whir that's still distinctly Porsche.