- Supercar thrust (Panamera Turbo)
- Excellent PDK gearbox
- High-speed stability, confident handling
- Nimble feel
- Incredibly spacious backseat
- Styling isn't sexy from all angles
- Sea of buttons inside
- Lots of electronics lend an almost artificial driving feel
There's not much ordinary or traditional about this phenomenal fastback, and that's mostly a good thing.
Sports car handling, German engineering, Porsche styling and...four doors? The Panamera again has strayed well outside Porsche's well-trodden sports car heritage to become one of the world's best sports sedans.
The 2011 Porsche Panamera is no four-door coupe, like the Aston Martin Rapide or the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but a true "gran turismo," with tremendous power, great handling, and ample room for four real-world adults.
But in an attempt at a traditional sedan silhouette, in combination with an actual fastback body style and the need for practicality, the design purity gets tainted just a little bit. 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 interior, on the other hand, is a stylish upgrade compared to dull, drab Porsche interiors of the past, with just enough warmth to win over those considering some of the more hot-blooded alternatives. And while the Panamera feels intimate and sports-car-like in front, the back seat is positively limo-like, with excellent space to sprawl out, as well as good ride comfort.
The 2011 Panamera models for enthusiasts and true Porschephiles and track hounds remain the Panamera S, with its 400-horsepower, direct-injection 4.8-liter V-8 engine, making a peak 369 pound-feet, and the Panamera Turbo, which makes a stout 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. There's scalding performance at hand; the base engine in the Panamera S and 4S vaults the sedan to 60 mph in either 5.2 or 4.8 seconds (better traction in the 4S shows up on the stopwatch). The Turbo charges to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds or less. A new base Panamera joins the lineup this year, with a 300-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 that's built on the same line as the V-8; it's capable of getting to 60 mph in as little as 5.6 seconds, so performance isn't bad. All U.S. Panameras come with the sweet seven-speed, ZF-supplied Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (that's PDK to the rest of us) double-clutch gearbox, along with steering-wheel paddles.
Power in this front-engine car is sent to either the rear wheels or all four wheels through a seven-speed, dual clutch PDK automatic transmission that uses Porsche's push-pull shift levers. Equip 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 and you'll find the 911's flat-six ripple replaced with a more industrial-sounding whir that's still distinctly Porsche.
In addition to the seating room in back, the Panamera has the benefits of a hatchback, as the backseats also flip down to expose 44.6 cubic feet of cargo space, enough for two bicycles with front wheels still attached, Porsche says. If you’re the passenger in front, looking back, the Panamera can also feel like two cars in one. From the front seats forward it doesn't take much imagination to think that you're in an exceptionally plush Porsche 911. Though the engine sound obviously isn't quite the same, the view out ahead is remarkably similar.
Porsche is missing some of the leading-edge features, such as night vision and accident-avoidance systems, that distinguish the 7-Series and S-Class flagships of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, respectively. But, that aside, the Panamera can also be had with nearly every option ever imagined for a production luxury sedan, cruise control; dual-zone climate control; leather seating; a panoramic sunroof; a navigation system also used in the Cayenne that has crisp displays and customizable maps; and Bluetooth control for hands-free phone operation.