You sure wouldn't expect to find the rear seats are more comfortable than the front chairs in a Porsche, but it's true here. There's plenty of room and support in either set of buckets—and the driver's seat is the one you'll arm-wrestle for—but the rears have more width, thanks to the slimmer center console, and plenty of headroom and foot room, too. You’ll find way more backseat space in the Panamera than in the Quattroporte, the CLS, or nearly any other sporty four-door cars. The Panamera has lots of legroom for two tall passengers to feel really comfortable and sprawl their legs out with an average driver ahead. The back seat isn’t at all claustrophobic, and there’s an airiness that’s a bit unexpected—thanks to the Panamera’s bulged-out roofline (and headliner). And the seats fold forward; it's a hatchback, after all. In front, the lower positioning and tightly cocooned feel is very 911-like (they're great in their own right), but the rear seats sit higher and have a great view of the road, thanks to narrow front seatbacks.
Behind the backseats of the 2011 Porsche Panamera is a cargo area that's roomy enough for four roll-aboards, and it can be easily accessed from a power tailgate with a rear window shaped like those on Porsche sports cars. All four doors have unique holders that maintain a set position on any incline, for easy exits and entries. 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.
The Panamera has a beautiful, sumptuous interior that simultaneously has both an aggressive coupe-like feel and maintains an airy cabin. 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.
There’s no raked-back leisurely lux-sedan feel to the seats or driving position up front; as in Porsche’s sports cars it’s very easy to find comfortable, rather upright seating position with a commanding view ahead over a low hoodline. Some might find it cluttered, while others will think of it as sensible and less distracting. Though disorienting at first, even after a few hours it felt familiar and we found having dedicated buttons for nearly everything to be refreshing and, we believe, less cognitively involving than memorizing menu structures.
The available three-spoke sports steering wheel also adds a bit more coupe feel if you're the kind to pretend you're in a 911. Otherwise, as we’ve said in previous reviews of the Panamera, the switchgear—particularly the levers around the steering wheel—feels a little cut-rate, as does some of the door trim.
Ride quality is comfortable in most modes, with a distinct sense of tire motion and reactions making its way through the steering. It's akin to the ride quality of the tightest BMWs, and it's well suited to the Panamera's stunning capabilities.
Both of the Panamera models we drove were equipped with the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system, which smartly and quickly firms up the dampers only when needed; it can be set to Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus modes. Base Panamera V6 models come with a steel-spring suspension, but Porsche didn't provide any cars for comparison.