Driven: 2010 Porsche Panamera

October 5, 2009
2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

2010 Porsche Panamera

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.

The Panamera's over 4,000-pound curb weight is hard to miss, but Porsche compensates with light steering feel and well-adjusted electronic controls. Porsche Active Suspension Management adjusts ride stiffness as needed, and the optional air suspension (standard on Turbo models) improves the range of adjustability. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control uses active anti-roll bars to control body roll without requiring ride-compromising stiff springs, while a rear differential lock helps improve traction in wet or snowy weather. The total effect of the dynamic assistance systems is a lowering of 0.8 inches at speed, improving aerodynamics and lowering the center of gravity. An active spoiler also comes up at speed, adding downforce.

Once you're humming along serenely at 140 mph or more, being able to slow down quickly and calmly is important, a feat made easy with with huge disc brakes and six-piston calipers up front and four-piston rears. Grippy 18-inch tires (S and 4S models) or 19-inch (Turbo models) ensure the car has firm footing no matter what the driver asks of the car.

The electronic driver aids to leave a bit of fun to be had, and a bit of slip angle to play with, helping to keep the Panamera's sporty feel intact. While it doesn't have the feel and responsiveness of a 911 in spirited or track-day driving, the Panamera is at or near the pinnacle of modern sports sedans.

Even with the immense sport driving capability of the 2010 Panamera, however, the car is also very comfortable even in the sportiest of Sport Chrono modes, and even in the softest the steering remains communicative and quick.

Passengers won't hurt for cargo room in the 2010 Panamera, either. The rear cargo space has room for four roll-aboards, a power liftgate and folding rear seats that open up a total of 44.6 cubic feet of space--enough to hold two bicycles with the front wheels still attached, according to Porsche.

And as with all modern luxury cars, safety is a top priority for the Panamera. Standard passive safety features include dual front, side, knee and curtain airbags, an active pop-up hood to minimize pedestrian injury, and rear side airbags are optionally available. Active safety starts with Porsche's excellent stability and traction control features, but also includes rearview cameras to help when backing up, and hill-start control keep the car from rolling backwards on steep inclines.

The Panamera can also be had with nearly every option ever imagined for a production luxury sedan, including Bluetooth connectivity, a 1000-watt Burmeister audio system and adaptive cruise control. Choices of interior trim include several kinds of wood, carbon fiber, aluminum or piano-black trim, though the matte-finish wood is especially attractive. A rear-seat entertainment system offers many possibilities, while XM satellite radio and four-zone climate control help keep everyone happy. Unlike most of its German competition, Porsche's control interface remains one dominated by buttons for individual systems. Though perhaps less elegant from a design perspective, it's certainly welcome in terms of usability.

Overall, the Panamera does a remarkable job of packing in performance, comfort and useful interior and cargo space, but the awkward styling fails to inspire the way it could.

High Gear Media accepted travel from Porsche to bring you this hands-on road test of the 2010 Panamera.

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