2012 Porsche Panamera

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
January 18, 2012

Buying tip

The base sound system is our only real quibble with the Panamera's equipment list, but fortunately there's an optional Burmester sound system--get it.

features & specs

4-Door HB
4-Door HB 4
4-Door HB 4S
18 city / 27 hwy
18 city / 26 hwy
16 city / 24 hwy

Bucking tradition and the ordinary, the 2012 Porsche Panamera mostly succeeds in being an excellent large fastback sedan.

Porsche's Panamera combines sports-car handling with German engineering, controversial styling and, yes, four doors. It's not entirely new territory to Porsche, but it's the first sedan from the brand, and it has succeeded in expanding the appeal of the marque beyond focused sports cars and its Cayenne SUV.

For the 2012 model year, Porsche adds Turbo S and S Hybrid models to the Panamera range, but styling remains the same. The extended roofline, which is intended to evoke the fastback profile of the 911, jars some as being over-large, but everywhere else, the Panamera offers supersized versions of classic Porsche themes, from the headlights to the fenders to the tail. Inside, the cabin is elegant and sports car-like up front yet limo-like in the rear, with ample room.

Performance ranges from quick to blistering, with the base Panamera rated at 300 horsepower from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, up to a massive 550 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8 in the Turbo S. The new S Hybrid packs quite a punch as well, rated at 380 horsepower and 5.7-seconds to 60 mph while still pulling down 30 mpg on the highway. All models come standard with the excellent seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, which clicks through shifts in automatic mode or with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual mode when equipped with the Sport Chrono package.

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Cargo space is impressive with the rear seats laid flat and the hatchback-like rear profile opened up. Porsche claims two fully-assembled bicycles can fit in the space. The cabin itself is plush, with a dual character dividing the sport-centric front from the comfier rear.

Features are packed in as well, though it skips some of the high-tech safety gear found in some rivals, but what is there is commanded by a sea of buttons on the busy center console. Among the available features you'll find cruise control, dual-zone climate control, leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, navigation with customizable maps, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

The NHTSA and IIHS haven't rated the Porsche Panamera's crash safety, but available safety features include Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, which uses individual brakes to control stability and traction; rearview cameras; all-wheel drive; hill-hold assist; and optional rear side airbags. All Panameras come standard with dual front, side, knee, and curtain airbags, and an active pop-up hood to protect pedestrians.


2012 Porsche Panamera


The 2012 Porsche Panamera's controversial exterior is offset by its conservative, yet stylish interior.

The Porsche Panamera is unique in Porsche's history, and in its current lineup. Unfortunately, that uniqueness extends to a design that many consider awkward, and for good reason. The rear fender proportions are imbalanced, particularly when taken against the low nose, while the humped rear window and roofline complete the funky look.

Despite the generally awkward exterior, there are a few angles which bring out the better aspects of the Panamera's aerodynamic lines, and the interior is top-flight.

Warm yet still technical, with a decidedly sporty look thanks to the wrap-around instrument panel, canted center console, and vertical vents. Materials are likewise fantastic, with wood, leather, and even the rather abundant plastic all feeling like very good examples of their kind.

Tying the Panamera to other Porsches, particularly the 911, the ignition sits to the left of the steering wheel. As for appearance differences between trim lines, there's very little, though the Turbo S model is slightly more aggressive in small details, and the S Hybrid gets its unique badges.

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2012 Porsche Panamera


The 2012 Porsche Panamera is an impressive performer, and ragingly quick in Turbo S guise.

For 2012 there are five core variants of the Panamera: the rear-drive Panamera; the all-wheel-drive Panamera 4; the Panamera GTS; the Panamera S Hybrid; and the Panamera Turbo. The Panamera, Panamera 4, and Panamera Turbo additionally get higher-performance and higher-spec S variants.

Along with the five core variants are five core powertrains: a 300-horsepower V-6 in the Panamera and Panamera 4; a 400-horsepower V-8 in the Panamera S and 4S; a 430-horsepower V-8 in the GTS; a 500-horsepower turbocharged V-8 in the Turbo; and a 550-horsepower turbocharged V-8 in the Turbo S. All Panameras share a PDK seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox except for the S Hybrid, which uses an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic.

Standard Panamera and Panamera S models as well as the S Hybrid are rear-wheel drive, while the Panamera 4 and 4S, Turbo and Turbo S, and the GTS are all-wheel drive.

Now that we have that sorted, what about how they run? Generally speaking, fantastically. The 300-horsepower versions are breathtakingly quick, but they do well with what they have. The V-8 models are where the fun lives, though, particularly with the Turbo and Turbo S, which are borderline supercar-level in acceleration. The Turbo S scrabbles to 60 mph in a scant 3.6 seconds, has a top speed of 190 mph, and generates 553 pound-feet of torque--or 590 lb-ft in overboost. It also retails for a starting price of $173,200. Even the base Panamera is engaging, however, with 6.0-second 0-60 mph runs and a 160 mph top speed.

Handling, however, is even more impressive in the Panamera, especially given its 4,000-pound-plus curb weight. The advanced electronics systems manage the chassis and power application so seamlessly it's easy to drive; steering is light and almost nimble-seeming (though in reality it's slightly artificial and over-boosted); and at high speeds, the big sedan is impeccably stable and confidence-inspiring.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Dynamic Chassic Control (PDCC), and, when equipped, the Sport Chrono package, are responsible for this electro-mechanical wizardry. Together they manipulate damper stiffness, body roll, yaw rates, and more to lower ride height, improve grip, and generally do whatever suits the driver's requests, while still allowing enough room for the driver to play a bit before being reined in. All-wheel drive variants are particularly tenacious and capable.

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2012 Porsche Panamera

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Porsche Panamera's front seat is like a detuned sports car cockpit, while the rear seat is executive-level spacious, and there's ample cargo room, too.

Thanks to the intelligent computers that come with the optional PASM and PDCC systems (more on those in the Performance section) the 2012 Porsche Panamera is able to adjust its ride quality to match not just the driver's mood, but the road as well.

Not that you need to rely on a dynamic suspension system to be comfortable in the Panamera; the front seats are roomy and comfortable as any Porsche, but the real luxury comes in the rear seat. Ample leg room, slightly more hip room than up front, plenty of head room, and an airiness to the second row of the cabin all combine to make the Panamera almost executive-limo-worthy. In fact, it's not almost; it is.

There's space behind the back seats, too, with a cargo area big enough for four roll-aboards. Fold the rear seats down, and you gain even more stowage space.

No matter which door is your access point, you're safe even on an incline, as the doors have holders that retain their position to keep them from closing on your leg, arm, or head as you enter or exit.

A three-spoke steering wheel is available for those that would like a little more pretense at 911 ownership while retaining the Panamera's useful layout. Otherwise, the Panamera is generally put together with its own gear, with high-quality materials for the most part, though the steering column stalks and some of the door trim seems a bit cheaper than it ought to.

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2012 Porsche Panamera


A strong set of standard and available safety features make the 2012 Porsche Panamera a safe buy, despite the lack of official crash test results.

Neither the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have yet crash-tested the 2012 Porsche Panamera, but that's standard practice for high-end performance and luxury cars.

The Panamera does come with a long list of standard passive safety features, including dual front/side/knee/side curtain airbags, an active pop-up hood to minimize pedestrian injury, and rear side airbags are available. Active safety features include the standard stability and traction control systems, plus a rear-view camera, hill-start control, and a multi-function display in the instrument cluster that relays navigation and other information to keep eyes on the road ahead.

Add to these features available all-wheel drive models, which grip more securely in poor weather and road conditions, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system, which modulates individual brakes to improve steering and handling at the limits of traction, and the Panamera is well-equipped to not just survive accidents, but to avoid them altogether.


2012 Porsche Panamera


While not as high-tech as some of its alternatives, the 2012 Porsche Panamera does offer a long list of features and equipment.

Despite the luxurious feel of the rear seat in the Panamera, it gives up some high-end technological features to the true executive limos from BMW and Mercedes-Benz; things like night vision and accident-avoidance systems. That said, the Panamera has nearly every other option you could imagine or request, on top of its standard equipment package.

Available equipment includes cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth, and navigation with customizable maps.

Options for trim and appearance include gloss and matte wood, carbon fiber, aluminum, piano-black trim; various wheels; custom paint configurations; and a wide range of upholstery colors and materials.

But that's not all--the Panamera offers a lot of additional electronic and other equipment, too, including: adaptive cruise control, heated and ventilated seats, a Burmester or Bose upgraded audio system (we prefer the Burmester), adaptive sport seats, four-zone climate control, and front and rear park assist. And that's not even the full list.

On top of the individual features, there are equipment packages, including the performance-focused Sport Chrono package, which adds a special dash-mounted timer/gauge to track cornering, lap times, and more, plus more control over the variable dynamic systems.

The one thing you'll need to beware of as you tick the boxes building your dream Panamera is the effect these options have on the bottom line. Tick too many and you can rapidly ratchet the Panamera's price well above $200,000 in the case of the Turbo S.

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2012 Porsche Panamera

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid is surprisingly efficient for its performance, but some models, like the Turbo S, are gas guzzlers.

The 2012 Porsche Panamera is a high-performance, large luxury sedan. It's not a fuel-conscious miser. That said, it's not especially bad for the earth given its capabilities.

The base Panamera with the V-6, for example, manages 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for 21 mpg combined. Upgrade to the all-wheel-drive system of the Panamera 4 and that drops only slightly to 18/26 mpg city/highway.

Stepping up to the V-8 engine in the Panamera S reduces gas mileage to 16/24 mpg, while the 4S scores the same despite adding all-wheel drive.

For the 380-horsepower Panamera S Hybrid, gas mileage is actually competitive with much more mundane, eco-conscious sedans with far less equipment and nearly zero pretensions toward serious sporting ability; it rates 22/30 mpg city/highway for a combined rating of 25 mpg.

The Turbo and Turbo S undo the Hybrid's good, but only at a small premium over the non-turbo V-8 models. Both turbo Panameras rate 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for 18 mpg combined.

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