2013 Porsche Panamera Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
January 28, 2013

The 2013 Porsche Panamera continues the success of the brand's unusual-looking fastback sport sedan.

Controversial styling aside, the Porsche Panamera is a fantastic combination of the core elements of any sport sedan: luxury, features, power, and handling. As the brand's first (and so far, only) sedan, the Panamera has helped Porsche to reach a wider audience and increase sales without compromising the virtues of its more dedicated sports cars.

For the 2012 model year, Porsche added Turbo S and S Hybrid models to the Panamera range. For the 2013 model year, the Panamera lineup remains unchanged.

While we've grown accustomed to the controversial exterior styling of the Panamera, 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.

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Even in base form, the Panamera is quick, and in Turbo S guise, it's downright blistering. The base Panamera is rated at 300 horsepower from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, and the line ranges upward from there to a massive 550 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8 in the Turbo S. The S Hybrid is quite stout, despite its greener aspirations, rated at 380 horsepower and 5.7 seconds to 60 mph while still pulling down 30 mpg on the highway.

All Panameras 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.

With the rear seats laid flat, the cargo space is impressive. The nearly hatchback-like rear profile lends real space to the area for larger packages or luggage. Porsche even claims two fully assembled bicycles can fit in the rear of the Panamera.

Accommodations in the cabin are plush, with the driver-centric section of the front divided from the passenger's seat, and the sport-oriented front row from the more comfort-focused rear.

There are plenty of features in the Panamera, though you won't find some of the high-tech safety equipment you'll find in other luxury brands' full-size sedans. What you will find is a sea of buttons for discrete control of nearly everything--to some, this is a major advantage over the menu-driven interfaces of other cars, while to others, it's just busy and confusing. Available equipment includes cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, navigation with customizable maps, Bluetooth, and much more.

The 2013 Porsche Panamera hasn't been crash-tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS due in part to its expense and relatively small sales volume. Standard safety equipment, however, gives us confidence behind the wheel. Porsche's advanced electronics systems, including Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, also help keep the Panamera pointed where intended, even in poor weather. Rearview cameras, hill-hold assist, and optional rear side airbags can also boost the Panamera's safety factor.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Styling

The 2013 Porsche Panamera's look is still controversial, but it has grown on us over the years--and the interior is beautiful.

Some find the Porsche Panamera's look ungainly, particularly at the convex rear roofline, but for those that can find the beauty in it--or at least ignore the parts they don't admire--the Panamera's use of super-sized classic design features works, for the most part.

Inside, the Panamera is much more conservatively styled, with a technical, orderly presentation that's only muddied by the button-busy center console. Materials used to execute the design are fantastic, and all of the surfaces feel as good as they look.

There are few differences in appearance between the trim lines, though a sharp eye will notice more aggressive and lower aerodynamics as you move up the range toward the Turbo S. The Panamera S Hybrid gets its own unique badges as well as aero tweaks, but even the base Panamera has the family look.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Performance

With most of the thrill of Porsche's two-door sports cars, the 2013 Panamera is one of the most dynamic luxury sedans available.

Five variants of the Porsche Panamera continue to define the range in 2013: the rear-drive Panamera, the all-wheel-drive Panamera 4, the Panamera GTS, the Panamera S Hybrid, and the Panamera Turbo. Panamera, Panamera 4, and Panamera Turbo also have higher-performance S variants, raising the total model count to eight for the sticklers.

Five core powertrains complement the five core models. The base Panamera and Panamera 4 use a 300-horsepower V-6; the Panamera S and 4S use a 400-horsepower V-8; the Panamera Turbo gets a 500-horsepower turbo V-8; and the Panamera Turbo S gets a 550-horsepower turbo V-8. All models are fitted with Porsche's dual-clutch PDK seven-speed transmission, except for the Panamera S Hybrid, which uses an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic. Only the Panamera, Panamera S, and Panamera S Hybrid are available in rear-drive; the rest are all-wheel drive.

With such a long list of available powertrains and drive configurations, you might think the Panamera spans a wide range of performance characteristics, and, to a degree, it does. But mostly, the difference between the Panamera variants comes down to differences power and slight differences in handling. Even the base model is quick, at 6.0-seconds to 60 mph, but at the pointy end, the Turbo S scrabbles to 60 mph in a supercar-like 3.6-seconds. The Turbo S also tops the top speed measurement at 190 mph, and, accordingly, tops the price sheet.

Despite its 4,000-pound-plus curb weight, the Panamera is a delightful handler. Steering is light and makes the car seem almost nimble, despite a slightly overboosted, artificial feel. Porsche's advanced chassis and electronics systems help give the Panamera this sporty demeanor.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), and, if equipped, the Sport Chrono package, are among the chief elements of electronic wizardry. Together, these systems can manipulate damper stiffness, body roll, and yaw rates, as well as lower ride height, improve cornering grip, and adapt to suit both road and driver inputs.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Porsche Panamera's back seat is impressively spacious, there's ample luggage space, and the front seats offer a relaxes sports car feel.

The cabin of the 2013 Porsche Panamera is a relatively roomy and comfortable place to be. It's also very nicely finished, with quality materials.

The rear seats in particular shine, as there's ample leg room, slightly more hip room than in the front, and plenty of head room, too, thanks in part to the oddly-shaped roof line. The result is an airiness in the back seat that gives a feeling of real executive luxury. Up front, it's no penalty box, however, with comfortable and roomy seats.

Behind the rear seats, there's a surprising amount of space, especially once the rear seats are folded down. The area makes very good use of the Panamera's fastback-sedan profile.

Ride quality is very good, thanks in part to the PASM and PDCC systems explained in more detail in the Performance section of this review, which adapt to the road surface to deliver a balance of comfort and handling.

For those with an eye on a sportily-outfitted Panamera, an optional three-spoke steering wheel pushes the feel of the cockpit a bit closer to the 911's, but retains the Panamera's useful and straightforward control layout.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Safety

The 2013 Porsche Panamera's strong set of standard and available safety features should give confidence to safety-conscious buyers.

Neither the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have crash-tested the Panamera. It's not out of the ordinary for expensive luxury cars to be left out of testing.

Despite the lack of official data, Porsche's proven chassis engineering, together with the strong base safety equipment of the Panamera, should inspire confidence in safety-conscious buyers. Dual front, side, knee, and side-curtain airbags, and an active pop-up hood for pedestrian protection are all standard. Rear-seat side airbags are available.

Active safety features in the Panamera might come up a bit short of the Mercedes-Benz S Class or BMW 7-Series, but still offer Porsche's advanced traction and stability control systems, a rear-view camera, and hill-start control.

Available or standard all-wheel drive also improves safety in adverse road conditions, while Porsche's Torque Vectoring system can help keep the car on its intended path even when grip is low--or during emergency maneuvers.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Features

The 2013 Porsche Panamera lacks some of the high-tech options of its rivals, but what it does have is well-executed and highly customizable.

There's no denying the high-end materials or luxurious, spacious feel of the Panamera, but it does come up a bit short on advanced technology features in comparison to some of the alternatives in the large luxury sedan class.

You won't find accident-avoidance systems on the Panamera's options list, but you will find adaptive cruise control, adaptive sport seats with 18-way electric adjustment, a modern and capable infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth, and more.

An almost necessary upgrade from the base stereo is the Burmester sound system, which delivers crisp, clear sound. Front and rear park assist can make it easier to position the large sedan in tight spaces, and for the performance-oriented, the Sport Chrono package adds a dash-mounted clock/timer/gauge as well as other speed-adding features.

Appearance and trim options include a wide range of materials, from wood and aluminum to carbon fiber. A range of wheel options, custom paint colors and types, and upholstery colors and materials are also available.

The only caveat with the highly configurable Panamera is its price: if you check too many options boxes, you'll find a Panamera Turbo S cresting the $200,000 mark rather quicker than you might expect.

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2013 Porsche Panamera

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Porsche Panamera S Hybrid is surprisingly efficient for its performance and size, but most of the range won't be winning any green awards.

While it's no gas mileage super-saver, the 2013 Porsche Panamera does fairly well on fuel for its large, high-performance, luxury-sedan nature.

The base V-6 Panamera, for example, scores 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway in EPA testing. The Panamera S Hybrid is the best in terms of gas mileage in the lineup, at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The worst is the Panamera Turbo S at 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.

Taken in the context of the horsepower outputs of each (the base car makes 300 horsepower, the Hybrid 380 hp, and the Turbo S 550 hp) those figures are actually quite impressive--though, aside from the hybrid, none are likely to be applauded for their gas mileage.

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Styling 7
Performance 8
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