We had a brief rendezvous with the new Porsche Panamera ahead of its official arrival here in New Zealand and are pleased to say it now looks almost as good as it drives
When we first experienced the Panamera at its launch in Germany in 2009, we called the story Inner Beauty; we liked its dynamic character, but the look, yikes. Still it didn’t stop Porsche selling them, especially in the emerging markets. In NZ it’s been a bit player in the mix of Porsche sales, a dozen or so a year, but then the large luxury car market is minuscule here. Porsche NZ had a pair of new Panameras for sampling prior to their official arrival locally, and we had a brief introduction to the new model at Hampton Downs.
While the new version still looks like a Panamera, subtle changes have addressed the original’s awkward appearance. The new car sits on the VW Group’s Modular Standard Drive Train Platform (MSB), and though bigger than before, it looks more dynamic. It is slightly longer overall and a smidge wider and taller, though the roofline now dips down by 20mm at the rear to help give it more of a fastback look. The wheelbase is longer by 30mm with the front axle moved forwards. This all helps the execution of those critical proportions. It’s still channeling the look of a 911, but it works better this time, and is perhaps helped by the fact the newest 911 has grown wide and fat too. The previous Panamera’s big rear end has been visually toned down, the hips slimmed, and the glass house is racier too. It’s still a four-person carriage and while the entry to the rear requires caution, the space is sound and the versatility remains, with Panamera’s five-door layout lending it an expandable luggage hold. Capacity ranges from 495L to 1304L with the rear seat folded.
The Panamera will be available in 4S, 4S Diesel and Turbo guises, all with variable AWD, a twin-turbo engine and an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission. The hybrid is coming with an improved EV range too. The 4S now packs a 2.9-litre V6 with 324kW and 550Nm of torque. Porsche claims it will hit 100km/h in 4.4sec (or 4.2 with the optional $4280 Sport Chrono Package) and should average 8.2L/100km.
The Turbo now comes with a 4.0-litre V8 and 404kW with 770Nm. It’s said to register 100km/h in 3.8sec, or 3.6 with Sport Chrono and drinks at a claimed rate of 9.4L/100km. And the diesel, also a 4.0L V8, has 310kW and 850Nm with stats of 4.5sec (4.3 with Sport Chrono) and 6.8L/100km.
The petrol units are all new with a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers now living inside the vee, and the V8 gains cylinder deactivation. The diesel has sequential turbocharging and variable valve timing. A new eight-speed PDK brings a wider ratio spread and two overdriven gears, while it’s rated to handle 1000Nm.
New Panamera gains optional dynamic enhancing hardware like rear-axle steering ($4700) and electromechanical roll stabilisation with active torque vectoring ($10,800). Standard fare for NZ models is new adaptive air suspension with a greater air volume to deliver an increased variance in spring and damper rates. A dedicated chassis controller is new too, enabling all the systems to work more efficiently. You can go all out on the brakes with the $19,340 optional ceramic upgrade complete with ten-piston front calipers.
While the exterior styling is new but recognisable, the interior is more novel, Porsche debuting the Advanced Cockpit. The layout is similar with a highset console though the raft of buttons has been replaced by touch surfaces that not only look good but have a satisfying haptic feel to them as well. There’s a mix of the old with the new in the instrument cluster, with a classic analogue tacho being flanked by two digital displays. Atop the centre stack lives a large 12-inch display controlling a bunch of new connectivity options.
While it’s hard to get a grasp on its character with just a few quick laps around the track, we can tell you it feels well balanced, the substantial weight distributed between the wheels. There’s abundant grip when given the welly. We managed to bag a few laps in the new Cayman during the same session and any of the bumps we felt in the mid-engined sportscar were simply glossed over in the big limo. That said, the AWD system still had a hard time dealing with the substantial bump coming out of the tight hairpin at Turn 4, a hesitation on exit the result of traction control intervening. The steering is remarkably light but gets just enough resistance in bends to help impart some feel. The PDK always does a phenomenal job in flat-chat mode; you just let it do its thing. The V6 in the 4S has reasonable get up and go, but it offers nothing like the punch of the Turbo, the extra Newts giving you a much bigger lunge out of bends.
To appreciate the rear seat space, and show the value of a variable all wheel drive system, we were treated to a couple of laps in the Panamera with one of the Porsche factory drivers at the wheel. Heading into the bends he would give the wheel two small but quick left right turns to unsettle the chassis, followed by a larger wrench on the steering on turn in. When accompanied by lots of throttle he had the rears lighting up through the bends as he balanced the big car on a wide slip angle before letting the AWD system pull it all straight on the exit. Our driver made a mockery of the ‘double bastard’, the technical left hander that links the new circuit back onto the main Hampton Downs loop, by drifting the Panamera right around the bend as we tested out the load capacity of the grab handles in the rear. Scintillating stuff and it shows that the Panamera, despite its sticky AWD system, can be a larrikin too.
The Panamera 4S starts at $275,300, around about the same price as the original 2009 4S, while the diesel is $284,900. These both get air suspension as standard, along with 19s, dynamic LED headlights, a panoramic roof, smart key, surround view camera, partial leather, heated and vented seats up front, soft close doors and adaptive cruise. The Turbo is $346,300 and adds dynamic chassis control, 20-inch wheels, LED matrix lights, full leather and lane keeping assist.