The Porsche Panamera, despite its huge success, was a dark horse when first introduced. Purist loathed it just as they loathed the Cayenne and later the Macan. Some journalists couldn’t stand the design of the car, while others just dismissed it as a sales propaganda, relegating the Panamera to the sales pages of Porsche history rather than hailing it as one of the greats.
The truth was quite the contrary actually. Here’s a fun fact, four-door Porsches make up for 75% of total Porsche sales in America. Can you imagine the state Porsche would have been in were it not for the introduction of models like the Cayenne and the Panamera? The Boxster may have been the saviour of Porsche, but it is the four-door models that ultimately provided the funds for Porsche to go have fun and create legends like the Carrera GT, GT3 and the entire new RS range of models.
The Panamera was always destined for glory despite the awkward rear end of the first-generation model. And why not? The Panamera made perfect sense actually – it drove great, offered Porsche-ish performance levels with the convenience of a four-door sedan for the family to enjoy. It is good enough for statesmen, business moguls, wealthy families and young tech millionaires looking to arrive in style and yet be able to keep up with their supercar driving friends on weekends. Because nothing speaks of your good taste in cars and hint at your love for driving than a Porsche, no matter if it is a Panamera, or a 700hp GT2 RS.
The first-generation Panamera was great. Top end models like the Turbo and the GTS offered supercar like driver engagement with performance to match some of the fastest performance cars on the road despite its bulk. And the entry level models were none the lesser either, offering luxurious interiors, decent power and plush comfort. But the new Panamera is something else.
“Wow,” was the first thing that came to my mind upon laying eyes on it at the Porsche Centre in Glenmarie. “But it looks smaller than the previous model,” was the second thing that came to mind.
At first glance the new Panamera looks sleeker, smaller but still distinctively a Panamera. And despite that, the car is actually bigger than before; a full 1.3 inches longer with a wheelbase that is longer by 1.2 inches, it is wider by 0.24 inches and taller by 0.2 inches as well. But the elongated shoulder line, squatted design, 3D rear lights and full strip of LED at the rear lights masks the car’s actual size.
Occupants sit closer to the road though as the car is lower than before. Despite the optical illusion that makes the car seem smaller than it actually is, interior space is more generous than before. There is a myth in the industry that the new Panamera was designed around the six-foot, five-inch height of Porsche’s former CEO, I am not sure if that is actually true, but my six foot frame got surprisingly comfortable in all seats.
From the captain’s chair you get a purposeful feel to the new Panamera. The famous banked centre console of the previous Panamera has been retained but this time it ditches the many buttons for a few rounded metal switches control air-conditioning and other features while touch screen, or haptic buttons are conveniently placed around the centre console of the car and vibrate slightly when you touch them.
However, the placement of the controls takes some getting used to. They are not confusing as some journalists have suggested, but rather need time to get used to. It’s a pity that we only get to spend a no more than six or seven hours for every Porsche reviewed in Malaysia, so I did not really get a chance to explore the full depth of the on board features.
Talking about on-board features, Porsche’s new “Advanced Cockpit” has been receiving rave reviews and for good reason too. The massive 12.3-inch touchscreen houses almost all the features of the Porsche Connect and the Porsche Communication Management system. The feel of the touch screen system is similar to that of high end smartphones, complete with drag and drop functionality so you can place your favourite application within just a swipe or two. The Porsche Connect application also lets you check on the fuel level of the car and the remaining range. You can also lock and unlock the car with the app, find your car in case you forget where you parked it and other nifty features as well. Overall functionality is great but then again, it all requires time to get used to as there are quite literally dozens of features and buttons to learn and remember.
But all that is secondary when it comes to driving the new Panamera 4S. Bolted up ahead and right above the front axle is the new 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 engine that produces 440hp and 550Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm. The acceleration to 100km/h is seen off in just 4.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package (4.2 seconds without), and if that is not impressive enough, the 4S needs just 10.3 seconds to reach 160km/h, and it tops out at 289km/h. Power is sent to all four wheels via Porsche’s super smooth and super fast shifting eight-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox. It is worth noting that this eight-speed gearbox made its world debut in the second generation Panamera.
We did not get to spend much time with the new Panamera to tell you how it tackles corners, which is a shame because I really wanted to feel how the new Panamera’s rear-axle steering system will handle being chucked in and out of corners. It is supposed to give the Panamera such pin-point accurate handling that apparently there is no other luxury sedan that handles as well as the new Panamera.
But we can tell you that it is perfect on the highway. The air suspension of the new Panamera is unlike any other and utilises three-chambers to keep the occupants comfortable while telling the driver exactly what is happening with the tyres. Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system works wonders here as well, especially in Sport mode when the car really comes alive, but the suspension does not hop over bumps, it simply rolls over them to tell you that the bump is there, but it is more like a whisper than a yell.
The Panamera’s beautiful ride and sharp handling is a product of different systems coming together, like the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport, Porsche Torque Vectoring plus, and the new Porsche 4D Chassis Control system that analysis and synchronises the chassis in real time and optimises handling by the second.
The new Porsche Panamera feels like it built in a science laboratory with all its hundreds if not thousands of on board systems working in unison to give you the perfect performance sedan. The design of the car is the first thing that seizes you, and then you drive it and feel and hear the twin-turbo’s propelling you past the 200km/h with the exhaust note sounding as if you were driving a 911 Carrera S. And then you look around and realise that despite the performance and agility, you are seated in a luxury sedan that has an interior to shame an Aston Martin Rapide or a Bentley.
With a starting price of RM890,000 before options, the new Panamera is perfect for those who want the luxury but better performance than an S-Class, want a car that drives better than a Bentley, and is still better than a Rapide and without the asking price of either the Bentley or the Aston. It is arguably the perfect performance sedan in Malaysia currently.
Engine: 2.9-litre, V6, twin-turbo
Power: 440hp @ 5,650rpm
Torque: 550Nm @ 1,750rpm
Fuel consumption: 8.2-litres/100km
0-100km/h: 4 seconds