At last, the moment has arrived. Around the approaching corner, deep within the fortified confines of Porsche’s famous Weissach R&D facility, lurk three pre-production Panameras. One of the most controversial road cars in recent memory is about to divulge its inner secrets, and the sense of excitement is palpable: this is the moment PH will get to see what Porsche has been up to, as well as scoring our ‘first ride’ in the Panamera around its home track.
Built on a bespoke platform, the Panamera’s key dimensions have been dictated by the brief drawn up during its gestation. A low centre of gravity and a wide track were desired for handling capability, but then so was the ability to carry four occupants in complete comfort. Therefore, the Panamera is very wide (1,931mm), imposingly long (4,970mm) but disarmingly low (1,418mm). This, together with the long wheelbase of the car (2,920mm), gives it such an unusual shape and footprint.
Of the monocoque, 75% is made from a blend of different strength steels with structures and components at the front and rear extremities of the car made from lightweight metals such as Aluminium or Magnesium to reduce weight, especially where it’s least wanted.
There is ‘quick warm up’ of the engine; electronic control over the flow of coolant; an on-demand oil and power steering pump; a smooth, lightweight under-floor, electronic rear spoiler (a blade that rises from the rear deck and splits into three sections with a mechanism that looks like it belongs in Transformers. Very cool – certainly more so than on a 911), reduced roll resistance tyres, engine stop/start and various other bits and bobs chipping away at the consumption figures. Overall, Porsche reckon that combined with a PDK ’box, these technologies make nearly 25% difference to the fuel consumption, and presumably it’s a similar story for emissions.
So to the hard facts: the regular V8 in the ‘S’ and the ‘4S’ (the basic rear-drive model and the four-wheel drive version respectively) produce 395bhp (400PS) at 6,500rpm and 369lb ft (500NM) between 3,500-5,000rpm. The ‘S’ will get from 0-62mph in 5.2sec and the ‘4S’ in 4.8sec (if both have launch control fitted) and both have a top whack of 175mph. The Panamera Turbo has 493bhp (500PS) at 6,000rpm and 516lb ft (700NM) between 2,250-4,500rpm. Useful? Absolutely: 188mph flat out and 0-62mph in just 4.0 seconds. Considering Porsche is rarely optimistic with its claims, and chopping off the extra 2mph, this is a sub-four seconds to sixty four-seater.
More intriguing are the claimed consumption and emission figures for the Panamera. These span from 26.2mpg combined (over the new harsher EU cycle) for the ‘S’, to 23.2mpg for the Turbo, and 253g/km to 286g/km for the same models respectively, with the 4S somewhere in between. Tucked into that long seventh ratio, will a Turbo really drift towards a mid-twenties mpg figure? With a 100-litre tank, that’d be good news.
The lesser Panameras are coil sprung as standard, but there is the option (standard on a Turbo) of air suspension, the volume inside of which is varied by the ‘mode’ the car is running in. This system works with the PASM adaptive damping, and there’s also the option of a slippy diff on the rear axle, along with Porsche’s trick PDCC hydraulic anti roll bars, optional ceramic brakes, and the four-wheel drive system adapted from the Cayenne. I could go on as the Panamera is a real tech-fest, but we’re running out of room here…
As you might have seen in the spy shots, the Panamera has switchgear mania inside, with buttons grouped all over the high centre console and even above your head. It’s basically the exact opposite to BMW’s iDrive approach: yes, there’s Porsche’s new touch-screen infotainment system, but everything else is controlled by pressing a switch, which will either suit your personal taste or not. At least you never have to mess about with all those menus while driving. It certainly feels very well put together in here, albeit in slightly cold, typically ‘technical’ Porsche style.
Sometimes you need a ‘polite face’ on for these ride events laid on by a manufacturer, but not today. Savage, brutal - a bit weird really: those are my initial thoughts after climbing out of the Panamera. Weissach is a challenging track, unsurprisingly, with mainly tight corners and sudden gradients - not exactly where you’d expect a two-ton sports limo to shine.
But then with a switch to Sports plus mode, and our home team test driver settled comfortably in the drivers seat, the car lowers itself on the air springs, the myriad systems reconfigure and we’re off: a great slug of acceleration to the harsh backbeat of the V8, gears slurred, then the kind of braking force that makes you giggle; slung into the corner on turn in, graze the spoiler on the steep incline, quad rapid direction change – this is getting ridiculous – full beans on the exit, feel the torque shuffling between wheels, the systems allowing a whiff of wheel slip; more huge acceleration, another great stab of braking, but still virtually no body roll. Like I said, it’s a bit weird. It’s a bit of a brain scrambler this car. It’s not just the rear wing that feels like it should be in Transformers…
That just leaves the styling, the one thing that has occupied more column inches and forum pages than anything else about this fascinating car. For that, you need to see the car for yourself, in the metal, so what’s the worth in adding one more opinion to the morass? You’ve not long to wait now…
So do you like it yet..?