With automakers trying to find different niche markets, the lines that traditionally define a “coupé” as a “coupé” and a “sedan” as a “sedan” have been blurred beyond recognition.
Decades ago, a four door Porsche, let alone a Porsche Sport Utility Vehicle would be utter sacrilege, inconceivable by many. However, here we are in 2017, and the Porsche Cayenne and Macan SUVs count for up to 70 per cent of Porsche sales in some regions.
These everyday vehicles are what is on trend right now, and what continues to fund further development of the iconic Porsche 911 sports car, as well as future sports car projects.
So the big question is, is the latest Porsche Panamera still the sports car among luxury sedans?
Looks don’t lie
The Porsche Cayenne and Macan are not the only four door Porsches that the company offers. In 2009, Porsche introduced us to the Panamera, and it quickly arguably became the best handling and most usable luxury sedan on the market.
However, just as the Cayenne SUV was when it first debuted, the styling was controversial. Critics were quick to point out the car’s baggy backside styling. It was loved by some, but ridiculed by many including Top Gear UK. Yes, it’s true that the original car swallowed both highway miles and canyon roads with aplomb, but calling it stunningly pretty would be a stretch.
Nonetheless, the Panamera still sold in sufficient enough quantities for Porsche to build a second generation vehicle.
And so behold the 2017 Porsche Panamera. With a lower roofline, a taller rear end, much more shapely hips, and a very pretty rear end, the latest iteration finally looks like the four-door 911 that the previous generation vehicle aspired to be.
All new everything
While exterior cosmetics were a tremendous part of the redesign, virtually everything else has been redone for version 2.0. There is a new platform with greater use of aluminium, a revised transmission, a high tech new interior, as well as a pair of engines that will spread across Porsche’s non-sports-car line-up.
Porsche will also offer an extended wheelbase version, for rear legroom lovers, called the Executive version. If you’re a chauffeur, your boss will never have an excuse to arrive late to a meeting ever again!
Porsche says that the new Panamera once again bridges the gap between the world of focused sports cars and the world of luxurious sedans. Visually, the car reflects the 911’s design language but with a more dynamic flyline.
The front wheels have been moved forward and the rear of the roof line was lowered, thereby creating a longer and sleeker profile. These long, dynamic proportions and a roof line that is 0.8 inches lower at the rear creates the stylistic link to the most recognizable design icon of the lineup, the 911.
New V6 and V8 turbo engines
How can we talk Porsche without mentioning horsepower?
Joining the Panamera family is a new 3.0-litre 330 horsepower V6 single turbo engine which Porsche will stick into the new rear wheel drive base model Panamera as well as the Panamera 4. This new twin-turbo V6 features 20 more horsepower than its predecessor while still offering significantly improved fuel economy and reduced emissions. So not only does the new mill offer better performance, but the polar bears and ice caps will also live a little longer.
Two new twin-turbo gasoline engines with direct fuel injection are being introduced at the market launch in the Panamera Turbo and the Panamera 4S. Both models are equipped with a permanent all-wheel drive system and a new eight-speed Porsche dual-clutch transmission (PDK).
The Panamera Turbo is powered by a 4.0-litre 550 hp twin-turbo V8 with a whopping 567-lb-ft of torque , while the Panamera 4S is equipped with a 2.9 litre 440 hp twin-turbo V6 with 405 lb-ft of torque. The V8 can deactivate the valves and shut off fuel to four of its cylinders to reduce consumption while at lighter loads (such as cruising at highway speeds).
The V8 engine is the Porsche brand’s first use of a “hot vee” design, whereby the turbos live in the valley between the cylinder banks. This allows for a shorter run of the exhaust gases between the cylinder heads and the turbines, improving response. The car’s centre of gravity is even lowered as the new plumbing allows the engine to be mounted lower in the car.
Hybrid power to re-appear again, but as a 2018 model.
Slated for a mid-2017 launch as a 2018 model, a hybrid Panamera dubbed the "Panamera 4 E-Hybrid" will join the family.
Fitted with an Audi-sourced, Porsche-adapted 330-hp twin-turbo V-6 and a 136-hp electric motor, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid produces a maximum 462 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The torque is channeled to all four wheels through a ZF-sourced eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, derived from the gearbox used in conventionally powered Panamera models.
The hybrid Panamera can sprint to 100 km/hr (62 mph) in a claimed 4.6 seconds, and it tops out at 278.4 km/hr. That's impressive, but in case you're wondering, it's slower than the regular Panamera 4S. Porsche says the new model needs the electric boost to reach that top speed and it needs to be in Sport Plus mode.
If the driver keeps a very light foot on the gas pedal, the hybrid can go up to a max of 49 kms on electricity alone, powered by a 14.1-kWh battery pack (up from the previous version’s 9.4-kWh unit) that lives under the rear cargo floor. Maximum speed without the gasoline engine kicking in is 140 km/hr.
Still a driver’s car whilst able to cosset passengers
Like all Porsche models, the Panamera is both dynamic and practical. Thanks to the new MSB platform, all four occupants sit closer to the ground. Rear seat headroom remains unchanged even though Porsche has dropped the roofline significantly. With the new car 1.3 inches longer overall, most of which due to the longer wheelbase, the rear bucket seats are every bit as comfortable and supportive as the fronts.
But comfortable seats can only do so much to dampen rough roads. This is why coil springs and adaptive dampeners are standard equipment on the 4S. Opt for the Panamera Turbo, and you’ll find four corner air springs that have been redesigned with a third air chamber for a greater range of adjustability and comfort.
Open your purse or wallet a little more and you can also check the box for optional chassis control technology borrowed from the 911 Turbo and the 918 Spyder. This includes rear-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars as part of the Porsche Dynamic Chassis control.
Compared to the “squishy” limos in this segment, the Panamera drives much smaller and with far better body control when compared to a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, an Audi A8, or the BMW 7 Series.
Porsche Advanced Cockpit
Last but not least the interior concept of the Panamera range includes a new Advanced Cockpit system. The current Porsche interior has been reinterpreted for the future in the new car, with black panel surfaces and interactive displays incorporating a clear and intuitive user interface similar to that of smartphones and tablets.
Classic buttons and conventional instruments have been reduced significantly and replaced by touch-sensitive panels and individually configurable displays that take centre stage.
There is a large, centrally mounted 12.3-inch TFT touchscreen display, and two configurable displays flank the analog tachometer. The analog tachometer, with its centrally mounted position in the instrument cluster, is supposed to be a tribute to every Porsche sports car of the past.
The jury is out there as to whether traditional Porsche customers will accept the changes. Nonetheless, I suspect that the millennial customers certainly will. Owners had better keep microfiber cloths at hand though as the shiny touch surfaces are an absolute magnet for fingerprints.
The new Panamera bridges the gap between the world of focused sports cars and the world of luxurious sedans.
The second generation car reconciles two contrasting characteristics more than ever before: the performance of a genuine sports car and the comfort of a luxury sedan.
It is truly a grand touring automobile that has been rethought and realigned, advancing forward to become a performance icon in the luxury class once again.