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Porsche Panamera passenger preview. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Porsche Panamera passenger preview
We sit shotgun in Porsche's new Panamera four-door. M Division, AMG and Maserati should be very worried indeed.

 



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| First Ride | Weissach, Germany | Porsche Panamera |

When Porsche phones up and asks if you want to go to its Weissach research facility to see the Panamera well in advance of its motorshow debut there's only one answer. Even if it's only for a passenger ride and a technical briefing. As passenger rides go the Panamera certainly delivered, any doubts we might have had that the big four-door would dilute Porsche's core sporting appeal having been seriously quashed. We'll be driving it before it arrives in the UK, though from our brief introduction from both the passenger and rear seats of the Panamera Turbo and Panamera 4S we're certain that it'll make its rivals look a little bit silly.

In the Metal

It's not pretty the Panamera, though in the metal it's not quite the munter we'd anticipated. There are actually some really nice touches. Catch the bonnet from some angles and there's a touch of Ferrari's 599 GTB about its contours (some suggesting the big Fez's nose looks like a Corvette's) and the scalloped flanks could be from Ferrari's now defunct 456GT. Forget those Italian references though, as overall the Panamera is unquestionably a product from Porsche. The lights, the curvature over the wings and the rear hatch all clearly exhibit Porsche's design DNA.

It's perhaps not the most cohesive of Porsche's designs, but like the awkward-looking Cayenne that came before it, in the Panamera Porsche has concentrated on making sure that however it looks it drives like a Porsche should. You can't see it from behind the wheel either, and inside, the Panamera's cabin finally moves Porsche properly into the sphere of luxury driving environments. There are four sumptuously appointed individual seats - the massive transmission tunnel ruling out a fifth pew - and the numerous switches nestling on and around the transmission tunnel look more Jacob Jensen and Bang & Olufsen than anything Porsche has produced before.

What you get for your Money

Porsche has only just announced the pricing for the initial three-car launch line up. The rear-wheel drive Panamera S will start at 72,226; adding a pair of driveshafts to that creates the Panamera 4 S, which will cost 77,296. Add turbocharging and you're not going to see much change from 100,000, the Panamera Turbo's list price being 95,298. Both the four-wheel drive cars come with Porsche's PDK double-clutch automatic, which costs an additional 2,289 in the Panamera S. The entire launch line-up features PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) and leather seats, while a Sport button that stiffens the suspension and quickens the PDK's shifts is also standard.

The Turbo gets lots of extra toys thanks to its range-topping status, the rear passengers getting heated seats for instance, while a Bose audio system will entertain all should you ever tire of the glorious noise from the V8. All Panameras also come with a driver training day at Porsche's Driving Experience Centre, Silverstone - as all new Porsches do.

Driving it

We didn't. We did sit in both the front passenger seat and rear seat in the 4S and Turbo thgough, the ride around Weissach's test track underlining our suspicions that Porsche's four-door is going to be a real giant-killer. The Maserati Quattroporte wouldn't see which way even the standard Panamera 4S went, never mind the ballistic Turbo. BMW's M5 might keep up but it's compromised everywhere else to do so. AMG is going to have to do something really special with the forthcoming E 63 AMG to come close. Four up in the Turbo around Weissach's twisty, undulating track is just hilarious, the grunts and laughter from the passengers front and rear as they struggle to hold on and comprehend what's happening perfectly demonstrating the phenomenal forces that both the Turbo and naturally aspirated cars can muster.

With its PASM air suspension and active anti-roll bars, the Panamera has the ability to switch from a track tearaway to a luxurious, cosseting machine. That is demonstrated when Porsche's test driver plays about with the suspension and roll bar settings and drives over tarmac that's bumpier than a teenager's chin. The Panamera simply flows and glides like a boulevardier.

Meanwhile, the body control in the corners is otherworldly, there being next to no roll at all. Repeated requests for a Nurburgring time were met with blank faces, though mention a sub eight-minute time for the Turbo and the stern blank look on German test driver's faces do crack a little...

The noise from either the naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V8, or the same engine with two turbos, is sensational, as are the forces they manage to exert upon you. The naturally aspirated unit deliver 400bhp and 368lb.ft of torque, the Turbo adding 100bhp and 148lb.ft to that. With the PDK transmission the 4S achieves 62mph in 5.0 seconds, the Turbo 4.2 seconds, top speeds of both being in excess of 170mph.

Worth Noting

The PDK cars come equipped with Porsche's stop-start system, this fuel saving device the first to be fitted to an 'automatic' transmission. This, along with Porsche's quest to keep weight sensible (for a big four-door at least) and clever airflow management among other factors allows every Panamera to return 'decent' fuel consumption. The S manages 26.2mpg, the 4S 25.4mpg and the Turbo 23.2mpg, those numbers better than the typically sub-20mpg on offer from rivals. CO2 emissions are therefore quite respectable, ranging from 253g/km to 286g/km.

Summary

Admittedly we've only sat in the passenger seat so to make firm conclusions about the way the Panamera drives would be futile. What's impossible to deny though that in the hands of Porsche's test drivers the Panamera is devastatingly fast and composed around Weissach. As you'd expect really, but then Porsche's four-door was always going to be something special to drive, doing to the four-door market place what the Cayenne did among its SUV competition. We can't wait to drive it, nor we doubt can rival firms' engineers...

Kyle Fortune - 19 Mar 2009









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2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

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