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Polymath Panamera. Image by Conor Twomey.

Polymath Panamera
We've finally driven Porsche's four-seat 'saloon', its new Panamera aiming to be all things to all people. Especially in Turbo guise.

   



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| First Drive | Elmau, Germany | Porsche Panamera Turbo |

Believe Porsche's hype and the Panamera has been about 50 years in the making, the company long toying with the idea of a four-seater to complement its sports car (and more recently, SUV) model line-up. The Panamera is that solution, a four-seat machine that will compete head on with the best performance saloons from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and Maserati. The Panamera Turbo heads a range that will eventually offer hybrid and V6 versions to balance the bi-turbo 4.8-litre V8 and its normally-aspirated S and 4S relatives.

In the Metal

Taking 911 cues and stretching them to the Panamera's dimensions has resulted in a car that's rather challenging in the looks department. The Panamera is wide, low and long and Porsche claims coupé looks, though compare it to something like a Mercedes CLS and it looks awkward and heavy. Parking it alongside Maserati's Gran Turismo or Quattroporte demonstrates just how awkward the shape is. Hugely colour sensitive, it suits metallic finishes in darker colours best, Panamera customers perhaps wise to see their colour choice in the metal before committing.

Being inside is great for two reasons; you don't have to look at the outside and secondly the finish of the cabin is nothing short of beautiful. A strict four-seater, the Panamera's individual seats are separated by a high centre console running the length of the cabin, while the styling and materials have a concept car feel about them.

What you get for your Money

In the Turbo model you get a car that's able to run along an autobahn at 188mph, reach 62mph in 4.2 seconds - or four seconds dead if you opt for the Sport Chrono pack - and keep up with sports cars in the bends. It really is a phenomenally composed, explosively fast super saloon. But then at £95,000 before options it has to be, the 500bhp flagship machine only matching the output of competition like BMW's M5; even if, against the clock, the Porsche is quicker. For a properly specified Turbo you can expect to drop over £100,000, which is scary money when you consider its rivals typically weigh in at around £20,000-30,000 less.

Driving it

Porsche's development of the Panamera has been long. The result is an exceptional car, with power, pace and poise to match and better the majority of its rivals. Porsche is aiming to provide all things to all people with the Panamera, that being near supercar levels of performance, luxury car refinement, GT car poise and coupé looks. The result is a car that surprises with its breadth of talent, though rarely excites. Even the Turbo's insane pace does little to raise a smile, the efficiency by which the PDK twin-clutch gearbox and four-wheel drive transmission deals with the bi-turbo's prodigious grunt impressing hugely, but also feeling rather detached. More than any Porsche before, you feel like a passenger rather than intimately involved in the driving experience.

Two key areas fail the Panamera. The steering is devoid of Porsche's usual huge levels of feel and feedback; it is characteristically direct and quick, but lacking in clarity of information. The PDK gearbox also dominates the driving experience and the self-shifter works well - despite its large ratio leap between second and third gears - though the interface is as problematic as it is on Porsche's sports cars. You will get used to the operation of the wheel-spoke mounted push-me-pull-me switches if you plan on shifting cogs yourself, but many will default to automatic after one fluffed shift too many. Porsche might have a long history of engineering solutions that shouldn't work, but in this instance it needs to follow the pack and fit steering wheel mounted paddles.

Given the remarkable body roll control the Turbo delivers the Panamera's ride is sensational. Slightly more busy than its lesser wheeled S and 4S siblings, the Turbo manages the tough trick of delivering a limo-like ride when you want it combined with sports car precision. That's thanks to the air suspension combined with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management), which offers a variety of comfort versus control settings, with even the firmest riding well. The optional composite brakes are useful if you plan on repeatedly hauling the Panamera Turbo down from its 188mph v-max on the autobahn, but there's a trade off in pedal feel should you opt for them. In the UK you'll not need them.

On wide German roads the Panamera feels big, which doesn't bode well for the sinuous back roads that abound in the UK. It's wider than the Cayenne, but without the SUV's height advantage to place it the Panamera's speed is limited by its sheer scale rather than any lack in its ability. As a 'bahn-storming tool it's incredibly impressive, but without the option to utilise that party trick on speed restricted UK motorways there's a big question mark over its ultimate appeal.

Worth Noting

If you want the fastest possible Panamera Turbo you need to opt for the Sport Chrono Pack. It boosts the torque output momentarily from 516lb.ft to 567lb.ft between 2,250- and 4,500rpm. That's enough to drop the 0-62mph time from 4.2 seconds to 4.0 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds quicker than Porsche's official time for its 911 GT3. That's bonkers.

Summary

The Panamera Turbo manages to pull of Porsche's goal of fulfilling a variety of criteria. Sadly though, some of the Porsche essence has been diluted in the process. Its competence is as enormous as its scale and its price is on the hefty side, too. Technically brilliant, because it's brilliant technically, the Panamera is rather emotionless and clinical - and that's an issue in a marketplace where rivals major on tugging at the heartstrings.

Kyle Fortune - 1 Jul 2009



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2009 Porsche Panamera specifications:
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Top speed: 188mph
Combined economy: 23.2mpg
Emissions: 286g/km
Kerb weight: 1970kg

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.



2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Porsche.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.
 

2009 Porsche Panamera Turbo. Image by Conor Twomey.
 






 

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