Motoring: Panamera 4S combines sports car with family car
The Porsche Panamera 4S is one impressive car
The problem with those earlier concepts was perhaps because they were nothing more than 911s and 928s that were stretched to accommodate extra doors. The Panamera is a car that is new from the ground up. Nothing about its platform has come from anything they currently make (although some technical bits are shared). This clean sheet design allowed Porsche to mould the platform to their exact requirements — everything from the position of the engine in the chassis to the positioning of the rear seats was done specifically for this car.
The end result is simply amazing, not that you can tell just by looking at it. Let's face it; this is not a pretty car. No matter which angle you look at it from, it's not going to win your heart. The rear end especially is quite bulbous.
However, that is okay, because its interior is easily one of the best in the business. It does seem that Porsche allotted all their top designers to the interior department. Not only is this a very spacious four-seater (yes, it has bucket seats even in the rear, hence no middle seat for a fifth passenger), the ergonomics are spot-on, too. I love the centre console, which seemed to have been inspired by the Vertu phone. All the buttons are well positioned and easy to read, and understanding which button does what is actually very simple. There is no BMW iDrive complication here, which will please many people. Customers will also be pleased by the toys it has to offer. Navigation system, touchscreen interface, a brilliant sound system and more — it's all here. One feature I really appreciated was the heated steering wheel, which came in handy when I jumped in the car first thing in the morning.
However, none of the abovementioned features even come close to this car's very best feature: its engine. This front-engine Porsche has a brand new motor, a 4.8-litre V8, which produces 400 hp and 370 lb/ft of torque. Mated to a seven-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) twin-clutch gearbox (with steering wheel mounted shift buttons), power is sent either to the rear wheels (Panamera S) or to all wheels (Panamera 4S), as in my test car.
As for the typical question of speed, the Panamera 4S will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in about 4.8 seconds, and its top speed is 282 km/h. If you want to go faster still, a Turbo model is also offered, which produces 500 hp. That can accelerate past 300 km/h.
Figures alone, however, are meaningless; it's all about how a car feels that separates one car from the next, and the Panamera 4S feels spectacular. Over the years, many car companies have tried to make a four-door sports car, but they all lacked the feel of a true sports car. Drive a Panamera for five minutes and you forget that it actually has big back seats and a very commodious trunk. Many auto journalists have said it feels like a 911, but personally, I think it's even better. Where a 911 is only great when being pushed on the track, the Panamera feels great everywhere. Whether you're on a highway cruise or on a deserted strip of twisty tarmac, the Panamera will plant a huge smile on your face.
Luxury car buyers might say it's not as well insulated as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but personally I think the Panamera offers the right amount of insulation. It's never harsh, nor is it a sensory deprivation tank.
Throw in its excellent handling capabilities and what you end up with is probably the most complete car I have ever come across. It's a practical family car with all-wheel drive, so it can be used every day, even in the Canadian climate. It manages 11 litres/100 km (city/highway combined), so it's about as frugal as a mid-size sedan. But for occasions when you need a driver's car, this family car rewards like a sports car.
So this one car can do it all, which is a good thing, because with Panamera prices starting at $110,200, it's not cheap. Personally, I'd save a bit of money and buy a BMW 550GT instead, because it does everything the Panamera manage, but it gives you more space and is cheaper to buy.