Ten years ago, Stuttgart gave us something we didn’t think we needed. By this juncture, we’d already seen a couple of lean mean sales machines - like the Boxster and Cayenne - come out of Porsche, and in the process, save the company from financial ruin. So, what could they possibly have in mind?
Upper management at the time weighed several options such as a smaller SUV below the Cayenne in the size of the later Macan and a compact C segment saloon comparable to today’s Taycan. "In the end, it was to be a sporty saloon” recalled Dr. Michael Steiner, Member of the Board of Management for Research and Development at Porsche AG.
The idea of a four-door four-seater sports car isn’t new for the marque. The past is littered with prototypes and trials but none ever made it past the hump of production readiness. The best example of this endeavour was the Porsche 989 (pictured above), but according to the company the project was just too expensive and was projected to be a sales dud. Bear in mind, this was the nineties.
However, after the millennium and the success of the Boxster 986 and 996 series 911, the Management Board finally gave in to the project but now had to figure out how to build their fourth model series. In true Volkswagen Group fashion, they scoured their parts bins for a suitable base but “all possible limousine platforms would have been far too high and the centre of gravity of such a vehicle would not have been compatible with the driving dynamics requirements of a real Porsche” said the company.
In true Porsche fashion, they made an entirely new platform for the Panamera G1 which isn’t surprising considering they’ve poured over a billion Euros into the project. "From an entrepreneurial point of view, the decision to build his own platform was certainly a big and courageous step," recalls Dr. Gernot Döllner who at the time was responsible for the concept and development phase of the first Panamera G1 generation and later, as head of the Panamera G2 series.
After years of toiling, the Panamera made its global debut at Auto Shanghai 2009 with a choice of six or eight cylinder powertrains, transmission options and all-wheel drive traction. More variants were added along the way including the Diesel, Hybrid, GTS and Turbo S flagship which made use of the Cayenne’s 404kW direct-injection twin-turbo 4.8-litre V8.
Because the Panamera needed its own chassis, certain components and engines had to be heavily modified to fit. For example, the previously mentioned 4.8-litre V8 mill required a reworked oil pan and top-end components just to fit.
Furthermore, according to Mr. Wolfgang Durheimer, apart from a few shared components such as the satellite navigation system, telephone and ignition lock, it was all-new. Mr. Durheimer went on to mention that the brand’s development program for the Panamera was staffed up to 600 strong.
But in the end, it all paid off. Stuttgart has successfully shifted over 160,000 units of the G1 Panamera which is great news for upper management, their shareholders and fans. The future looked bright for the company that has never in its existence produced a four-door luxury saloon. Porsche would then go on to expand the Leipzig factory to over 100,000m2 which was enough to house 1,200 employees and the production line for the upcoming car.
In 2016, the G2 Panamera made its market landfall with a significantly improved design both inside and out. The exterior, in the opinion of this writer, looks way better than its predecessor and its first-gen Cayenne-centric design language. The G2 has its own personality rather than borrowing one from its sibling like what the previous car did.
The G2’s interior is clearly driver-centric. The instruments are partly digital and fully integrated into the infotainment system. The rev counter is in the middle, the multi-function steering wheel is ergonomic and (almost) everything is grouped around the PDK gear selector on the centre console.
The G2, just like the original, started out in life as a sportback. Porsche then decided to offer it up in a second body style. The new Panamera is now available with a Sport Turismo body. Which, for those of you who don’t speak automotive marketing, means it’s a shooting brake or estate, if you prefer. We couldn’t be happier.
In terms of driving dynamics, the original was met with mixed feelings. While it was praised as being able to “occupy the no-mans-land between really good sports sedans and proper sports cars” by one reviewer, CAR magazine described it as “left us feeling less than infused”.
The G2 on the other hand is quite the driver’s car, claims the brand. They’ve stuffed it to the brim with tech such as the PASM system and adaptive air suspension. "Thanks to the completely new chassis tuning and the repeated renunciation of the use of an existing platform, we were able to raise the bar even higher in the second generation with the three-chamber air suspension and our own suspension controller," says Dr. Gernot Döllner
For car makers like Porsche, innovation is in their genes and consistently improving is the name of their game. As we speak, the next generation Panamera and its ever-evolving powertrains are in development. Case in point, the most powerful variant in the G2’s range is a plug-in hybrid with 500kW and 850Nm.