All-new, and all-improved.
After the firm went after the lucrative SUV market, Porsche fanatics were left weeping at the proliferation of a once-proud marque. It had caved to demands and pressures, and allowed itself to be watered down into nothing more than fancy badge on the nose of a Volkswagen. However, the Cayenne had sprinkled a little driving magic into the mix, despite it’s almost laughable looks. It also got better looking with the second generation, leading many to believe that Porsche knows how to do things best the second time around. They must’ve been right, because while the original Panamera was a truly ugly duckling, this new model is an absolute swan.
With a better interpretation of the design cues it’s inherited, the Panamera now cuts a much sharper suit, while packing more impressive drivetrains and tech than the outgoing car. But in its pursuit of being more plush, has it lost some of its driving magic? Or is this now a B-road barnstormer, that may see VIP passengers spilling their drinks?
“The all-new, second-generation Porsche Panamera. Yep, really. All of its parts are new, even if it does just look like a facelift. Albeit a very successful one: the Panamera has finally grown into its skin, and wears its 911 styling cues better than ever. You may disagree, but we think it looks pretty darn good.” - TopGear
The outgoing car bore styling that could divide the masses. Some felt it stayed true to its 911 heritage, while others felt it was the most nauseating thing they’d seen since the original Cayenne. The Panamera drew the most flak for its rear end: The rear three-quarter angle was the most unflattering to the big Porsche, and was called ‘the Porker’ in some circles because of it.
When the second-generation Panamera came about, critics were astonished. Without changing the original recipe, Porsche had managed to make the Panamera look sharp, mean, and precise. The new one, in fact, is held in such high regard over such a large number of people, that we’re wondering why Porsche didn’t bother doing this in the first place. The four-point headlights and taillights make it instantly recognisable as a modern Porsche, while the profile looks a lot more athletic-911 than the outgoing car, which was less of an homage as it was a shoddy tribute. All in all, you really can’t fault the looks of the new Panamera. You really can’t.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Panamera is crazy stupid fast for a car that weighs [1,995kg].” - Wired
The Panamera has, even in its outgoing iteration, always delivered bewildering performance despite the bulbous suit it wore. The new car builds on what was working well on the last car, while infusing some of the technology and requirements that have come about since the original went on sale ever so long ago. In Australia, the new Panamera is offered in V6, E-Hybrid, 4S V8, 4S Diesel V8, and the super-duper fast Turbo. Four-wheel and rear-wheel drive is available, as is four-wheel steering for extra agility.
The drivetrains we’d focus on are the entry-level V6, the mid-range 4S Diesel, and the top-spec Turbo. The V6, a purists choice, packs 243kW/450Nm, and is good for 7.6l-7.8l/100km depending on the number of driven wheels. The Panamera 4S Diesel, the thinking man’s rocket, churns out 310kW and a mind-boggling 850Nm. While this doesn’t accelerate with the raw-ness of the petrol V8, it does manage to go from 0-100km/h in just 4.3-seconds (with SportChrono Pack). The real boon comes from fuel consumption figures, with the big oil burner rated to consume just 6.8l/100km.
The headlining Turbo needs its own paragraph. This car is motivated by a brand-new direct-injection 4.0-litre turbocharged V8, which sounds brilliant as it puts out 404kW and 770Nm of torque. This visceral experience will go from 0-100km/h in just 3.6-seconds (with SportChrono Pack), and will hurtle you toward the horizon at speeds of up to 306km/h. Despite being a big V8, it’s the first Porsche to feature cylinder deactivation, allowing the Turbo to potter about town and return a rated 9.4-litres per 100km.
“In truth, this Porsche is a cruiser, never better than when letting its standard air springs do their silken thing, as you sit in that sumptuous cabin, goggling at the ultra-high-definition graphics of the intsrument and infotainment screens, as the world rushes silently by.” - AutoCar
While the outgoing Panamera drew flak for its exterior, the interior gained quite the opposite reaction. Critics loved the button-heavy design of it, as it culminated in a feel reminiscent of an aircraft cockpit. With this new one, Porsche ditched almost all of the buttons, and went for a more minimalist layout that is far more in touch with current trends. ‘Touch’ is a particularly important word here, as the buttons that remain on the central tunnel are now capacitive touch-sensitive items. The rest of the buttons that used to live there are now housed by the central 12-inch touchscreen, with its brilliant graphics and gorgeous integration into the cabin design.
And if you think all the tech is just for the front, you’d be wrong. There are no less than four gorgeous displays dotted around the cabin, with one huge unit living in the rear. This screen controls all of the features and climate control settings for the rear, and it’s executed so beautifully. We really must praise Porsche for this effort, because it made a generational leap forwards compared to the already-good first generation.
Behind the Wheel
“On a road with long, sweeping bends, however, you would be able to scare several kinds of hell out of your three passengers, should you wish, without ever alarming yourself.” - CarsGuide
If you don’t understand what’s being said when someone says a car wraps around you, we urge you to test drive a Panamera. This large, two-ton behemoth may be intimidating to look at and sit in, due to its sheer size, but its dimensions become suddenly inconsequential the moment you up the pace a little. It feels more 911 than you might expect, and we mean that honestly.
The way the Panamera conducts itself on back roads would put some sports cars to shame, with an agility and responsiveness that has you swearing you’re in something half the size. The steering lacks a certain degree of communication, but that is to be expected from an electrically-assisted system. Unlike other frighteningly-quick limousines though, the Panamera also knows how to settle down on motorways, giving it a Jekyll/Hyde breadth of abilities. Backroad barnstormer, and mile-muncher, with little compromise in either regard. It’s German engineering ability at its finest.
Safety & Technology
“You now get a very classy gloss black surface with a few essentials on it (air conditioning controls, the ESC off button, etc.) and everything else has been migrated to the new 12-inch touchscreen.” - Car Magazine
The Porsche Panamera is as much a technological marvel as anything else in its segment, as is par for the course. The Panamera enjoys plenty of active safety tech, like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping aid, blind spot monitoring, among others. Because the Panamera is so new, an official safety rating doesn’t yet exist for the super-saloon, but it’s unlikely that it’ll perform any less than brilliantly.
The new Panamera also gets Porsche Traction Management on four-wheel drive models, which helps to rein in understeer and oversteer, which inspires confidence regardless of speed. There’s also air-suspension available, to ensure that the Panamera is as pliant as it should be when pliancy is called for.
Where the outgoing Panamera’s agility and interior ambiance were its only saving graces, the new Panamera has absolutely nothing to apologise for. This is a car that looks good, drives well, sounds great, and enjoys the sort of resilience and quality that only a German car can boast of. It’s a marvellous machine, this Porsche, and serves as a strong indicator that while the marque’s direction may not please everyone, it certainly aims to please those who understand the future that Porsche sees for itself.
Our pick of the bunch is the 4S Diesel, what we call the thinking man’s Panamera. Solid performance and remarkable fuel economy means that it’ll feel right at home in town and on the motorway, or storming down back roads to the delight of its driver. The four-wheel drive system means that it won’t be running out of grip even when centrifugal force reckons it ought to, and you’ll be surprised by the aural experience afforded by the diesel V8. It’s almost, almost without compromise.
TopGear - 80/100 - “Better looks clothe more tech than we could ever explain. Still the driver's lux choice. At the second time of asking, Porsche gets the Panamera properly right.”
AutoExpress - 80/100 - “The Porsche Panamera has undergone a dramatic transformation and you can feel it in everything it does – cementing its place as one of the most capable sports saloons on the market. Not only have improvements been made to performance and handling, but also big upgrades in design, technology and refinement. The sensible money goes on the Panamera diesel 4S, but there’s no ignoring how impressive the Turbo model is.”
CarAdvice - 90/100 - “Overall, the new Porsche Panamera is a significantly better car than that which it replaces. It’s also the most dynamically capable car in its class and while it goes a long way to matching the ride and cabin comfort of rivals such as the S-Class, it’s not quite there. Even so, it probably doesn’t need to be.”
AutoCar - 85/100 - “This is a stunningly engineered, superbly executed car. Not a limo, mind; buy a Mercedes S-Class if you want one of those. No, this is a highly proficient GT car right up there with the BMW M6 Gran Coupé and Audi RS7, with at least as much room for a 6ft driver and three similar-sized passengers. And far from being the Turbo’s underling, the 4S is the bees knees: fast enough without being silly and, by a whisker, a sweeter-handling thing than the Turbo. Knowledge is power, they say. Faced with our opening dilemma again and knowing what we know now, we’d forsake the Turbo’s power and pick the 4S.”
Wired - 90/100 - “Purists will continue to look down their noses at the Panamera. Let them. The Panamera is as “911” as you can get in a car with four doors and the engine in the wrong place. It’s indisputably porschemanlike in every way.”
Car Magazine - 80/100 - “It wouldn’t be fair to call the Panamera spec-sensitive. However, to get the best out of it, you will need to spend more than the asking price. Consider the diesel-powered 4S, as approaching a Turbo with anything short of a full measure seems like a disservice to a technically incredible amount of kit.”
WhatCar - 60/100 - "The Porsche Panamera is fast and luxurious, but it’s not very involving to drive.”
CarsGuide - 80/100 - “The new Panamera, then, is a hugely capable, highly technological and comparatively beautiful car. It also remains a strange choice, perhaps made by people with a deep desire to make strange choices, so as to stick out from the crowd.”