Great Drive: 2010 Porsche Panamera S 4S and Turbo

Don Sherman
Martyn Goddard

Although others in this class have ventured far down the mouse-and-menu road for cockpit control, the Panamera takes the alternative fork with a sloped flight deck festooned with a button for every task. The polished aluminum shifter is surrounded by nearly three dozen switches in a fully optioned Panamera. Thankfully, they're sensibly arranged and clearly labeled, so adjusting cabin temperature or firming the three-stage dampers while cruising at 170 mph in the Turbo posed no challenge. With approximately fifty buttons and knobs located in the overhead console, center stack, and shifter surround--plus at least that many controls mounted to the steering wheel, door panels, rear console, and rear seats--the Panamera is the uncontested king of electrical switchgear.

The range of cabin materials and trim options is equally astounding. Double-stitched leather upholstery is offered in two grades, six colors, and four two-tone arrangements. Accent panels are available in four wood grains plus carbon fiber and brushed aluminum. The nongrip portions of the steering-wheel rim can be finished in three wood or carbon-fiber treatments. Both regular and adaptive sport front bucket seats with firmer cushioning and stiffer bolstering are available. As always, Porsche expects you to pay dearly for optional equipment. The full-leather, fourteen-way power front seats cost $5360 in the S and 4S editions; eighteen-way full-leather front thrones for the Turbo run $1505. A Burmester sixteen-channel, 1300-watt surround-sound system adds $5690 to the S and 4S tabs and $3990 to the Turbo's price.

The Panamera lives to impress back-seat passengers. The squeeze beneath the descending roofline, ahead of the wheel well, and behind the top-front corner of the door frame is tight, but once you're past that bottleneck, the rear cabin is all sweetness and light. There's ample room for every body part, substantial bolstering, a comfortably elevated bottom cushion, and an accommodating center console. Optional extras include a sunscreen, seat heating and ventilation, plus power backrest, under-thigh, and lumbar adjustments. The rear seatbacks split and fold flat to nearly triple the luggage space. Hard and soft covers are available to hide precious cargo from prying eyes.

Thankfully, the lavish furnishings don't inhibit the Panamera's driving charisma. The low-mounted front seats, three-spoke steering wheel, left-side ignition switch, and five-dial instrument cluster follow 911 traditions to the letter, posting notice that a chauffeur is unwelcome. Shift controls inset into the top wheel spokes deliver an upshift when pressed, a downshift when pulled. The console shift lever provides automatic gear changing in its right position and manual operation when clicked to the left.

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