Revealed at last: the Panamera, the next assault on the idea that a Porsche is a sports car. Of course, the four-door "space coupe" still looks a bit like a 911. Every Porsche must. That's the brief given to chief designer Michael Mauer, who, to his credit, was not yet on board when the Cayenne was conceived. But Mauer can't expect any slack for the Panamera, which looks OK from some angles and downright weird from others. From a practical standpoint, its strongest point is packaging. The accommodations up front are impressive, and there's decent headroom in the rear along with first-class legroom. That's as it should be. After all, the new Porsche is 196 inches long (that's within four inches of an Audi A8) and sits on a generous, 109-inch wheelbase.
Despite visual overtones of the 911, the Panamera engine is front-mounted. The other end of the vehicle, which also mimics the iconic sports car's silhouette, houses the cargo area. Accessible via a relatively narrow tailgate and over a tall loading lip, it holds 16 cubic feet with the rear seats in place or 41 cubic feet when they're folded. Although the Panamera's 76-inch width yields a large frontal area, engineers fine-tuned the exterior in the wind tunnel to achieve a commendable 0.29 drag coefficient. A motorized rear spoiler reduces lift at high speeds.
The top-spec Panamera Turbo borrows the 4.8-liter V-8 from the Cayenne; it's rated at 500 hp and manages 17 mpg on the E.U. cycle. The Panamera S uses a normally aspirated version of the same V-8 (400 hp, 21 mpg). There also will be a 300-hp, 3.6-liter narrow-angle V-6 (a Volkswagen/Audi engine that might not be available here at launch) and, arriving later, a 350-hp, V-6 hybrid, said to achieve 28 mpg.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard; Porsche's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission costs extra. As in the 911, the Turbo comes standard with all-wheel drive; the other models will offer it as an option. The suspension layout features control arms, air springs, adjustable dampers, and three different suspension settings. New tricks include a choice of ride-height settings, a handling-oriented sport setup, and a comfort calibration. Variable torque split and a new limited-slip rear differential are on hand to aid traction, cornering grip, and stability. Extra money buys active antiroll bars (like those in the new BMW 7-series), bigger carbon-ceramic brakes, and twenty-inch wheels (replacing eighteens on all but the Turbo, which comes standard with nineteens).