Ready or not, Porsche fans: the brand's first-ever four-door sedan is moving closer to production, with the cars due to start emerging from the company's Leipzig assembly plant in the fall of 2009. The Panamera's four doors will access the cabin's four seats, which are bisected by a high console that runs the full length of the interior. Company insiders promise that the Panamera will have enough room inside to comfortably accommodate adults in the rear. Luggage is stowed under a large hatchback. A front-mounted engine will drive the rear wheels, with four-wheel drive likely to join the options list within two years of launch. The Panamera is tipped to use the same 4.8-liter V-8 engines as the Cayenne - a 385/405-hp, normally aspirated unit and a turbocharged version good for 500 hp. In addition, the company has announced that the Panamera eventually will get Porsche's hybrid powertrain (set to debut in 2009 in the Cayenne), which will combine a 3.6-liter V-6 with a 46-hp (34-kW) electric motor. We also would not be surprised to see the V-6 served up solo in a base model Panamera at some point in the car's life cycle.
The Panamera would be a shocking departure for the storied sports-car maker were it not following in the tire tracks of the successful Cayenne SUV. At least this car doesn't have a Volkswagen-badged sibling - yet. And if it makes Porsche-philes feel any better, there is a possibility that this platform could spawn a V-8, rear-wheel-drive coupe as well, sort of a reincarnation of the 928.
THERE BETTER NOT BE A MINIVAN ON THE PRODUCT SCHEDULE: Porsche likes to boast that it's "the world's most profitable car company." And the oft-repeated argument is that vehicles such as the Cayenne and now the Panamera are what allow the Stuttgart automaker to stay in business, to continue its commitment to motorsports, and to keep producing low-volume, four-wheeled rock stars like the 911 GT3. Nevertheless, we pine for the days when that famous crest didn't live on the hood of a warmed-over VW truck. And while we don't really take issue with the idea of a four-door Porsche, we do wonder why this one has to be so ungainly. The superstretched 911 styling, the work of former Saab designer Michael Mauer, is unhandsome at best - at least in the spy pictures of camouflaged prototypes. The public will have its first chance to render a verdict on the real thing when the production Panamera makes its debut next spring at the Geneva auto show.