Forty years ago, Porsche pulled the wraps off the 928 at the 1977 Geneva Auto Show, shocking the world with a very radical design. Slightly over 30 years later, Zuffenhausen repeated the process at the 2009 Shanghai Auto Show with the first-generation Panamera. The first front-engine car to bear the Porsche badge since the departure of the 928 (and 968)—being an SUV, the Cayenne doesn’t count—the styling of the Panamera, like that of 928 before it, caused plenty of raised eyebrows.
The new-for-2017 second-generation Panamera seen here doesn’t suffer from the same aesthetic indignities—and completely blows the doors off any 928 in Turbo guise. Still, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to sample the two back to back and get a feel for just how strong the spiritual connection happens to be.
Connected By Design
As mentioned, both the 928 and Panamera are front-engine cars meant to be larger and more practical than the rear-engine 911. Common traits between the separated-by-four-decades designs include the sloping rear rooflines, long hoods, short overhangs, and liftback-style hatches.
While the 928 was hugely radical in its heyday with 5-mph color-matching integrated bumpers, unheard of during a time when protruding chrome still dominated. Designer Wolfgang Mobius styled the car in part for increased crash resistance for the passenger cell, which yielded a sleek shape, but one that’s either a love-it or hate-it ordeal. Partly due to these polarizing aesthetics—to this day, the 928 isn’t particularly regarded as a good-looking vehicle—it was not particularly popular, though it would remain in Porsche’s lineup for a whopping 18 years.
Like the 928, the first-generation Panamera was certainly hard on the eyes, with our friends at MotorTrend dubbing it the “Hunchback of Nordschleife.” A major culprit is its raised roofline, specifically demanded by then-CEO Wendelin Wiedeking to fit his 6’2” frame.
The second-generation Panamera however completely solves the aesthetic shortcomings of the previous model by ten-fold, appearing more like the four-door 911 it originally set off to be. It is, by far, a much better-looking car—and its rear seats still comfortably accommodate someone of Wiedeking’s stature.
Connected By Comfort
Both the 928 and Panamera are meant to be comfortable and practical, making each larger and more spacious than the contemporary 911. Despite the different door counts, both serve well as true grand tourers, happily eating up miles on long trips.
Though the suspension hardware employed by the two Porsches are vastly different, the sensations on offer while driving around town are vastly similar. Both cars transmit plenty of road information with firmness, but with an exquisite balance of compliance and long suspension travel, though unlike the high-tech Panamera, the 928 is devoid of any trick adaptive suspension.
Instead, its bit of suspension tech is the famed Weissach Axle. An innovative rear suspension configuration designed specifically for the 928, the Weissach Axle helps eliminate lift-off oversteer, which plagued contemporary 911s, in part by using an additional set of trailering arm pivots in a modified semi-trailing arm setup. In addition, it houses the transaxle—either a three-speed automatic (later a four) or a five-speed dogleg manual.
Connected By (Relative) Performance
While design can be timeless and a comfortable ride will always be a comfortable ride, performance envelopes have shifted dramatically in the decades following the end of the Malaise Era during which the 928 was born.
It should be no surprise, then, that the 2017 Panamera Turbo and its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 hits 60 mph in roughly half the time as the 928 and its naturally aspirated 4.5-liter eight-cylinder (later enlarged to 4.7)—3.4 seconds versus 6.8. Given that the 928’s engine was choked down by early emissions technology to a mere 219 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque, while the Panamera’s sends a thundering 550 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque to all four of its wheels via a lightning-quick eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, the difference feels like it should be even greater.
For 1978, however, a 0-60 mph time under seven seconds was quite respectable, as was its top speed of 143 mph. Especially when you consider that the 928’s engine was one of the early adopters of fuel injection, using a Bosch electro-mechanical setup.
How the two deliver their power truly exemplifies the advances of automotive tech over the past four decades. While the 928 exhibits a much lazier approach to speed than the blistering, rev-tastic monster that is the Panamera Turbo, you get a feel for how over-engineered and mechanically stout the old V-8 is it feels while going through its paces. It feels mechanical and brawny yet smooth as butter.
While the Porsche 928 is pretty slow by today’s fast, luxury grand tourer standards, especially when compared to its spiritual successor, watching the speedometer climb on either car is still impressive, as is the level of handling performance and cornering prowess both exhibit, especially the 928, given its age.
Being able to pilot these two legends back to back is an experience for the books. Each has to be driven to truly appreciate the smooth and stable manner in which both handle their weight and power without sacrificing (relative) pace or acceleration feel. Despite having two extra doors and four decades of technological progress than the 928, the Panamera is in many ways a modern-equivalent—an excellent luxury car that eagerly turns into an absolute yet wholly controllable monster.
1982 Porsche 928 Specifications
|EXPECT TO PAY||$14,000 (Hagerty insurance average value)|
||4.5L SOHC 16-valve V-8/219 hp @ 5,250, 245 lb-ft @ 3,600|
||Two-door, four-seat, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||178.0 x 74.0 x 50.2 in|
|L x W x H||193.9 x 78.1 x 65.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||140 mph (est)|
2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo Specifications
|PRICE||$183,585 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbocharged 32-valve V-8/550 hp @ 5,750-6,000 rpm, 567 lb-ft @ 1,960-4,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/25/21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)|
|L x W x H||198.8 x 85.2 (w/ mirrors out) x 56.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec (w/ Sport Chrono Pkg.)|
|TOP SPEED||190 MPH|