I sometimes pick up my buddy Jim at his house on Monday evenings and drive him to a core-training class we’ve been taking. One time recently, I picked him up in a Jeep Compass. As the owner of a first-generation Volkswagen R32 and an Audi A4 Avant, he was not impressed. So you can imagine his delight when I pulled to his curb in this topaz brown metallic Porsche Panamera. He leaped into the front passenger’s seat and said, “Now THIS is more like it!”
After core training, we took the long way home on the freeway ring around Ann Arbor. I burst onto US-23 just as a Nissan 370Z coupe was coming by; its owner was clearly very intrigued to see a Panamera, which is still a very rare sight here in Michigan.
Say what you will about whether Porsche should be building a four-door hatchback sedan or a four-door vehicle of any sort, and say what you will about the Panamera’s styling, which has come in for a great amount of criticism, but it’s hard to find fault with this car dynamically. Throttle response, chassis reflexes, and steering sharpness are all simply amazing for a two-ton luxury barge that seats four in splendor. The engine and exhaust sound fabulous but are not overbearing. We had “only” the 400-hp, normally aspirated V-8 engine; the Panamera Turbo model is, of course, that much more impressive from behind the wheel.
I’m not one to say that the Panamera is beautiful, but I don’t find it “ugly,” either. I think it has real presence on the road, and I especially like the color combination of our press car, with the metallic brown paint over a full-leather beige interior. Scrumptious.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Shortly after I pulled the Panamera into my garage, there was a knock on the front door. A polite, well-dressed gentleman introduced himself, telling me that he was gathering signatures so that he could be placed on the Republican primary ballot for the Congressional seat currently held by the U.S. House’s most senior member, John Dingell. Did he come up to my door, in my relatively prosperous neighborhood, see a $100,000 car parked in the garage, and think that chances were good that I was a member of his political party? Who knows? I disappointed him on that score, but he was clearly more interested in the car than in getting my signature on the ballot, as he asked me several questions about it and then told me about his college roommate’s Porsche.
Clearly, Porsches are still able to capture the imagination of a great many people. The Panamera may be overweight, it may feel ponderous a slow speeds, and it may be somewhat challenged in the styling department, but it’s still a Porsche, with dynamic capabilities that are among the best on the market. And that’s something people of any political stripe can appreciate.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
If only Porsche had just made the Panamera a conventional sport sedan. There’s no shame in being a sport sedan, and the Panamera would have had the advantage of being a very good one. As Joe DeMatio noted, even this midlevel model is a dynamic masterpiece. Its acceleration, braking, and most of all, the immediate, communicative steering are everything you’d expect from a Porsche, albeit an overweight one. Likewise, the interior execution is spot on, the overall impression being that of a 911 that’s been stretched in all the right places. The myriad buttons on the center console are a bit intimidating, but I actually prefer them to a multifunction controller and have no doubt that an owner could quickly acclimate to them.
It’s unfortunate then, that Porsche decided it couldn’t make a sport sedan (even though it already sells a full-size SUV) and instead had to follow the “hatchback coupe” route. No, it isn’t ugly, but would “pretty” have been too much to ask for $100,000?
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Panamera S is not as fun to drive as Porsche’s other cars (I said “cars,” not “vehicles,” Cayenne-haters), but keep in mind that the Boxster/Cayman and 911 families are right near the very top of automobiledom’s current Fun Spectrum.
The Panamera S offers TONS of power and very impressive handling for such a heavy vehicle. Nonetheless, Porsche’s swoopy sedan can feel large and ponderous at times, especially in traffic and at slower speeds. Open it up on a curvy back road or a racetrack, though, and it’s plainly clear that Porsche genes are fully intact in this car. When Porsche finally drops the silly, counterintuitive steering-wheel shifters that have “+” and “-” on both sides of the wheel in favor of more traditional paddle shifters with downshift on the left and upshift on the right, I might even enjoy manually shifting a PDK-equipped Porsche like the Panamera.
Despite my complaints, I’d give just about anything for the chance to take a Panamera on a long road trip with three friends and a radar detector. The Panamera’s exterior is an acquired taste that few will likely acquire, but the interior is incredibly opulent, with particularly beautiful wood trim that has textured grain. It’s too bad that the cabin also contains more buttons than a computer keyboard.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
For me, the Porsche Panamera creates a lot of parallels with the Nissan GT-R. They’re two very different cars-one is regarded is a bargain supercar the other has a pricey sport sedan-yet they feel quite similar from behind the wheel. These cars taunt the driver into devil-may-care antics with unbelievable capability and confidence-inspiring grip. However, they also bury the purity and connectedness of driving joy in their portly weights and active controls. To make two tons behave like one ton, engineers have employed constantly varying dampers, micro-managed throttles, and computer-monitored traction with the side effect of filtering out that intangible called “fun.”
My disappointment with the Panamera also has to do with the backseat. The deep buckets are comfortable and sporty, but the rear passengers are hardly given the true luxury experience. Lowering yourself into the chairs can be a bit awkward and there’s not much of an outward view from the dark confines. I’m sure those Porsche owners who haven’t disowned this car will be quite pleased with it, but to me it doesn’t quite make sense. In fact, it makes the Cayenne look like a smart choice.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Base price (with destination): $90,775
Price as tested: $106,310
4.8-liter V-8 engine
7-speed PDK automatic transmission
Tire pressure monitoring system
Multifunction steering wheel
Adjustable steering column height and reach
PCM with AM/FM/MP3 capable CD player
11 speakers, 235 watts
Bi-Xenon headlights with dynamic leveling
Options on this vehicle:
Topaz brown metallic — $760
Luxor beige full leather — $3655
Ski bag — $405
Heated steering wheel — $210
19-inch Panamera design wheels — $1950
Seat ventilation — $800
Bluetooth connectivity — $695
Park Assist (front and rear) — $600
Sport Chrono package plus — $1320
Variable assist power steering — $270
BOSE surround system — $1440
XM satellite radio — $750
Floor mats — $150
Natural olive interior package — $1990
Universal audio interface — $440
Key options not on vehicle:
Rearview camera — $655
Adaptive air suspension — $1990
Porsche dynamic chassis control w/ rear diff lock — $4460
Porsche ceramic composite brakes — $8150
Sport exhaust system — $2950
16 / 24 / 19 mpg
Size: 4.8L V-8
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
7-speed automatic (PDK twin-clutch)
Curb weight: 3983 lb
19-inch Porsche Panamera design aluminum wheels
255/45ZR19 front; 285/40ZR19 rear Michelin Pilot Sport performance tires