Porsche has an interesting twist on executive-class transportation in the Panamera. A variety of powertrain options from hybrid to twin-turbo V-8 allow owners to be slightly socially responsible or select all-out performance in the same basic package. Every Panamera comes with Porsche’s very nice, if somewhat austere, interior and enough room for tall adults in the rear seat. Aft of the B-pillar the styling gets polarizing, but there’s a lot of utility that comes with the hatchback design and you won’t confuse your Panamera with any other cars if there’s a sea of the typical German luxury sedans at the valet stand.
Perhaps the biggest surprise with the V-6 Panamera is how hard the car can launch from a stop. Porsche has never needed the most horsepower to produce fast cars, but the V-6 Panamera weighs nearly 5400 pounds and has a mere 300 hp. Set the PDK to Sport Plus, hold the brake pedal, floor the gas, and the launch control system is armed. All you’ve got to do is release the brake, hang on, and you’ll hit 60 mph in less than six seconds. For reference, a Boxster takes about the same amount of time to hit 60 mph, seats half as many people, and weighs quite a bit less. You might argue with the design, but there’s no arguing with the Panamera’s performance. And we’re talking about the V-6 model with all-wheel drive — the slowest Panamera.
I’d argue that the most impressive part of the Panamera is its PDK dual-clutch transmission. The shifts are spectacular, and there are three different shift strategies available. The regular mode helps return the respectable 18/26 mpg fuel economy ratings, Sport allows for a bit more enthusiastic driving, and Sport Plus will do a better job selecting the appropriate ratio for aggressive driving than most drivers could with a manual. It’s almost impossible to catch the PDK off-guard. My only complaint is Porsche’s insistence on using the dorky push/pull buttons on the steering wheel for manual gear changes instead of the more popular paddles behind the wheel. It’s not intuitive to push/pull on the buttons when you need to shift. I’d much rather have one paddle dedicated to downshifts and the other dedicated to upshifts.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Only because I have driven the Panamera Turbo do I find this Panamera 4 (with the V-6) a little lackluster. While the interior is impeccable and luxurious and the Porsche pedigree is evident in the car’s handling characteristics, it just doesn’t feel like it has enough oomph befitting a $100,000 price tag. That’s not to say it’s slow. It definitely feels like a 911 with a backpack, with sharp and direct steering, controlled body motions, and firm brakes. (Although I did find the brakes took a little bit of pedal travel before kicking in.) However, having recently driven two examples of the 2012 Audi A7, another six-cylinder luxury hatchback, I would rather save 20 grand to get a more aesthetically pleasing package.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
This is one of the most stunning cars I’ve had the opportunity to experience. Sadly I only had the car for less than 24 hours. In that time, however, it was clear to me that it’s a close relative of the iconic 911. Even with its large dimensions and heavy weight, it effortlessly exhibits the power and precision that you expect from a Porsche. The car never felt big, the seats caressed the body like a well-fitted glove, and you had room for three witnesses to your adrenaline rushes. It’s fortunate that I had this car on a weeknight. Had it been in my possession Friday, I could have seen another 36-hour Tail of the Dragon trip in my sights. The only real confusion I had was with the auto engine on/off. It worked seamlessly while in traffic. But when I arrived home I stopped at the mailbox and exited the car, leaving it running. When I returned the car had shut itself off, but required a manual restart. I assume that happened because I put the car in park and exited. Nonetheless, when I lay in bed at night thinking about that lottery ticket in my wallet, I think I might have a new contender for what sedan I would buy.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
This particular Panamera test car strikes me as the lamest way you could possibly spend $99,000 on a new Porsche. First off, it’s a base V-6 car, but when you add four-wheel drive and, worse yet, almost $20,000 worth of pricey options (most of them unrelated to the car’s performance), you’ve got a pretty undesirable cocktail. I’d much rather spend that dough on a $65K Boxster S and a $34K Dodge Charger R/T, for instance.
Now, I can easily see the desirability of an all-wheel-drive Porsche sedan. I have two young kids, I live in Michigan, and I love hot cars. I just think that extra $19,335 would be better spent on a V-8 engine.
Of course, the fuel economy benefits of the V-6 are fairly significant — 2 mpg both in the city and on the highway — but I’d much rather have a Porsche that has phenomenal passing power. To the V-6 Panamera’s credit, though, it’s impressively quick off the line. The only problem is that the transmission won’t start off in first gear if you’re in Normal mode, and passing power is somewhat lacking. But once you’re rolling, the Panamera 4 handles, drives, and steers extremely well.
Rear-seat space is very good — I’m confident that four six-footers could be comfortable in this car. I’m only five-six, but I had tons of leg- and headroom when I sat behind myself. More important, there was plenty of room for my two kids and their bulky safety seats in the back, which wasn’t possible in a Porsche car prior to the launch of the controversial Panamera (the Cayenne is not a car, no matter what Porsche says). Plus, we had room in the large trunk for two strollers (the double stroller was too long to fit) plus some packages from an outlet-mall visit.
This car turns a lot of heads, but I’m guessing it’s more because of its rarity and weirdness than its simple beauty. Oh, by the way, has anybody else had the car alarm go off randomly in a Panamera? This car rudely woke me up at 2 am…
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
To be honest, whether the Panamera has a V-6 or a V-8, there’s no mistaking that it’s a high-performance luxury sedan. The cabin reeks of quality, from the black, all-leather interior (a $3655 add-on) to the carbon gray metallic trim (which also costs extra). About the only thing missing is a power-adjustable steering wheel. The wheel does adjust for height and for reach, but it has to be done manually, via a lever that takes some muscle to unlock. Even though the cabin is relatively roomy, it feels intimate because of the very wide center console that extends all the way through the back seat. That console is festooned with a number of buttons that control such things as the climate control, the seat heaters, the transmission modes, and the stability control. At first glance all those buttons look overwhelming, but they are well-labeled and are actually placed in such a manner that they’re very easy to access.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I have to admit that I didn’t realize that our test Panamera had “only” a V-6 engine until after I looked at the Monroney window sticker that was stashed in the glove compartment. This car really makes the most of its relatively modest 300-hp engine. I never felt a lack of power. What impressed me most, though, was the Panamera’s composure and athleticism over a variety of road surfaces. Fabulous ride quality, wonderful body control, communicative steering; nice, nice, nice.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Base price (with destination): $79,875
Price as tested: $99,210
7-speed PDK (dual-clutch automatic)
Double wishbone front suspension
Multilink LSA rear suspension w/ stabilizer bar
18-inch light alloy wheels
Tire pressure monitoring system
Leather-wrapped, multifunction steering wheel
Tilt/telescope steering column
8-way power seats with memory
CD/DVD audio player with AM/FM radio and 11 speakers
Audio interface with iPod connection
Power windows/locks/rear hatch
Porsche Control Module (PCM) with Navigation
Options on this vehicle:
Carbon grey metallic — $790
Black full leather — $3655
Ski bag — $405
Auto dimming int & ext mirrors — $420
Heated front seats — $525
Heated steering wheel — $250
Adaptive air suspension — $3980
20-inch 911 Turbo II wheels — $3770
Wheel center with color crest — $185
Ventilated front seats — $800
ParkAssist (front and rear) — $600
Sport chrono package plus — $1480
● Digital stopwatch
● Sport Plus button
● Performance display in PCM
● Launch control
Bose surround system — $1440
XM satellite radio — $750
Porsche crest in front headrests — $285
Key options not on vehicle:
Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) — $1990
Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) — $5000
Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) — $8150
18 / 26 / 21 mpg
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3750 rpm
Curb weight: 5379 lb
Wheels/tires: 20-inch forged alloy wheels
255/40ZR20 front / 295/35ZR20 rear