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Is the 2017 Porsche Panamera Handsome, or Just Better Looking?

No More Paper Bag

I haven’t been a fan of the first Porsche Panamera since its reveal in early 2009. The proportions, its funky c-pillar treatment and its designers’ attempt at integrating 911 styling cues within the girth of a big, luxury hatchback/sedan don’t work for me. Even then-Porsche chief Matthias Mueller admitted the brand could do better, in a 2014 interview with the Australian magazine, Motoring. Of course, it’s likely he was simply warming us up to the idea of a new, better, second-generation Panamera, hoping to convert skeptics like me when the new Porsche sedan goes on sale in early 2017.

From photos of the 2017 Panamera, it clearly carries better proportions. But is it good looking, or do the new car’s seemingly pleasing aesthetics have more to do with how unattractive the original is? I’ll have to withhold final judgment until I see one in-person. Meanwhile, Porschephiles already are asking how much more attractive a Porsche sedan would be if it didn’t have to look like a 911.

Styling isn’t my only issue with the outgoing Panamera. I find its performance relies too much on technology bolted onto the large and heavy sedan when it should instead start with an intrinsically communicative and lightweight chassis. The Panamera drives too much like a Cayenne with a lower seating position. The optional air suspension and Porsche’s body roll-controlling PDCC system only amplifies this feeling. I want a Porsche sedan that dynamically feels closer to a 2006-2011 E90 BMW 3 Series. I want a Panamera to feel more like a larger, sedan version of a 911.

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo rear three quarter in motion 01

But do Panamera buyers care about the purity of the car’s chassis? My hardcore Porsche-collecting friends wouldn’t be caught dead in a Panamera, or in a Cayenne, for that matter. For some of these critics, it’s the Panamera’s styling. Others aren’t impressed with how the Panamera drives or don’t accept a Porsche that isn’t a traditional sports car. Still others would accept the compromise of a smaller, more focused sports sedan like a BMW M3 or the cosseting nature of an honest to goodness luxury car such as a Mercedes S-Class. The Panamera owners I know are generally into cars but aren’t into the details, or care how the chassis feels. They like the Porsche brand and appreciate that the Panamera is engineered to a high standard and offers all the latest technology, features and customization options. They’ve driven sedans for years and like owning one fitted with Porsche badges.

I wouldn’t blame this latter category for upgrading to the new Panamera. It will surely be a nice car and do most things very well. But as with the outgoing car, buyers should take the time to study the specs before running out and buying the top of the line $147,950 Panamera Turbo. The Panamera 4S comes nearly 32 percent less-expensive. Its twin-turbo V-6 puts out an impressive 440 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, allowing a 4.0-second 0-60 mph time and 180 mph top speed, when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package. Why would you spend the extra $47,000 for the 550 hp Panamera Turbo? Is the extra 10 mph in top speed, or 0.6-second quicker 0-60 mph time worth that much?

Of course, we all know certain buyers have egos that can’t handle the lesser Panamera, and after all, the sound of a V-8 is tough to beat.

2014 Porsche Panamera 4S three quarters in motion drivers view
The outgoing, 2014 Porsche Panamera 4S

For me, the new Panamera simply comes off as a less-controversially styled rehash of the outgoing car. The dimensions have increased slightly and the Panamera Turbo pushes a rather portly 4,500 pounds. Sure, Porsche can boast an impressive Nurburgring lap time but I care more about a pure, more Porsche-like driving experience than I do about bench-racing statistics. I’m still skeptical, but I’ll keep an open mind when I get behind the wheel of the new Porsche Panamera. And for this one, I won’t feel the need to wear a paper bag over my head. I guess that’s progress.