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.
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.
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.
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.