Around town, the dual-clutch transmission can be slightly clumsy off the line, slipping the clutch a bit more than we'd like. It can occasionally become confused, too, but never more so than the driver, who's forced to cope with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles apparently designed by someone who wasn't born with normal hands. On the highway, the Panamera loafs along in seventh gear, whose ratio is longer than any Mexican standoff. At 70 mph, there's zero engine noise - the twin-turbo V-8 is practically asleep, turning just 1600 rpm. And, as you can imagine, fuel economy is suitably impressive - the EPA rates the Panamera at 23 mpg on the highway, far better than its rivals in this test.
Of course, that kind of mileage is achievable only if you're well-behaved. And why would you ever act in such a way in a turbocharged Porsche? Let's get back to that 3.5-second 0-to-60-mph run - this feat is accomplished thanks to the combination of several factors, not the least of which is the traction afforded by all-wheel drive. The BMW and the Benz light up their rear tires and will lay yards and yards of rubber - even on those rare occasions when you're not trying to. Second, the Panamera's transmission has a very short first gear (which yields 29 mph in first gear at redline, compared with 39 and 43 mph in the BMW and the Mercedes, respectively), and it will, at your request, perform a 4800-rpm clutch dump.
At full throttle, the Panamera is almost Nissan GT-R-ish in its lack of drama. The engine's noise isn't particularly pleasant, since the turbo whoosh easily overwhelms the V-8 music, upshifts are copious and practically impalpable, and the four-wheel-drive system is tuned for traction, not tail-out antics.
From behind the Panamera's wheel, the experience is decidedly not Boxster, Cayman, or 911 - it's about capability, not communication. The steering is quick and perfectly accurate, although it's not particularly talkative; the brakes are powerful but with no better feel than the other cars. Cornering grip, though, is unbelievable, and the Panamera feels light on its feet but unrelentingly buttoned-down, even as it transitions into moderate understeer as you cross its limits - limits so high that we doubt most drivers will ever reach them on the street.
A point which brings us back to the gunfight at hand. Even though the Porsche unquestionably dominates in the numbers department, we wonder what purpose those numbers serve other than as bragging rights. Numbers can be misleading, anyway - sure, the Panamera is the fastest to 60 mph, but much of that advantage is due to the way it launches from a stop. In real-world driving, the BMW is effectively as fast. Case in point, the 30-to-70-mph passing number: The Porsche's scorching 3.6-second result was achieved in Sport Plus mode, which keeps the engine revs up high, ready to pounce at any moment (undermining any fuel-economy advantage, by the way). Put the Panamera in "D" and floor it, and the result is identical to the BMW's - something we verified by lining up the two cars at 30 mph, racing them side-by-side, and watching them both cross the 100-mph mark together, over and over again.