BMW 550i Gran Turismo vs. Porsche Panamera S

With the simultaneous launch of the 5-series Gran Turismo and the Panamera, BMW and Porsche have created a new vehicle category. No, the segment doesn't require the vehicles be ugly, that's just a side effect. Instead, the new breed is characterized by sporty driving dynamics, luxury equipment, rear-seat opulence, and a slanted back that is as much about style as it is about functionality.

In addition to their physical and philosophical similarities, the BMW 550i GT and the Porsche Panamera S also have a lot in common on their spec sheets. Both cars boast V-8 engines, rear-wheel drive, 400 hp, four seats, and hefty price tags. Looking at these cars raises plenty of questions, so we got behind the wheel for a day of driving through cities, down highways, and over rural back roads in search of some understanding.

Mirror, mirror
Before we can move on though, we've got to address our insecurities, so we park the two hunchbacks side-by-side. The BMW, with its tall roofline and slightly raised ground clearance, looks a bit truckish when standing alone. But next to the Panamera, the 5-series GT looks natural and even somewhat pleasing. The truncated hatch hardly looks controversial. Instead, the GT seems merely to wear BMW's design du jour and if you're into the 5- or 7-series sedans, accepting the Gran Turismo is easy.

Unfortunately, the Panamera doesn't provide the same sense of resolution. The front end's broad, low hood and oval headlights establish the Porsche identity, but it's also rather bland. Boring, however, would be an improvement for the rear end. The awkward interplay of the fenders and hatch present an ungainly growth. Viewing the Panamera from a low front three-quarters angle allows you to hide the massive rear end behind the windshield and side glass, but that mass is lurking every time you look back at your parked Panamera.

Pricing prestige
These two hatchbacks show some differences when it comes to price, with a 550i Gran Turismo starting at $63,725 and a Panamera S beginning at $90,775 (both cars have cheaper, V-6 variants, as well). However, BMW narrowed the gap by providing us with a test car optioned up to $90,875, while our Porsche had a sticker of $106,210. Some of the main items helping to boost the BMW's price were night vision ($2600), a rear-seat entertainment system ($2200), head-up display ($1300), and a sport package with 20-inch wheels ($5200). There was less equipment added to the Panamera, although there were some extra-cost items that we might have expected to find on the standard equipment list, such as Bluetooth ($695), front and rear parking sensors ($600), ventilated front seats ($800), 19-inch wheels ($1950), and a heated steering wheel ($210).

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Somehow this article seems quite biased!. I used to own 2008 535i, was in market for luxury sports sedan. Took 550i for spin - it felt like benz, no where it felt like BMW I used to own - in fact my 535i would beat today's 550i hands down in terms of handling.  Then I decided to take panamera turbo for a spin. What a car. Agreed it is not apples to apples comparison, but when you are reaching close 100k price range, line blurs off. Porsche handles way better than 550i, has excellent seating for 4. Porsche got that right, didnot go in for 5 seats as sedans tend to be. Engine is amazing, PDK is fantastic - In my opinion if car wants to compete in sports category, dual clutch is must. Handling is far better than any car in the market. Burmester audio is far better than what BMW providers (I believe it is HK).  Overall if you are in for luxury, go for benz or those japanese cars, but if you are in for sports and luxury combined, Panamera is what you want.
As a new 4s owner, I'm not sure I understand some of the criticism of the Panamera; while you find this new Porsche "more buttoned down" in every setting and highly capable as a 4 door sports car, it is not the sedan you expect: what sedan did you expect from Porsche? And as for the back seat being a "cave": look again at article's photos; my guests are dumbfounded at the modern and spacious design (the BMW interior looks so 1989). As for the "look" of the Panemera; its look is its own, and it stems from delivering on every one of its remarkable marketing promises; 4 six foot plus adults and their luggage comfortable at 175 mph (not that I'd ever, etc.,) with huge range (25 gal tank), great mileage and ultra low emissions. The BMW trucklet doesn't seem to me to be in the same decade OR league as my magnificent machine.
Have had a Panamera S for six months. It may be the most capable car, I've ever owned. It is more fun to drive than my 911. It replaced a Cayenne that replaced a MB S430. On two recent trips through Smoky Mountains, S.C., Ga, Al, and back to TN it averaged 28 mpg @80 miles per hour. There is a learning curve in that it has so much power. To compare this to the BMW GT doesn't seem to make sense and I've never seen a more biased report except maybe by Consumer's Report.

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