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