2010 Porsche Panamera Review
The 2010 Panamera is a four-door, four-seat, fastback sports car with a hatchback at the rear. Porsche officials say it is alone, unique in the world of Gran Turismo cars that it creates the Panamera class. Of course, there are competitors, whether or not Porsche considers them in the same class. One is the upcoming Aston Martin Rapide, others might include the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Maserati Quattroporte. Some buyers might also cross-shop the BMW M5, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and Jaguar XFR to name three more. What we'll all agree on is that the Panamera is a grand tourer. It will be offered initially with V-8 engines derived from the Cayenne SUV, though six-cylinder cars are coming and they might even reach our shores with a slick-shifting manual transmission. As big four-doors go, the Panamera is a performance car without question. The naturally aspirated S base model (400 horsepower) comes in two- or four-wheel drive and starts at $115,100. The super-car-baiting Panamera Turbo (500 hp) will also hit showrooms in October, stickered at $155,000. It comes standard with all-wheel drive. Porsche is also planning on a Panamera hybrid, a diesel variant and, very likely, a faster GTS/Turbo S, too. We'll see.
Interior Features and Powertrains
The Panamera easily seats four in comfort and even big guys can get comfortable in back. Rumour has it that Wendelin Wiedeking, Porsche's CEO, had to be able to sit in the back of the Panamera comfortably before the car's design would get the green light. The rear seats are comfortable and very supportive, though seats front and back do not seem as wide as what's in traditional big luxury cars such as the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, two other possible rivals, though not directly. What separates the Panamera from others is the low-slung design, which translates into a low-set cabin. It's different and sexy and quite similar to a Porsche 911. A high transmission tunnel running the length of the passenger space creates individual seating spaces, but robs the cabin of room, too. A high-set gear lever and clear switchgear and dials are just exactly what a driving enthusiast wants. The rear seats split and fold to enhance cargo space, so there is a practical piece here, too. More than anything, though, the Panamera drives like a Porsche, like a larger 911 mated to a Cayenne. But there is no getting around the fact this car weighs two tonnes. And let's not forget the Panamera is a front-engine car, not a rear-engine sports car like the 911. The twin turbo, with its 4.8-litre V-8, is a monster. My tester, with the Sports Chrono package ($3,110) that includes a launch-control function on the standard seven-sped PDK twin-clutch transmission, played happily with the roads and autobahns of Bavaria. The car will hit 100 km/h in about four seconds and I had it up to 260 km/h and felt safe all the way.
This is an indecently fast car, one that makes a thrilling sound when the engine and turbos spool up to do their business. Air-springs are standard on the Turbo and they have three modes of stiffness: compliant, Sport and Sport Plus. Sport firms things up a bit, while Sport Plus is a gearhead's dream. You want to feel planted in the corners? This is for you. Sport Plus engages active anti-roll bars to eliminate roll. The car steers precisely, though there is more feel in a 911. The normally aspirated model is fitted with steel springs and some of the engineers say they prefer them, that they are more authentic and deliver more feel. Another feature for enthusiasts is the electronically controlled rear differential. It brakes a lightly loaded inside rear tire to help straighten you out when exiting a corner exit. If things get really hairy, there is a full range of air bags and other safety features. Standard. While the exterior design is controversial, there is no denying the Panamera's prowess on the road. It's a real gem for enthusiasts who love to drive and especially for those who live and breathe Porsche.
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