DAVE MOORE: The latest Porsche Panamera, the 4S



The one-time ugly-duckling is now the swan it always should have been.

The redesigned Porsche Panamera improves on its predecessors with much more cohesive styling, a revamped interior and new engines including the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 we had in our road test car

While there are obvious design cues that link it with previous versions, the latest Panamera is in fact built on a brand-new platform and the result is a genuinely attractive car which is now more than worthy to be compared with the usual S-Class, 7-series, A8 and XJ models in this ethereal full-sized sports-luxury sedan segment.

The immediate impression is that the luxury part of the equation has been refined, to the point that the car now rides with the kind of sumptuous decorum that the earlier car never really achieved, despite being as quick as anything in its segment. The good thing is that it retains and improves upon incisive handling, tenacious grip and unimpeachable general chassis dynamics, and probably moves to the top of the tree in this area - it’s a thrilling, engaging and powerful drive, and will run with anything else out there. 

When you mix this with the car’s superbly contrived liftback design (don’t EVER call it a hatchback!) which results in a massive load area and a tech-stuffed cabin with easy room for four sizeable male rugby forwards it conspires to create a massively effective car to live with day to day. The Panamera is the most luxurious car Porsche makes, and it’s reflected by the high price. The hi-tech interior really moves the game on in this segment, evolving Porsche’s connectivity systems.

General equipment varies through the range’s trim level, but Turbos get larger 20-inch wheels as standard, while the core level of equipment is present in every car. Which means the range is luxurious across the board. You can add lall sorts of options such as rear-wheel steering to improve agility even further, but even without any extra gear, the Panamera is a much better upmarket four-seat prospect than even its illustrious, but rather ugly predecessor.

There are a dozen models available in New Zealand starting from the entry—point rear-drive V6 Panamera at $201,200, with the rest of the range (all of them being all-wheel-drive) going from $220,600 for the Panamera 4 through various petrol and diesel V6s and some V8s to the all-singing and dancing $422,000 Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid. ‘My’ Panamera is the petrol 4S, at a cool $275,300.

The 4S is powered by Porsche’s brand-new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 unit which features turbochargers mounted neatly inside the engine’s V, just like the established V8 Turbo’s. The engine’s 361kW (434bhp) and 550Nm of torque mean that the 0-100kmh sprint can be dispatched in 4.4 seconds, or 4.2 with Sport Chrono.

A new design of air suspension for this second-generation Panamera gives excellent ride quality and I’m told, even on the largest 21-inch wheels of the Turbo, enables the car to waft (it never floats) over rolling surfaces. Even Christchurch’s quake-caused potholes (there are thousands of them) don’t cause the wheels to thump especially, and there’s never any suggestion that the car will lose composure or body control over any of the city’s appalling thoroughfares. No other Porsche, not even the most optioned version of the Cayenne rides as well as the Panamera - even in its basic form.

Out of town on a favourite road, the steering is beautifully weighted for an energetic driver and even in the chassis’ standard setting it changes direction with crisp, accurate gusto.

As part of Porsche’s standard Active Suspension Management system, Sport and Sport+ modes stiffen up the dampers and add an extra element of focus. It does sacrifice ride quality a modicum but the dynamic benefits are demonstrable.

With rear wheel steer the Porsche changes direction like a much smaller car and while it doesn’t handle as well as the company’s 718 Boxster/Cayman (what car from any maker does) the PASM adaptive dampers, Posche’s Torque Vectoring Plus and Dynamic Chassis Control perform wonders in terms of body control and the elimination of understeer.

It’s worth noting that the new V6’s torque is delivered all the way from 1,960rpm to 4,500rpm, which means progress is never frantic with the new car, the great wellspring of mid-range grunt is tapped into with effortless ease and emits a delightful stanza of six-cylinder music which is pleasant change from those ubiquitous grumbling V8s truth be known.

All Panameras are fitted with Porsche’s new eight-speed PDK shifter, which can be left to its own devices, or paddled-along with the wheel -mounted blades. It’s more than satisfactory in automatic mode, but it’s paddles if you like mechanical music.swapping ratios slickly, and is snappy in manual mode, too.

For all its energy and genuinely supercar performance the 4S managed a useful 7.7L/100km in my hands with a factory emissions rating of 184g/km CO2. Fuel economy drops to 30.4 in the Turbo, while CO2 rises to 212g/km. Just don’t expect to see these figures if you exploit the Panamera’s performance.

On of the reasons I drove the Panamera was in response to listener who effectively asked - when his wife already has an X5, should he swap his Cayenne for a sporty sedan from Benz, BMW and Audi instead. I suggested why not the Panamera? He hadn’t even considered it.

I have to say, he should now. It has all of the first model’s good points, with an even better chassis, far better looks and a delightful new V6 that’s the measure of many a competitor’s larger V8s.

Do it, Brian. Now. Thus a motoring journalist can enjoy vicarious ownership of a car he can’t afford!