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Feb / Mar 2017
It's Coming for You

WRITER: Nadia Michel

The polarising old Panamera might have worked for Baby Boomers but the new one finally offers a handsome mix of business and pleasure in the hope it can be attractive to Millennials and Xers too. 

I never really cared for the Panamera. When the first model came out in 2009, my initial excitement quickly turned to disappointment as soon as I saw the oversized Porsche: not as utilitarian as the Cayenne and not as sexy as Porsche’s two-door sports cars, it looked like an ungainly, stretched out, caricature of the Carrera 911.

Maybe it worked for some Porsche fans, the ones who felt they had outgrown Porsche’s classic models and needed something a little more, well, mature. But for the rest of us, it came off as an unsatisfactory compromise. It was the mullet of cars: business on top and party in the back. And really, who likes mullets?

Fast-forward seven years, and a newly launched Panamera v2.0 upended a solidly entrenched verdict on my part. The new Panamera is faster, more efficient and better looking. In fact, according to Porsche, only the name is the same. This is, admittedly, a rather audacious claim on their part, especially considering most of the tweaks that have taken place, in terms of its appearance at least, can be measured in mere millimetres. Still, the old Panamera, along with its dated hairstyle connotation, was quickly washed from my memory as soon as I laid eyes on the new model, proudly displayed in various colours on a dedicated platform at Munich Airport’s outdoor plaza. It was astute move by Porsche’s PR to allow world travellers to enjoy seeing them in all their glory before we were took them on a scenic drive through the Bavarian Alps to our destination, a charming hotel in Tegernsee.

 

 

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought Panamera’s racy new curves looked great. Hundreds of passers by stopped to snap selfies with the shiny cars – giving the German automaker plenty of free social media promotion. Admittedly, the attention came as no surprise to the proud Porsche engineers on hand, as they know they’re onto a winner here. The car looks like a Porsche. A handsome Porsche. One with an intangible It-factor.

The biggest change on the new car is a faster roofline, reminiscent of the 911. It gives the Panamera a lower, more aerodynamic appearance. There are also sharp new edges that have been introduced on the bonnet, resulting in a more muscular look. The front wheels have been moved slightly forward and the rear has been simplified and reduced – and that, in my opinion, is the key to really making a saloon look more like a sportscar. Amazingly, the shorter rear-end actually provides more trunk – aka hatchback boot space – than the previous model. Good for groceries.

Winding our way up the sinuous country roads in a sporty sapphire blue, Panamera Turbo definitely put an end to my preconceived notion that this car was a lacklustre cousin to its original, smaller predecessors, in terms of driving capacity, at least. In fact, as sport motorbikes jockeyed with us for position on the narrow roads, it felt like we had a lot in common, us and them. The Panamera may be big, which is not always ideal on small village roads, but it feels agile and light. The fact that the front seats have been lowered by 10 millimetres, (putting the driver closer to the ground than any competitor’s cars by 50 millimetres), adds to a sense of connection to the road. Combine that with the precise engineering that Porsche excels at, and taking hairpin turns without much slowing down is a breeze.

In terms of tight handling, it doesn’t get much better than this. But this wasn’t the only highlight on our journey through southern Germany. Once back on the Autobahn, the Panamera’s raison d'être really came to life.

Let’s first take note that Panamera is now equipped with a camera system that provides a lane-departure warning assistant and more importantly, in this case, a very useful road sign detection feature. Speed limits, which often change for no apparent reason, come up on the left-hand screen of the dashboard in real time, alerting the driver. Once a clear circle with a line through it made its way into our cockpit, indicating a no limit zone, we hit the gas. I didn’t quite make its limit of 306 km/h but the ease with which it accelerated to 265 km/h was outstanding, aided somewhat by the power burst generated by the Sport Response button in Sport Plus mode. Effortless – that’s how this car’s acceleration feels.

Slowing down with the optional carbon ceramic brakes was also a cinch for this sports sedan. Bright yellow, they not only popped against the car’s metallic paint job and spotless alloys, but they felt as if they could have stopped a train. Their cost may be steep but the fact that they are supremely powerful, don’t corrode (even when in contact with water or salt during the winter seasons) and have an approximate disc life of 150,000 kilometres makes them an option you should seriously consider.

 

 

The revamped Panamera Turbo owes much to a new 80 million Euro investment the VW Group made into the main Porsche plant at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. It is here that Porsche’s eight-cyclinder engines are made and with more than 400 workers, they can make up to 200 engines a day. The Panamera Turbo’s new 4.0-litre V-8 unit is crafted from aluminium and it can deliver up to 542 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute, but also offers 335 hp at half that engine speed. The genius lies in the placement of twin turbochargers between the two opposing banks of cylinders as opposed to the outside to give the engine more compact dimensions and improve performance and handling.

This all begs the question: can Panamera’s business and pleasure equation really compete with a bona fide sports car? The simple answer is yes. Drivers looking for a car that can comfortably transport four passengers, such as a family with two children, for example, might find it to be a viable alternative to the ubiquitous luxury SUV. After all, Panamera has added a bunch of tech to appeal to the growing demand for connectivity, including a WiFi hotspot, a large centre touchscreen and a rear seat entertainment system featuring 10-inch anti-glare screens adaptable to multiple digital sources.

Picture a family pulling up to a lunch spot with kids in tow. Where an SUV, even a sporty Cayenne, screams our four year-old is the boss at home, a Panamera says we’re still us. It fulfils the need for speed and a little fun while satisfying the more practical needs of a family. As an added bonus, parents up their odds of being on time for business meetings after morning madness at the breakfast table. They might even get there a little early.

Then again, let’s not forget, the 911 Turbo also has a couple back seats – though small – that could easily accommodate young children. It just depends how comfortable you all want to be. You be the judge.

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