2010 Porsche Panamera S/4S/Turbo First Drive - Car And Driver

A7XFan22

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Source: Car and Driver
Written by: Jens Meiners

The Panamera, Porsche's fourth model line after the 911, the Boxster/Cayman, and the Cayenne, has arrived after years of rumor, innuendo, announcements, and buzz. A four-door fastback sedan positioned at the top of the lineup, the Panamera was officially unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in April, and Porsche chose to host the first official drive at the picturesque Schloss Elmau castle near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, under the shadow of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. The ritzy castle hotel is separated from the Munich airport by two hours of twisty country roads and several stretches of unlimited autobahn, and we explored it all from behind the wheels of the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive, 400-hp Panamera S and the 500-hp, all-wheel-drive Turbo. (There?s also an all-wheel-drive Panamera 4S.)

Looks Less Controversial in the Flesh, Turbo is Wicked Quick

The shape of the Panamera has been controversial, but we think it looks better on the road than on photos. Porsche's designers have done their best to mask the Panamera's size, but at 195.7 inches long and 55.8 inches tall, there is no way to hide this is a large car. Outside, the S and 4S models are differentiated from the Turbo mostly by their front bumper and specific headlights, but those so inclined can spot a few other minor differences, too.

With its 400-hp engine, the Panamera S boasts impressive performance claims: 0??60 mph is reached in 4.8 seconds and 0?100 takes 11.5. Top speed is 175 mph. Sadly, it doesn't feel that quick. There is no masking the Panamera's weight; the Panamera S weighs more than 3900 pounds, and all-wheel drive adds a couple hundred more pounds. The Panamera's heft means that you have to keep the pedal firmly to the floor and keep the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission busy to put a comfortable distance between you and plebes piloting shockingly quick turbo-diesels on the autobahn.

Unless, of course, you are driving the Turbo. The Turbo tips the scales at 4300-plus pounds, but the acceleration is almost surreal. According to Porsche, 0 to 60 mph takes just 4.0 seconds, the sprint to 100 mph takes just 9.0 seconds, and top speed is a lofty 188 mph. Running full tilt in this car is an exquisite experience that would seems to justify every single penny of the Turbo?s $132,600 asking price.

The differing experiences between the S and the Turbo seem a bit strange, considering the 100-hp gap between the two doesn't sound like much. But the addition of two turbochargers increases the available torque from 369 lb-ft in the Panamera S and 4S to a maximum of 516 lb-ft in the Turbo?or 568 lb-ft if you order the optional Sport Chrono Package. The normally aspirated Panamera S is smooth and builds up speed in a linear way, but the Turbo moves with a nonchalant effortlessness that is almost unparalleled. It takes a second for its turbos to spool up, but if you dare to stay on the gas, you?re basically catapulted forward into another dimension.

PDK is the Only Way

All Panameras that come to the U.S. will utilize the ZF-supplied, seven-speed PDK (Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe) dual-clutch transmission. The seventh gear is so tall you cruise at 2800 rpm at 125 mph in the Turbo. First gear, on the other hand, is extremely short, and the shift from first to the pre-selected second occurs virtually unnoticed. If you hit the "Sport Plus" button that comes with the Sport Chrono Package, the transmission will blip the throttle during downshifts. Nice.

All Panameras emit a pleasant and distant growl. There is an optional sports exhaust with flaps that can be activated at the push of a button. We still wish it were louder, but Porsche insists that Panamera buyers have matured beyond our juvenile state of mind.

A standard stop/start system will turn off the engine every time you stop, with the engine then reignited as soon as you touch the gas. This device will up fuel economy in the city, but it takes some getting used to. In Europe, the Panamera was governmentally certified with the system in operation, and therefore you need to turn it off with a button if you don't care for it. In the U.S., however, Porsche was unsure about customer reaction, so therefore the process is reversed. The stop/start system is off every time you start a journey and you need to push a button to engage it.

More significant, U.S. buyers will not have the option of the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard in Europe on the rear-wheel drive Panamera S. We couldn?t resist taking it for a spin?it?s the same ZF box as found in the Cayenne GTS. It shifts smoothly, and the gears are well spaced.

Given BMW?s experience with M5 and M6 customers in the U.S.?many of whom howled when the cars were first offered without a row-your-own manual?one might think that Porsche would offer the manual here as well. If buyers insist, Porsche is ready to bring the manual to the U.S., but the take rate would be minimal almost automatically, since the box will only fit the rear-wheel-drive Panamera. Adapting it to the all-wheel-drive system would require extensive changes to the drivetrain, so a manual 4S or Turbo is out of the question.

Brakes and Chassis Prove Capable

Taming the Panamera is a braking system with six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear. The standard brakes are excellent, but the ultra-quick response of the optional, $8840 ceramic brakes is awe inspiring.

The chassis has no problem coping with even the Turbo?s level of power, and the Panamera stays neutral well beyond the limits of other luxury cars. Indeed, the sport setting supposedly completely eliminates body roll up to 1.00 g of lateral force. The Turbo?s acrobatic rear spoiler, which unfolds in a rather artistic way, positions itself to improve aerodynamics for speed and fuel economy up to 127 mph. Above those speeds, its position changes to generate downforce. And even though the Panamera does indeed offer fine handling and is at ease bombing down the autobahn at warp speed, it?s also surprisingly comfortable and well isolated. We?d actually call the driving experience closer to that of an Audi A8 than a Porsche 911.

The Panamera was engineered to seat four passengers in comfort, and that goal has been reached with flying colors. The driver and the front passenger are seated deep between an elevated center console and high door sills. Rear-seat comfort, including headroom and legroom, is on par with that of other regular-wheelbase luxury cars. You just have to get used to sitting lower than in most cars surrounding you. There won?t be any looking down on the lesser people; if you plan to be chauffeured around?we?re looking your way, Asian market?you?ll probably want to order the power shades for the rear glass and rear side windows.

Stylish, Well-Appointed Cabin

The design and materials of the interior ensure that you travel not only in comfort but also in style. Slim, glossy buttons on the center console speak the styling language of expensive Vertu cell phones, and the instrumentation is clearly Porsche, with four gauges clustered around a large central tachometer. The touch-screen infotainment system is shared with the 911. The highlight of the interior may be the optional audio system, co-developed with Burmester, one of the most renowned manufacturers of top-level audio systems in Europe. In our test cars, the system sounded amazing, although we?d like some time to compare it side by side with other high-end car audio systems. Unlike most Porsches, the Panamera is equipped so well that you don?t need to spend a small fortune beyond the base price. The Panamera S starts at $89,800, the Panamera 4S at $93,800, and the Turbo at $132,600.

With its fastback shape and rear hatch, the Panamera is currently an oddity in the luxury-car world, but that is due to change quickly with the arrival of the Aston Martin Rapide, BMW 5-series GT, and Audi A7. The Panamera family will grow, too. A 300-ish-hp, V-6?powered Panamera is due in the 2010 calendar year, and a hybrid version will come to market about a year after that. The latter will share the upcoming Cayenne hybrid?s V-6 engine and electric motor, which together combine to deliver output nearly on par with the Panamera?s naturally aspirated V-8. A diesel Panamera is technically doable but is not in the works yet. A Turbo S version is possible as well. Stay tuned.

Specifications

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear- or 4-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 5-door hatchback

ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: $89,800?$132,600

ENGINES: DOHC 32-valve 4.8-liter V-8, 400 hp, 369 lb-ft; twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve 4.8-liter V-8, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 115.0 in Length: 195.7 in Width: 76.0 in Height: 55.8 in Curb weight: 3950?4350 lb

PERFORMANCE (MFR?S EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.0?5.2 sec
Top speed (drag limited): 175?188 mph


PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 13?16/19?23 mpg
 

MadCow809

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ohhh... thats a great looking interior, much better than the Aston.
 

Shawn

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Literally, do not want.

Nothing about this car tickles my fancy, not even something as small as the rims or steering wheel is pleasing to me... and those back seats look like they would be a seriously tight fit. In the photo it looks like the front seat is quite upright.

It's kind of upsetting that none of these super saloons turned out the way one would hope, because sedans are definitely my favourite form of car (especially these new coupe sedans). The Lambo was the best of the bunch and it's no longer, and even that wasn't too amazing IMO.
 
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Gman333-X-ferrari

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Literally, do not want.

Nothing about this car tickles my fancy, not even something as small as the rims or steering wheel is pleasing to me... and those back seats look like they would be a seriously tight fit. In the photo it looks like the front seat is quite upright.

It's kind of upsetting that none of these super saloons turned out the way one would hope, because sedans are definitely my favourite form of car (especially these new coupe sedans). The Lambo was the best of the bunch and it's no longer, and even that wasn't too amazing IMO.
x2

The interior is all over the place - no sense of coherence at all.

And the exterior is still ghastly. :barf:

The only good thing about it is the engine.
 
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JakeRadden

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x2

The interior is all over the place - no sense of coherence at all.

And the exterior is still ghastly. :barf:

The only good thing about it is the engine.
I completely disagree on the interior, and the exterior is growing on me, but I suppose that's a matter of taste : )
 

marcos_eirik

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I think the interior looks fantastic, and I'm glad they decided to use proper buttons instead of a fiddly i-drive computer system thing. Plus it's not really that many buttons actually, and to me they seem logically arranged. I also like that they actually thought of tall people when they designed this car, so the back seat was designed to accommodate people like Dr Weideking whose 6'3", it's also good that it has an accommodating boot, unlike many other coupes.

As for the exterior, it might look out of proportion, but I think it looks rather good from some angles. But I think that most people made their minds up (based on the padded up test mules) that they thought it was ugly long before it was actually unveiled.



It's pretty much like most other modern car designs; you have to see them in real life to be able to appreciate the design. Good examples of this are the Ferrari California, Jaguar XF and XK, as well most modern BMWs. Based on the fact that most people who have seen the Panamera live actually likes it afterwards, I'll reserve my judgment until I get to see it up close in real life.
 

Aiolos

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I kinda like the interior, I think the pictures don't quite do it justice. I bet if we saw some up-close video or high-res photos, it'd look better. The exterior still looks like crap IMO, but the engines sound amazing. Why would you need a Turbo S when the Turbo does 0-60 in 4.0sec? That's already nuts. So is the asking price. I mean damn, you could buy an M5 and a Lotus for that money.
 

Brother Michael

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It's pretty much like most other modern car designs; you have to see them in real life to be able to appreciate the design. Good examples of this are the Ferrari California, Jaguar XF and XK, as well most modern BMWs. Based on the fact that most people who have seen the Panamera live actually likes it afterwards, I'll reserve my judgment until I get to see it up close in real life.
Allright, if that's how you want it: I have seen the California, the XF and the XK in person and of course all the modern BMWs: none of them changed my opinion after seeing them: I always thought the California is fugly, and I still do. I am still not sure about the XF, just like I wasn't sure when I saw it in pictures for the first time. I have always liked the XK and after seeing it in real life, I still like it. And I am absolutely positive the Panamera won't make me think any differently: it looks wrong from every angle and it's proportions are just all over the place. And the rear especially is one of the worst I have seen in any car, ever.

And I am with Shawn and Gman333 on this one: there isn't a single thing I like about this car, I am even a bit disappointed about the engine: 4.8 Liter, twin turbo V8 and it manages "only" 516 ft-lbs of torque: in an exec. level cruiser I would have expected a bit more from such a colossals engine. No it isn't exactly a peppergrinder, but it isn't as powerful as I thought it would be.

It's a hideous looking car with a very "meh" interior. A complete failure, just like the Aston Martin Rapide, which also fails to deliver, big time: if you are going to build a purposeful executive sports saloon, then make it at least look like a proper bloody sedan, not some streched out coupe, with minimal legroom, rubbish bootspace and unsettling proportions.

I still think Mercedes is the only one who has got it right with their CLS, every single 4-door coupe thingy that has followed it has been a failure, in more ways than one.
 

TC

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I love the interior. And the review makes the seem fantastic to drive, at least in Turbo spec. The only controversial thing is the exterior, but at least you don't have to look it when you're driving. :p I kinda like it. The rear end just needs some work.
 
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