The Truth About Cars » Panamera The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Panamera Porsche Invites 42 Journalists To Prove That The Plug-in Panamera Uses More Gas Than Published Fri, 24 May 2013 10:53:01 +0000 P13_0457

42 journalists who had the honor of being invited by Porsche to what was called a “Plug-In Hybrid Technology Workshop” found themselves used as lab rats, and to produce a mileage rating that supports Porsche’s published results for the hybrid Panamera. It didn’t quite work out that way. Says a Porsche press release:

”On the occasion of an international press event – in which over 42 test drives were conducted with journalists in the Panamera S E-Hybrid covering a total distance of over 1,200  kilometers – the model consumed just 4.4 l/100 km (53.5 mpg) averaged over all drives. The top value recorded on the circuit course for the world’s first plug-in hybrid in the luxury class was a low 2.8 l/100 km  (84 mpg). These results illustrate that in real everyday operation, it is entirely possible to attain fuel consumption values of the same magnitude as the value determined in NEDC testing, which is 3.1 l/100 km.”


On a strictly non-EPA  conversion,  the average 4.4 l/100 km would equate 53.5 mpg. The top value of  2.8 l/100 km converts to 84 mpg. Porsche’s published 3.1 l/100 km rating would convert to 75.9 mpg. For the unwashed, NEDC refers to the New European Driving Cycle, which supposedly mimics the typical usage of a car in Europe, which it gloriously doesn’t.


The circuit, and the usage profile also were slightly atypical. According to Porsche, “the test circuit, which had a total length of 28.7 km, followed a course through and around the city of Hockenheim and comprised 6.5 km city driving, 9.2 km of country roads and 13 km of German Autobahn – some without speed limits. A prerequisite for attaining such values is systematically exploiting opportunities for charging the 9.4 kWh lithium-ion battery on the electrical grid.”

Great, in the meantime, we exploit opportunities to show pictures of the Panamera in a Stau, in a picturesque village, and in use. We also ask our Porsche-insider Doug Demuro for an inside view.

]]> 24
Clifford The Big Red Porsche Sat, 23 Jun 2012 16:12:27 +0000

After several hours of slinging a 991 Carrera S around the track (review to follow), I can’t say I was particularly looking forward to relinquishing the keys to the Porker for the keys to the, uh, porker. I was here to drive both cars, and I’d already had plenty of up-close views of the Pano through the windscreen of the 911 as it clogged up turn 3, seeming to flop over on its flank like the wounded Bismark.

Back of the pack out on the grid, I waved several 911s and a heavily-modified Evo ahead out of politeness, not wishing to be the clot in this small, fast group of experienced drivers (with one notable exception). Nice and easy through turn one and two, squeezing on the throttle a bit through the back straight, with an eye to unforgiving concrete barriers and a thought to the coldness of the tires and the track.

Over the hump at turn two, swing wide out to the right and squeeze on the power as I straighten out the wheel, and suddenly I’m thinking: well that’s not right.

Not right at all….

I love this thing!

As a card-carrying P-car enthusiast since childhood days of picking the nerdy 959 over the humina-humina F40, I know that I’m contractually obligated to hate the Panamera. It’s ostentatious. It’s enormous. It’s affront to the purity of the Porsche brand, and a Axe-body-spray-scented slap in the face to Ferdinand’s air-cooled ideals, etc.

It’s got huge tracts of land, but I can’t even come up with a clever way to describe the way it looks. The 911′s fat cousin? An 928 on Extenze? A Cayenne that got stuck in Willy-Wonka’s taffy-puller? Two Caymans having “relations”?

Still, this GTS has an attractive wheel package – which despite massive diameter, is somewhat overwhelmed by gargantuan swathes of sheetmetal in the rear. And it’s red: it’s a sow, but at least it’s a Rote-Sau.

Piloting it through the pit-lane, the steering feels a bit “hard a-starboard!” with the quickness of the 991 rack fresh in your mind. Then there’s the mass of the thing, that heavy V8 out in front and a lengthy wheelbase. Mission is a tight track, a brake-eater with short straights and off-camber curves.

Certainly, not a suitable battlefield for near-two-tonnes of titanic teuton. And in a field that includes an Ultima with a Z06 heartbeat, two GT3s, an F430 and a coupla 911 Turbos, the Pano should be a rolling-roadblock – particularly with yours slowly at the wheel.

But it ain’t.

Remember that grapefruit-sized sensory organ scienticians recently found in the largest whales? It’s intended to aid in lunge-feeding and, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve stuffed one in the nose of this Panamera.

“Lunge” is the perfect description for what big red does when you’ve got the wheel unwound and are flexing your right foot en pointe. “Wooooof!” growls the 4.8L V8 and the GT3 that out-braked you for the corner suddenly shrinks in the rearview mirror.

Trail-brake into turn four and don’t just clip the apex, devour the curb with a satisfied *glumph*: with cheater all-wheel-drive and the curb-weight of Australia, the Pano is as impossible to unsettle as a steamroller GTi.

Out wide for the throwaway 5, a blast through six, wheel-straight hard-braking on 7, a damn-the-torpedoes straight shot through the chicanes and then a late apex out; swing right as we use all the track exiting on to the ex-dragstrip long straightaway and unleash the… wait, lift-throttle.

This is a driver-training day, not a track event, and it’s point-to-pass. I’m suddenly crammed up behind the 991 and a 997 C4S: nobody wants to get passed by the Panamera.

After a moderate lap with my instructor admonishing me to stop trying to stuff the Red Menace into the 991 under braking, we pull into the pit lane for a slow crawl-through to create space.

There’s plenty of track to go around, but when we come out the far side, I’m just ahead of a 996 turbo and an F430. Through turn two I’ve already got my hand out the window and am pointing them both past: journalists trying out the 991 is one thing, I’m not going to ruin the day for the really quick cars.

Both lighter cars go hammering past, brake properly and are dwindling on the horizon as I pick back up the double-bass handling rhythm of the Pano. The trick seems to be in the trail-braking to get the nose to bite, though once the big car’s turning, the AWD lets you stomp-throttle a little early.

We cycle through Cascade Corners and… catch up to the Ferrari on the back straight? He squirts ahead on the chicanes and then we’re both apexing out onto the straight and… and that Ferrari’s not going anywhere.

Both it and the turbo 911 run through another lap just ahead of the Pano; two squirrels fleeing a big panting labrador. The brakes are starting to feel a bit mushy, but still haul the big car up short time after time.

Look, I’m no hot shoe. In this business, braggadocio and ego are commonplace; trackday stories are always full of 11/10ths exploits and unlikely giant-slaying. Put it plainly, I don’t normally do the track-day gigs because that’s not my thing. I’m – theoretically – just like you: a mere mortal behind the wheel. Feel free to take my dynamic analysis with a grain of salt.

But as we circle slowly through the last cool-down lap, I reflect back on the day and came to a curious realization. The 991 flowed beautifully, but the Panamera?

Clifford the big red Porsche made me laugh, where the 911 didn’t. Good car.

Sorry, it costs how much?

Porsche provided the cars tested and instruction time with Morrisport, whose instructors are like Job, except more patient.

]]> 27
Trackday Diaries: Consider Phlebas. Mon, 21 May 2012 16:43:49 +0000

In his uneven but interesting book Guitar: An American Life, Tim Brookes notes that acoustic players “pick up a guitar in order to meet college girls but wind up talking to other middle-aged men about their fingernails.” I started racing so I could put my merciless, Edward-Green-shod foot on the neck of other competitors in the twilight zone that separates victory from certain death, but I’ve wound up spending my weekends telling other middle-aged men to unwind their steering wheels at corner exit.

This past weekend at Summit Point’s Shenandoah course, I preached long sermons from the Book of Corner Exit to three of those middle-aged men: a novice in a Panamera Turbo, a prodigy in a C6 Vette, and my own crumbling self, piloting a Coyote-powered Mustang GT in an ultimately futile attempt to outpace a colleague in a new 991 Carrera S. Together we pursued the discipline of the Quality Exit, with varying results. To misquote the poet: “O you who turn the wheel and look to chiclets, Gentile or Jew, click the jump to find out how we did.”

Over the past five years, the TrackDAZE crew has come to set the gold standard for East Coast track events. They run on time, they have an extremely low rate of incidents, and they pay attention to the details. It’s part of the organization’s policy to give each student an instructor who is familiar with the type of car driven by that student. This is easily done for Civic and Corvette drivers, but when a fellow signs up for his first-ever trackday and he’s driving a Panamera Turbo… where do you find a club racer with wheel time in one of those?


My relationship with Porsche and its eleven-second hyper-hatch has been a bit fractious, but I do have wheel time in the car and I understand what’s required to get one around a racetrack. Other than a tendency to fade their dinner-plate brakes after a few fast laps, Panos don’t present much challenge to a reasonably experienced driver.

Instructing in one, however, is a different issue. In a perfect world, all driving students would have new Civics with ABS, stability control, and two sparkplug wires pulled to ensure that they can’t go fast enough to keep the instructor from properly coaching/criticizing/texting/sleeping/enduring a particularly vicious hangover. The Panamera, by contrast, typically combines three separate sets of known instructor phobias:

  • The Car That Is So Big It Needs A Three-Point K-Turn To Negotiate Slow Corners
  • The Car That Is So Fast It Will Simply Teleport Its Occupants Into A Concrete Wall If The Student Hits The Accelerator At The Wrong Time, Even For, Like, Just One Second
  • The Car That Costs So Much Freakin’ Money That Each One Of Its Owners Is A Horribly Wealthy Person Who Is So Horribly Successful That They Are Horribly Disinclined To Take Orders From Some Random Dude Who Just Happens To Be Sitting Next To Them For Some Reason And Who Is Keeping Them From Setting The All-Time Racetrack Record For Going Fast And Stuff Which Is Why They Paid All This Money For The Car In The First Place And Hey I’m Gonna Just Hit The Gas And Teleport This Nagging Idiot Into A Concrete Wall Along With My Horribly Successful Self

I always ask new students what they do for a living, so I know what to expect on-track. Reassuring answers include: engineer, programmer, university professor. Mr. Panamera Turbo was a professor, so I knew he’d understand the learning process and have some concept of the idea that it takes time and effort to master a skill. Answers which slightly concern me: salesman, executive, small businessman, attorney. Those guys aren’t always used to taking direction, and they are habituated to learning things without external interference. The most terrifying answer, of course, and the one that causes instructors to vacate the premises under false pretenses ranging from stomach distress to deaths in the family, is “doctor”.

Physicians have been killing instructors of all kinds since long before Beechcraft invented the Bonanza in what many presumed was an attempt to even the score. We’re talking about a profession where simply admitting doubt often gets you hauled into court on a malpractice suit. It’s the only profession that becomes part of your name. Not even pimps get that kind of juice. The most terrifying kind of doctor, of course is any doctor who also gets to call himself a “surgeon”. Being a “surgeon”, I’m given to understand, is like being the doctor of doctors.

My Corvette-driving student is a surgeon, but he’s the exception that proves the rule. He is virtually egoless behind the wheel, quietly analytical, and very focused on going fast. He’s also pretty brave, as he proved at Summit Point this time last year when I had an engine failure on the “ski jump”. We worked on two issues: developing a single, smooth threshold braking motion on corner entry, and that old bugbear, unwinding the wheel.

If you don’t know why we have to concentrate on unwinding the wheel on corner exit, you can find the answer in a long-winded and self-indulgent column here. Short version: the car can’t accelerate properly when the steering wheel is cranked. Once we enter a corner, we need to immediately start looking to the straightest possible exit, and take that exit with a straight, or “open”, wheel. I referred to this as a “quality exit” during one session in the Corvette, and my perfectionist student immediately took this as a mantra. The quality exit. Let’s play Pirsig and capitalize the “q”. Quality Exit.

Quality Exit has a mortal enemy: Hasty Entry. If you go into the corner too fast, you can’t get out of it quickly. This was my ‘Vette student’s problem: he is brave, so he naturally takes a lot of speed into every turn. We then spend a lot of time burning and scrubbing that speed in the midcorner with excessive steering angle. After what seems like an eternity of dicking around while the tires squeal and the nose of the car points nowhere productive, we manage to rotate the Vette around in the correct direction. Once that happens, we are supposed to unwind the steering wheel and accelerate in one smooth motion. Then we can hustle. Until that happens, hitting the gas just sends us off the track faster.

In a Panamera, this is particularly true, so my novice student and I discussed the idea of the “steering wheel string”. Imagine a string tied on the steering wheel’s center spoke on one end and the driver’s right foot on the other. As the steering wheel is turned at the entry to a corner, that string pulls on the right foot and lifts it off the brake pedal. While we are cornering, we use light throttle. At corner exit, we press the accelerator down, which pulls on the steering wheel and unwinds it properly. Get it?

The TrackDAZE folks won’t let me actually tie strings to the students — something about insurance and fatalities — so we just use this as a concept to guide steering behavior. Mr. Panamera and I spent three sessions imagining a string. It started to click. I will say this for the big Porker five-door: that thing can exit a turn. Time and time again we were crowded in midcorner by an Evo, STi, or M3, only to have them just disappear in the mirrors as my student unwound his wheel and called all five hundred horsepower into action. Bye-bye. On Saturday, we were the slowest car in the session; on Sunday, my student executed a flawless, hundred-mile-per-hour pass on a Corvette Z06. His four-year-old son stood on the bridge across the back straight and watched Dad thunder past with an absolutely serious face. Later on, the boy told me “Daddy is going fast.” It occurred to me that these are the kinds of things sons remember.

Meanwhile, my Corvette student was methodically pursuing the Quality Exit. He was close, but I sensed that he wasn’t completely convinced of the superiority of losing midcorner speed in order to gain it down the next straight. “Let’s take a ride,” I told him, and we hopped into a 2013 Mustang GT on P Zero Nero all-season tires. I had two goals in mind. The first was allowing my student to coach me through the turns and thus gain some better understanding of what he he needed to do on corner exit. The second was less admirable. A fellow journalist had brought a new 991 Carrera S to the track, and I had passengered with him earlier in the day and recorded a pretty decent lap time on my hand-held stopwatch. I tossed that same stopwatch to my student and told him to click it every time we passed the white line. Maybe we’d take a Stuttgart scalp in this American pony. It was all in fun, of course: any time set with a passenger on an open trackday is slow and cautious by default. Still, it would give us an idea of how the two cars stacked up.

After a Saturday of showboating and drifting, the Mustang’s P Zeros were smoked and the brakes were soggy. I figured we’d get maybe two laps to set a time, with a cooldown lap in-between, before the car simply became too sloppy to make it happen.

My first corner of the first lap was miserable. The car plowed and plowed on its
decomposed all-seasons. “Patience,” I said to my student, and I worked the throttle to bring the tail around. The Mustang is strong enough to do this kind of ad-hoc rotation but doing so just makes the back tires useless for the rest of the lap. Now we had front and rear tires that were too hot. It was time to be truly disciplined. I entered the next four or five corners at what I felt to be about one mile per hour too slowly and used that slack to focus on my exits. The five-liter did its melodious work and the front tires came back to me slowly.

Over the Shenandoah “ski jump” the Mustang briefly went four-wheels-up into the air before landing at a minor angle. We corkscrewed down to the entry for the mini-Carousel, the back tires and brakes too hot for the ABS to properly control. Into the concrete and out with a thump, but I was focused on “Big Bend” ahead of us. I didn’t think we’d be able to take it flat. Many students and instructors early-apex the Bend when faced with that situation, but I took a bit of a risk and left-foot-braked the Mustang just slightly sideways at the entry. Back on the throttle. The white line approached. Beyond that, there was traffic. This would be our only chance to do this.

“Line!” I yelled, and I couldn’t see the stopwatch. “What did we get?” My lap felt a lot slower than the 991′s had earlier in the day. In the second or so before my student called out the time, I regretted each and every corner jointly and severally, as they say.

We were four-tenths of a second slower than the 991.

Boo hiss.

I took two cooldown laps and tried again, but that lap was two-tenths slower still. Time to call a halt to the fun and come in. I still had a six hour drive home to do. From her perch in the passenger seat, my infamous companion Vodka McBigbra said, “I can see why you do these trips. The weather’s nice and everybody is very nice, too.” Of course, she’s wrong. None of us, from the cautious professor in the $150,000 sedan to the meticulous surgeon unwinding his steering with million-dollar hands, is here for the weather. What did Eliot say?

My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms


]]> 25
Inside The Only-In-China Stretch Porsche Panamera (Protective Eyewear Advised) Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:47:13 +0000 Two weeks ago, Bertel stole from me we brought you the very first pictures of the China-only RUF XL, a Porsche Panamera stretched by 40 centimeters exclusively for the limousine-orientated Chinese car market. The story has since been all over the internet.

Today, I present you the first pictures of the interior. This Porsche sure looks like a comfortable place to smoke a cigar, play with your second and/or third wife and to tell the driver to take it easy, or to go like stink.

Clearly a high-quality conversion. RUF for sure ain’t no in-the-shed operation. Still, I am a bit disappointed by the lack of TV-screens. This needs to be improved.

A huge center console runs all the way to the back. It just misses the gimmicks. Wine-cooler? I don’t see any. Advanced controls for the stereo? Nope. Spittoon? Neither. Without these extras, it is only a stretched Panamera and not much more.


Dutchman Tycho de Feyter runs, a blog about cars in China, from Beijing, China. He also collects die-cast models of Chinese cars.

Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy Stretched Ruf Panamera Interior. Picture courtesy


]]> 9
Introducing The All New Porsche Paaaaaaaanamera (Chinese Spec) Fri, 13 Jan 2012 16:23:23 +0000

German tuner Ruf is coming to China. He did what everybody should do who is setting up shop in another land: Do thorough market research. When he asked what Chinese like, the answer was: “Long!” With that in mind, Ruf made what the Chinese market (possibly) wants: A stretched Porsche Panamera.

This thing is a full 40 centimeters (that’s a little less than a foot and a half for the metrically challenged) longer than stock. I would have called in “Max Legroom” and would have created a cartoon character. Instead, Ruf opted for “XL”.

In China, the car may have to contend with a factory-stretched Panamera. The Dutch version of Autoblog says that Porsche will combat penis envy cramped rear compartments with a Panamera that gained a mere 12 cm in length. The accompanying picture shows the subtle shapes of a dildo.

Tip o’the coolie hat to Tycho at Carnewschina, who keeps an eye on these developments. He has more pictures.

]]> 15
Review: Porsche Panamera (4 vs 4S) Mon, 16 May 2011 20:10:07 +0000

The Porsche Panamera: should it exist? Eight years after the introduction of the Cayenne SUV, many enthusiasts remain steadfast in their conviction that Porsche should stick to sports cars with aft-mounted powerplants. While a two-ton four-door is certainly a lesser evil, has Porsche managed to offer one for which there is no available substitute? A $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V performs extremely well, in both objective and subjective terms. Why, then, spend tens of thousands more for a Panamera?

With a disproportionately long midsection and a humped up rear roofline, the Panamera makes a poor first impression. No doubt the designers faced a tough challenge, to take hard points driven by engineering criteria and make the car instantly recognizable as a Porsche. Still, it’s hard to believe that some subtle tweaks wouldn’t vastly improve the design. The Boxster and especially the Cayenne were oddly shaped in their initial iterations, then improved when redesigned. Will the same be the case with the Panamera? As is, the car’s exterior styling isn’t going to compensate for any other weaknesses. Rather, the rest of the car must be even better to compensate for the styling. One success: the Panamera is instantly recognizable as a Porsche.

The Panamera’s interior is more successful, though here again form is driven by function. There are no artfully exaggerated curves. The instrument panel and center console form a simple, subtly tapered T. For the secondary controls Porsche opted to take the road less traveled, and employ a vast array of oversized buttons and switches rather than burying all but the most basic functions in an on-screen menu. Placing these buttons on the center console makes them easy to hit on the fly. Want to adjust the settings for the transmission or the suspension? They’re right there at your fingertips, no need to even lift your elbow off the armrest. Aggressively raking the high center console to provide a large amount of easily viewable and reachable real estate just happens to look suitably sporty in addition to working well. Some hard plastic is evident, most notably on the steering wheel spokes. But everything looks and feels solid. The instrument and door panels are soft to the touch in the standard car and can be covered in stitched leather. Porsche has come a long way since the interiors of the late 1990s 986 Boxster and 996 911. The glossy, light-colored wood in the tested 4S doesn’t suit the character of the car, but there are many other interior trim options.

As soon as you drop into the driver’s seat it’s evident that the Panamera is much different than the CTS and just about every other four-door luxury car. The aforementioned center console is just the start. In sharp contrast to current trends, the instrument panel isn’t much higher than the center console. A Honda Civic might need a huge, visually imposing, two-tiered instrument panel to convey information to the driver, but a Porsche does not. So while the seating position is low, forward visibility is very good. The low, straight lines of the instrument panel and unusually slender front seatbacks only further emphasize the unexpected width of the cabin. The seats are far from cushy, but provide support in the right places, with modestly sized bolsters that nevertheless get the job done. The Cadillac (and every other conventionally packaged four door) feels tall and narrow in comparison. The difference in height between the two cars is actually only three inches, but feels like at least six.

There’s a good reason you sit high in just about every current four-door car: this enables more legroom within a given wheelbase. Yet despite a low seating position and a wheelbase only 1.6 inches longer than that of the CTS, the Panamera’s rear seat is roomy and comfortable. Some credit is due the fairly long wheelbase and humped up rear roofline that make the exterior appear so odd, but these only contribute an inch or two to the equation. Mathematically, the Porsche’s rear seat room just doesn’t seem possible, since more has been taken out of the car’s height than has been added back by these tweaks. Very intelligent interior packaging and seat design deserve much of the credit. Thanks to the slender front seatbacks and expansive windows the view out from the rear seat is much more open than in the average luxury sedan. What you can’t get: a three-person bench. Since only rear buckets separated by a flow-through console are offered, it’s not clear why the Panamera is so wide. For handling?

The emphasis on function continues with the cargo area: entering a field dominated by sedans, the Panamera is a hatchback with split folding rear seatback. You’ll find as much cargo volume in the typical compact hatch, but the Porsche’s versatility is nevertheless a welcome break from the norm.

The Panamera is currently offered with three engines: a 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, a 400-horsepower 4.8-liter V8, and a 500-horsepower turbocharged 4.8-liter V8, with a 550-horsepower variant of the last on the way. In terms of power, the Turbo is the closest match for the 556-horsepower CTS-V, so the salesman asked if that’s the one I wanted to drive. This being Michigan, all of the available cars were all-wheel-drive, which is mandatory with the Turbo but optional with the lesser engines. But since the Turbo starts at $136,250 and ends up over twice the price of the CTS-V once typically optioned, I demurred. One of the non-turbocharged cars would be better. By which I meant the V8-powered S. Approaching the car, I noticed that it was actually the Base model, with the V6. I started to walk back in to request the keys to an S when my curiosity got the best of me. Could a V6 actually be a suitable powerplant for a two-ton $90,000 Porsche? So I drove both it and a nearly $120,000 S.

Though the same displacement as the undersquare, narrow-V Volkswagen engine that continues to power the base Cayenne SUV, the Panamera’s V6 is a new direct-injected, oversquare, 90-degree-V unit. It’s essentially Porsche’s V8 less a pair. With its wide V, shorter stroke, and dry sump lubrication system (i.e. no deep oil pan), the new engine should sit much lower than the VW engine would have, enabling both a lower hood and a lower center of gravity.
The base Panamera is quick judging from the rate at which the speedometer needle rotates, and Porsche’s first V6 sounds pleasantry energetic while going about its business, but the engine’s basic competency doesn’t stir the soul. The V6 might be too refined for its own good. The torque curve is so smooth and linear, there’s no point at which it comes alive and then surges to its redline. Which, given the oversquare cylinders, should be much higher than 6,500. Similarly, output should be much closer to 100 horsepower per liter—is Porsche sandbagging to leave room for future upgrades? Currently there’s also not enough torque to throw you back in your seat or to rotate the all-wheel-drive chassis; the rear-wheel-drive car could be more entertaining.

After driving the V6 I was about ready to ascribe the lack of visceral thrills to the car as a whole—but then I drove the V8-powered Panamera 4S. The subjective difference is night and day, even if the objective difference from rest to sixty is only about a second (4.8 vs. 5.8, according to Porsche). It only winds a couple hundred rpm higher, and does no better in power per liter, but the V8 sounds and feels far more energetic than the V6. And this is before tapping the button to open up the $2,950 “sport exhaust,” which releases a bunch more burble. Even hobbled with all-wheel-drive the larger engine rotates the rear end at will, shoves the seat into your back, and encourages bad behavior in ways the V6 doesn’t begin to. Would the Turbo make me feel the same about the normally-aspirated V8? I doubt it. Though down 156 horsepower, the regular V8 can go toe-to-toe with the CTS-V in the visceral thrills department. The Turbo is no doubt quicker still, but the difference is likely a matter of degree rather than of kind.

It helps that the Panamera is substantially lighter than the CTS-V wagon. Even in all-wheel-drive 4S form the large hatch weighs 4,101 pounds, compared to the Cadillac’s 4,398. Clearly some of the extra money spent on the Porsche goes towards some premium, lightweight materials.

In a sign of the times, a third pedal is not available. All of the Panamera’s engines pair with a “PDK” seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual. In casual driving this transmission behaves enough like a conventional automatic, with smooth shifts, that some owners will never realize that it isn’t one. The PDK’s most notable flaw: even in normal mode it sometimes holds a low gear far longer than it has to. This flaw is more than outweighed by the transmissions many strengths. Because, like a conventional manual, the PDK provides a direct mechanical connection between the engine and the wheels, responses to the throttle are stronger and more immediate than with a conventional, torque-converter-equipped automatic. Full-throttle shifts are nearly instantaneous, so minimal momentum and microseconds are lost in the process. Manual shifts can be summoned via buttons on the steering wheel. But this is rarely necessary. Instead, hit the “sport” or “sport plus” button on the console, depending on how aggressive you want the transmission’s gear selections to be. A third pedal might add some needed driver involvement with the V6. But with the V8 one wasn’t much missed.

Even the base Panamera is fitted with huge brakes, 14.2” discs clamped by six-piston calipers up front and 13.0” discs clamped by four-piston calipers in the rear. So strong, fade-free braking is a given. Less common: these strong brakes aren’t touchy in casual driving, provide clear feedback, and are very easy to modulate. Speed can be scrubbed as quickly and precisely as it can be gained.

More than anything else, I was curious about how the Panamera would steer and handle. The steering is light, but immediate, quick, and precise. Though not exactly chatty, there’s good feedback and the long, wide hatch can be intuitively placed exactly where you want it. The harder the Panamera is driven, the smaller and lighter it feels, though the nagging feeling that the car is a couple inches longer and wider than it needs to be never quite goes away. Something just seems wrong about driving a car with a full-sized back seat like a sports car. Yet I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. Balance and poise are superb. Hammer the car through a bumpy curve and it easily maintains it composure, varying not a touch from the chosen line. Even with all-wheel-driven the chassis feels dynamic—especially with the V8 to kick the tail out a notch. The adjustable shocks standard with the V8 and available for $1,990 on the V6 can be employed to further reduce roll and tighten up the chassis, though the difference isn’t large. Want even livelier handling and even flatter cornering? A system that pairs active stabilizer bars with a torque vectoring rear differential is available, but will set you back $5,000 plus another $1,990 for the required air suspension.

Given this handling, it should come as no surprise that the Panamera rides less smoothly than the CTS-V, much less the average luxury sedan. The ride is far from harsh, but it is very firm. Even small bumps and divots can be felt—and heard. The tires clomp loudly across all but the smoothest surfaces. The optional air suspension might help here, but probably cannot perform miracles. A reason not to buy the Panamera? Not for anyone who cares at all about driving. But those who are seeking luxury first and foremost will be happier elsewhere.

The Panamera being a Porsche, it will cost you dearly, especially if you’re not careful with the extensive options list. All-wheel-drive adds $4,000, about double what others charge. Want this or that bit of the interior covered in leather? Larger wheels? Or a special color? They’ll do that—as long as you’re willing to pay. Painted air vent slats? A mere $2,330. Checking all of the boxes will more than double the base price. The tested Panamera 4 was lightly optioned, and still listed for $90,360, well above the $79,925 base price. The moderately optioned 4S, with a base price of $95,725, listed for $119,525. Dimensionally, the new Audi A7 sport hatch is very close to the Panamera, but costs over $20,000 less. The Audi is initially offered only with a 310-horsepower supercharged V6, though, so it competes only with the Panamera V6. Compare the Panamera 4S to a BMW 550 xDrive using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the feature-adjusted premium for the Porsche approaches $30,000. To be fair, a Maserati Quattroporte is about $30,000 in the other direction, while not steering and handling nearly as well. And an Aston Martin Rapide, with its sharper styling but less usable back seat? If you have to ask…

Ultimately, semi-exotic price notwithstanding, the Panamera can be justified. Porsche didn’t simply copy what others have been doing then attach its marque to the result. Instead, its engineers thoroughly reworked the envelope to make a large four-door car feel as much like a sports car as possible—while still providing above-average levels of comfort and versatility. People have often claimed that BMW’s sedans and those that have tried to beat them at their own game (e.g. the CTS) drive like sports cars. They don’t. Even if a sedan achieves the same test track results as a sports car, if it has the driving position, center of gravity, and suspension geometry of a sedan it will feel like a sedan.

In sharp contrast, the Panamera sits like a sports car and drives like a sports car, albeit a very large one. The V6, though it posts respectable test track times and is far from the embarrassment it could have been, comes up a little short in visceral thrills, at least in its initial iteration. The specs for both the V6 and V8 suggest plenty of headroom for easy upgrades, but higher-winding, more powerful engines are only future possibilities. Though Porsche charges $12,690 for its additional pair of pistons, the V8-powered Panamera S is currently the way to go. Perhaps if someone else had combined sports car dynamics and an adult-friendly back seat in the same car, Porsche would not have had to. Until someone else does, there is no substitute.

Scott Vollink of Suburban Porsche in Farmington Hills, MI, provided the cars. He can be reached at 248-741-7980.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

Panamera 4 rear quarter Panamera 4 engine The Porsche of no return? Panamera 4S front quarter Panamera 4 instrument panel Panamera 4S front Panamera 4 front Panamera 4S instrument panel Panamera 4S rear Panamera 4S rear seat Panamera 4S side Panamera 4 side Panamera 4 rear seats Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Panamera 4S rear quarter Panamera 4S instrument panel 2 Panamera 4 view forward Panamera 4 rear Panamera 4 front seats Panamera 4 front quarter Panamera-4-rear-quarter-thumb Panamera 4 cargo area Panamera 4S engine The Porsche of no return? Panamera 4 instrument panel angle

]]> 89
VW’s Stillborn Big Wide Car: The AmiWagen Fri, 10 Sep 2010 18:42:01 +0000

VW’s current strategy to design larger cars specifically for the US market isn’t the first time around. In the early sixties, VW gave serious thought to a six-seater rear-engine sedan to take on the Americans on their own (big) terms. Obviously inspired by the 1960 Corvair, which made a huge impression in Europe, but taken even further: the EA 128 was a fair chunk bigger and wider than the Corvair, right into mid-size territory. And with bench seats to seat six big Amerikaner. Even a wagon version (Kountry Knecht?). But where to get the underpinnings and six-cylinder engine for the AmiWagen? Where else:

Porsche, of course; that well-spring of VW prototypes and engineering for decades. And how convenient: the timing in 1962 was handy for Porsche, since their own new six-cylinder 901 (911) was just in gestation. The result: a (US) mid-sized sedan version of the 911, from the suspension right up to the steering wheel. And of course the 911 engine, which looks almost lost in that big rear end (pic here). Large copyrighted exterior pics here and here.

Stretching 4.7 meters (185 inches), the EA128 was a half-foot longer than the Corvair, and from the looks of it, substantially wider. The front seat was clearly designed for three-across seating, with a 40/60 split bench. (excellent pic here).

The 911 engine was detuned to 90 hp, which was respectable for European standards of the time, but the 911′s torque curve would have been anything but familiar with the typical American driver. Never mind the cost to build it, which presumably was at least one of the EA 128′s downfall. The Corvair’s own downward trajectory probably didn’t help. And even if VW could rationalize its production, it would have still come out way more expensive than a Fairlane. But VW had it all wrong: this should have been sold as a Porsche, with a zippy new name, say…Panamera.

[see related VW 411/412 CC here]

]]> 34
A Bargain At $74,400, But Watch Out For Camrys At Stoplights Wed, 09 Jun 2010 02:40:51 +0000

In my off-site review of the Porsche Panamera Turbo, I wrote

After years of reminding auto enthusiasts that pure power and performance numbers don’t make for a perfect car, Porsche has gone ahead and proved the point themselves.

So. Take a sedan which is primarily notable for its racetrack performance… and remove that performance. What do you have? You have the Porsche Panamera V6.

Here’s the scoop on the engine:

The new Panamera models feature an all-new, Porsche-designed 3.6-liter, 90-degree V6 engine with Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) that develops 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Built on the same line as the normally aspirated and twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 engines found in the Panamera S, 4S and Turbo, this new engine propels the Panamera and Panamera 4 from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 and 5.8 seconds, respectively (5.8 and 5.6 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package Plus option). Top test track speeds are 160 and 159 mph, respectively.

Porsche tends to be conservative with 0-60 numbers, but be aware that the special-advertising-section crew at Car and Driver managed to squeeze a 5.8-second romp out of a 2007 Camry XLE V-6. Be aware, as well, that a Panamera is a bit heavier than a Camry (3,880 lbs plays 3,483, according to the manufacturers) and doesn’t have much more power. Freeway racers will want to stick with the tried and true champ from Georgetown, KY.

There’s something odd, as well, about the idea of Porsche developing an “all-new” 3.6L engine that makes the same power as the 3.6L flat-six which debuted eleven years ago in the “996″-generation 911. It’s difficult not to consider this as the crown jewel in Porsche’s Museum Of Corporate Cynicism; a truck-derived car with a truck-derived engine, sold to henpecked men whose spouses would never dream of letting them own a Nine Eleven.

With that said, there’s actually a value-for-money side to this story. The BMW 740Li costs $74,550, weighs considerably more, doesn’t have much more power, and won’t corner as well. If you are buying your ticket at the Nordschleife gate and see a 740Li behind you, rest assured you’ll smoke that fool from Flugplatz to Pflanzgarten II. Unless you engage (and pay for) Launch Control, however, the race into Whole Foods against your neighbor’s Toyota might be a bit tougher to win.

]]> 62
Quote Of The Day: Say Anything Edition Wed, 17 Feb 2010 01:08:04 +0000

The best stories are those where you can barely wait to find out more. There are new heroes, new ideas and new sources of suspense… actually, all typically Porsche

So goes the opening to this video, introducing the new base-model V6 Panameras. Though some might argue that Volkswagen-sourced V6 engines are not in fact “typically Porsche” (an argument that carried more weight before the Cayenne came to town), a 300 horsepower engine in a 3,814 lb, four-door Porsche does technically qualify as a “source of suspense.” And attempting to charge $75k for a base Panamera V6 certainly requires a perspective that might be charitably described as “heroic.” On the other hand, it’s hard to get too down on this poor thing. You can’t blame a lazy dog for a veterinarian’s (or in this case, a CAFE standard’s) work. Besides, it’s still not as embarrassingly neutered as the Cayenne V6.

]]> 35