MUNICH, Germany – Porsche has completely redesigned the Panamera for 2017, the first major makeover for the German sports sedan since it was introduced in 2009. The changes are significant, and nothing but the badge has been left untouched. We got a chance to drive the 4S, and its higher-performance twin, the Turbo, at the press intro in Munich.
A streamlined silhouette
The second-generation Panamera has grown in every dimension, even if it’s just a bit in some respects. It is 3.4 cm longer, and a tiny bit wider and taller, while the wheelbase is 3 cm longer.
The biggest change visually is in the Panamera’s profile. The roofline is 20 mm lower at the rear, which gives it a more streamlined silhouette. While the current version looks rather ungainly from the rear, the redesigned rear end of the new car is shapelier, and much more Carrera-like in appearance. This new profile gives the Panamera a more compact appearance despite its larger size.
There is more aluminum in the body structure, and now the roof and the entire side body are made of the lightweight material. This is why this larger Panamera hasn’t gained any weight, but hovers between 1870 and 1995 kg depending on the model, about the same as the current generation.
Powerful, efficient powertrains
There are two new engines; a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 that produces 440 horsepower and 405 lb.-ft. of torque (20 hp and 22 lb.-ft. more than the current 4S) that can propel the 4S from zero to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds, and a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 that pumps out 550 hp (30 hp more than the current Turbo) and 568 lb.-ft. of torque, and can propel the Turbo from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.6 seconds. To reduce fuel consumption by up to 30 percent, the V8 uses cylinder deactivation technology to run on four cylinders at light loads during highway cruising, a first for Porsche.
Other markets will also get a 4-litre, turbo-diesel V8 that produces 422 hp and a house-pulling 627 lb.-ft. of peak torque, but there are no immediate plans to bring this engine to Canada.
An all-new, dual-clutch transmission (PDK) contains one more cog than before for a total of eight gears. The top two gears are fuel-consumption-reducing overdrive ratios. And, of course, the 4S and Turbo feature all-wheel drive as standard.
This sedan is serious about performance and handling—it is a Porsche after all— so it borrows a couple of go-fast features from the 918 Spyder and 911, like the steering-wheel-mounted drive mode switch (part of the Sport Chrono package), and optional rear-wheel steering and torque vectoring. You can dial between Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual drive modes on the fly without taking your hands off the wheel, while pushing the central Sport Response button automatically drops a couple of gears and sets the engine and shift maps to their most aggressive setting for 20 seconds, allowing you to rocket past slower traffic.
Luxuriously comfortable interior
There are elements of the interior that are immediately familiar, while others are entirely new. It is roomy and comfortable, with available 14- or 18-way adjustable front seats. The dashboard has a familiar layout, with a prominent, central analogue tachometer, but it is now flanked on each side by seven-inch configurable colour screens. Rollers in the steering wheel—one on the right, one on the left—control their respective screens to display different information.
There’s now a large 12.3-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard that features the latest generation Porsche Communication Management (PCM). It displays navigational and infotainment information, as well as the various driving settings.
The centre console has lost its control buttons, replaced by a smooth, touch-sensitive surface. This has really cleaned up the space between the front seats, but you now no longer have a tactile reference by feeling for buttons and must look down when you want to alter climate control settings among a few other functions.
There’s ample rear passenger room, and more than enough cargo capacity for extended road trips; fold the rear seatbacks down and you can stuff up to 1304 litres of luggage behind the front seats.
Pure driving pleasure
Suspension components have been upgraded, and the shocks in the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system now have three air chambers with 60 percent more air volume than before. The air chambers are activated and deactivated depending on the selected drive mode (more air for comfort, less for a sporty ride), or they can be adjusted manually via the centre console.
The suspension provides a plush, comfortable ride in Normal mode, while firming up considerably, to the point of being too firm if roads are bumpy, in Sport Plus mode. The benefit of the firm suspension is that when combined with the optional torque vectoring and rear-wheel steering like on the 4S and Turbo I sampled, handling is precise, with almost no body roll through fast, tight corners and long sweepers. Both cars I sampled were equipped with optional composite brakes, which were incredibly strong, but perhaps overkill for a daily driver.
The Turbo really impressed me, but not because it sinks you deep into the seat when you punch the throttle, nor for its thunderous, bad-boy V8 sound. It impressed because of how quiet and manageable it was in Normal mode, manoeuvring through town silently and comfortably. It wasn’t any plusher or quieter than the 4S, but the difference between Normal and Sport modes was greater. The car’s Jekyll and Hyde personality was really emphasised when you pressed the Sport Response button, the car going from a sheepish hum to a wolfish howl in an instant, as the transmission dropped several gears and the exhaust note livened up.
The 2017 Porsche Panamera won’t be competing with grocery-getting sedans from North America and Japan, but will rather be up against premium luxury sedans like the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes S-Class. This is reflected in its workmanship, but also in its price, which starts at $114,300 for the 4S and $167,700 for the Turbo. What differentiates it from its European competitors is its Porsche DNA, which leans more towards the sporting end of the luxury sedan spectrum. And now it looks the part, too. It arrives at dealers in early 2017.