Tech, style, and a V8 punch: we drive the Porsche Panamera Turbo
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Porsche's grand tourer Panamera is an advancement in style and technology
When the Panamera gran turismo was launched in 2009, it struggled from an identity crisis: it didn't really look like a sexy sports car, and instead was the frumpy member of the Porsche family.
The original Panamera may have been a product of comfort when it came to long road trips but its shape, especially the rear, was clumsy.
However, the 2017 Panamera is now the brains and beauty of the Porsche family with not only leading technology, but at last it is comfortable with its rounded looks.
It's 35mm longer (at 5049mm), 5mm wider (1937mm) and 5mm taller (1427mm) than the first-generation Panamera, with a 30mm longer wheelbase. The roof line is 20mm lower at the rear, though there is plenty of headroom for passengers.
This all-new car is the first to use VW Group's innovative MSB chassis and weighs 2070kg, an increase over generation one's 1860kg. The result isn't a bulked-up looking Porsche 911 or a shrunk Cayenne SUV; instead generation two is dynamically striking inside and out.
There's the sloping bonnet to the tapered rear and its revolutionary spoiler that opens into three panels and then folds into one long unit that's wider than the boot. This helps to push extra downforce over the Panamera's rear arches.
You can activate it either when you drive at more than 100km/h or with a hit of a button (as we've done in the pictures above and below).
Well, it's not really a button, because the new Panamera is showcasing the future interiors of Porsche vehicles, and the future looks very bright for this luxury brand.
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In the cockpit, touch-sensitive surfaces replace the previous generation's array of buttons while a centrally mounted tachometer is a nod to the 1955 Porsche 356 A.
Below the tachometer is a 12.3in black touchscreen with Apple CarPlay capabilities. Below it, and also festooned in black, are touch-sensitive icons for sport, suspension and stability control that "click" when activated to resemble a button.
The new Panamera has the look and feel of a four-seater limousine because in the rear, between passengers, is a black touchscreen control centre that activates air conditioning and stereo controls.
The two rear sports seats are wide enough to cope with long trips, with plenty of head and legroom.
The boot has a 495 litre storage capacity and rear seat splits 40/20/40 to give 1304 litres of space.
Driven had first-drive of the Panamera Turbo, which is priced from $346,300, but our model cost $378,490 as it was specced up to include 21in 911 turbo design wheels, rear sunblinds, front sports seats, sport chrono (to enhance driving modes), and the delightful sports exhaust system that amplifies the noise from the rear.
Under the bonnet is an enhanced 4-litre, V8 petrol turbo engine that delivers 404kW of power at 5750-6000rpm and a maximum torque of 700Nm between 1960 and 4500rpm.
The gran turismo had the new eight-speed Porsche dual-clutch transmission system plus the new active all-wheel-drive system that keeps the Panamera tempered but still keeps the driving experience at the fore.
This was demonstrated when I took the Panamera on my usual drive route via motorways and winding, quiet country roads. On one patch of that quiet back road I've managed to get "air" when cresting a hump in the road (at just over 100km/h) in a Bentley Continental GT. The same patch, at the same speed -- and the Panamera didn't flinch as its suspension and AWD system mounted the hump with all wheels remaining on the tarmac, and no squeals... from the driver.
This proved the Panamera isn't just a GT sports vehicle but, like the first model, can handle long and arduous road trips without a glitch.
To enhance the reaction of the engine, I engaged the sport chrono package (from the Porsche 918 Spyder), which has four driving modes: normal, sport, sport plus or individual.
I first tried sport mode on the motorway with it engaging within milliseconds and the engine response immediate. Next I moved into individual for the winding part of my route with sport steering and comfort suspension setting. It gave me a sporting edge to the drive but also delivered a dynamic yet effortless engaged sporting driving.
The tight cornering on damp south-facing tracks was poised thanks to the AWD system, and the performance from the V8 engine was tremendous, but this is also a sedate GT, with oversteer and understeer under control.
And though it has that thumping V8 engine, because of soundproofing in the cabin only pedestrians are likely to hear its soundtrack, especially when you tap the sports exhaust system.
Sure, you don't want the exhaust system dominating the cabin and preventing conversation, but even with my driver window down I struggled to hear the thump-thump.
But if the all-new Porsche Panamera is an indication of the future look of the brand inside and out, then fans, please form an orderly queue as you check out the gran turismo.
PORSCHE PANAMERA TURBO
Price: From $346,300
4-litre, V8 turbo petrol engine (404kW/700Nm)
Pros: Technology advancement inside and out
Cons: Can't hear the exhaust