Drive the all-new 2010 Porsche Panamera, the first four-door passenger car in the brand’s 60-year history, and you may need to restrain yourself. Specifically, you might need to keep yourself from looking over your shoulder to be sure there really are two seats behind you.
The idea of a four-door Porsche car had been floated in years prior. Not until the company’s racing-in-their-blood engineers could be sure a four-door would earn the Porsche name, however, would they build one. Porsche was so confident it had achieved that goal that the planners reached into the company’s rich racing history for the name; “Panamera” is derived from the classic Carrera Panamericana road race held in Mexico in the early 1950s. Porsche scored several class wins in the race, which was considered the world’s most dangerous at the time. (Yes, the 911 Carrera gets its name from that race, too.)
The Panamera is not a racecar, but one test drive will convince you that it has Porsche racing DNA coursing through its structure. There is a choice of powerful V8 engines up front; the Panamera S and 4S models are powered by a 400-hp V8, the Panamera Turbo by a twin-turbocharged version with 500 hp. Both use advanced direct fuel injection. The Panamera S drives the rear wheels while the 4S and Turbo models are all-wheel drive for maximum traction.
All Panamera models come exclusively with the new seven-speed PDK double-clutch transmission that offers automatic and manual modes. Porsche first used this type of transmission in racecars. There’s no clutch pedal – a computer and sophisticated hydraulics take care of that. The PDK yields ultra-fast gearshifts without any interruption of engine power. As a result, the Panamera S can accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.2 seconds; the Turbo will do it in four flat. The PDK also boosts fuel economy compared to conventional manual or automatic transmissions.
Along with scorching acceleration comes the tenacious grip Porsche drivers expect. Using lightweight materials, including aluminum and magnesium, combined with a low center of gravity, makes the Panamera inherently more responsive than conventional luxury sedans.
To this fundamentally sporty platform, Porsche builds in an array of advanced dynamic handling technologies including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC). Nobody turns high-tech-sounding abbreviations like those into astonishing handling capability like Porsche does. Adaptive air suspension – standard on the Turbo and optional for the others – offers a two-step adjustment in the air spring rate, allowing you to choose your preferred level of “Sport Plus.”
All Panamera models have a “Sport” button on the console. Pushing it alters the throttle response, the PASM suspension characteristics and the PDK shifting performance. Think of it as the “more fun” button.
If there is a “maximum fun” button, it’s the Launch Control button that’s part of the optional Sport Chrono Package Plus. Launch Control allows you to execute perfect, full-throttle launches with the best traction possible.
In the Panamera Turbo, the Sport Chrono Package Plus takes “maximum fun” to an even higher level. It includes an “overboost” function that temporarily boosts peak torque from an astounding 516 lb/ft to a “Wow, hold on!” 568 lb/ft from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. It’s like an afterburner kicking in.
The Panamera has a tighter exterior package than traditional luxury sedans, yet it still offers full-fledged four-seat comfort. Rear-seat headroom and legroom are generous. And the Panamera offers something you don’t expect in a luxury sedan: fold the rear seats down and access 44.6 cubic feet of cargo space through the rear hatch.
If you plan to carry any “backseat drivers,” keep them happy by ordering the available rear-seat DVD entertainment system, featuring two seven-inch LCD screens located on the back of the front seat backrests. Be good to yourself, too. Test out the incredible Burmester® High-End Surround-Sound System. This option could put concert halls to shame with a total power output of more than 1,000 watts driving 16 speakers including a 300-watt active subwoofer.
The MSRP for the Panamera S is $89,800 while the Panamera 4S and Panamera Turbo are $93,800 and $132,600, respectively.
Test-drive a 2010 Porsche Panamera soon. But remember, don’t strain your neck turning around – there really are two adult-size seats back there.