- Published: Tuesday, 10 December 2013 00:00
SINGAPORE - The Panamera was the next logical step for Porsche.
After the manic success of the Cayenne SUV, Porsche had the means and the reasons to expand into places it'd never ventured before.
A luxury limousine launched in 2010, the Panamera didn't gain accolades for its huge rump - a direct effect of the demands for internal space from a high-ranking Porsche executive, apparently - but did everything else pretty damn well. It even looked like a 'proper' Porsche if you had the right angle on the front.
The scenery's changed from when the Panamera first launched - the competition is much more numerous and close, for one thing: the Audi A7 Sportback, BMW's 6 Series Gran Coupe, Maserati Quattroporte, the Mercedes-Benz CLS can all claim to vie for a piece of the straddled segment luxury-limo/four-door coupe pie. Strictly speaking, the Panamera is in the luxury limo segment (A8, 7 Series, S-Class) but its sporty GT-infused nature and the entry level V6 mean cars a segment down are also competitors.
It's a good thing the Panamera has been comprehensively bettered this time round, then.
As typical for a mid-life facelift, the lights and front fascia have been tidied up, as have the rear lights, although you'll have to look closely to really tell the difference. The span of three years has, like so many initially 'strange' designs, actually helped the Panamera gain acceptance - now you look at that rear end and it's not such a big deal, much like a Bangle-butt 7 Series.
But the main game with the facelifted Panamera S (and 4S) is the fact that it's got a new engine - a 2,997cc twin-turbo V6 engine. According to Porsche, the engine is derived from the previous 4.8-litre V8 by taking two cylinders off and reducing stroke. Like all modern turbos, it's packed full of tech, including a new direct-injection system and in a first for Porsche's V-layout engines, has variable control on the exhaust valves.
Looking at the comparison chart (below) you can see that the V6 comprehensively betters the old V8 in all aspects. From the driver's seat, the impression you get is one of more quiet. Although noise is ported into the cabin via a diaphragm, and engaging Sports mode opens a flap for more racket, the turbo V6 simply isn't as loud or involving as the naturally-aspirated V8.
What it does give the car is an even greater sense of almost-tidy quickness. The turbos spool up momentarily, there's a distant near-howl of the V6 and you're where you wanted to go. 420bhp and 520Nm of torque are impressive figures, but the 1.8-tonne mass of the Panamera make it more smoothly rapid than sickeningly rabid in acceleration terms. The dual-clutch PDK gearbox is a competent complement to the new engine too, as ever, fast, smooth and never caught out by hills, thrills or a hesitant right foot.
But the main draw of the Panamera is still its sublime chassis. Porsche's 'everything more optional than everyone else' approach means you'll bear the cost of everything from rear-wipers ($1,405) to adaptive air suspension ($7,492), but avid drivers will find chassis upgrades worth the dosh.
Our test car came with the standard adaptive suspension (PASM, Porsche Active Suspension Management, electronically-controlled dampers) and felt right at home on all road conditions. There's not a huge difference between each mode, although the car's so well set-up to begin with that you can bung it in any of the three and it'll feel great (Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus). It's probably one of the best driving cars in its class at the moment.
With its new heart and even longer legs, the Panamera S would be superb for anything from city-slicking to long-distance drives up north, but there are some drawbacks: The fastback shape makes for plenty of space in the boot 445-litres, expandable to 1,263-litres, although the car still is a dedicated four-seater. Also, being a Porsche, it is rather costly, at $501,188 without a COE. But in a sense, that's the whole idea of buying into the brand. That the Panamera is one of the best driving cars in its class doesn't hurt a bit.
Porsche Panamera S PDK
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,997cc, 24V, twin-turbo
Power 420bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 520Nm at 1750-5000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 287km/h
0-100km/h 5.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.7L/100km
Price $501,188 without COE
Also Consider: Audi A7 Sportback, BMW's 6 Series Gran Coupe, Maserati Quattroporte, the Mercedes-Benz CLS
Better By Bi-Turbo
How the new V6 engine comprehensively betters the old V8
V8: 4,806cc, 32V, NA, 400bhp, 500Nm from 3,500rpm, 0-100km/h in 5.4seconds, 10.5L/100km, 247g/km
V6: 2,997cc, 24V, biturbo, 420bhp, 520Nm from 1,750rpm, 0-100km/h in 5.1seconds, 8.7L/100km, 204g/km
Photos by Derryn Wong