For the fast fam­ily

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

The an­swer to the prac­ti­cal­ity ques­tion is to be found be­hind the driver’s seat. The big­gest sur­prise is how well the in­te­rior space has been used. The two rear seats are mir­rors of the front seats — ad­justable, comfortable and set low enough that there is am­ple head­room for a taller than av­er­age adult.

As pro­gram di­rec­tor Michael Stein­ers says: ‘‘There are no sec­ond class seats in the Panam­era. Every­one goes first class.’’

The car is im­pres­sively quiet and there is no need to raise the level of con­ver­sa­tion above nor­mal even when the Panam­era is slip­ping along the au­to­bahn at 200km/h-plus.

There is gen­er­ous boot space for a cou­ple of mid-sized suit­cases and some soft lug­gage. With the rear seats folded, a cou­ple of golf bags will not be a prob­lem.

The over­all im­pres­sion is not Bent­ley-like plush­ness but up­mar­ket racer. The sav­ing grace may be that own­ers of this car are likely to be driv­ing rather than rid­ing in the back — and your mate is not go­ing to com­plain too loudly if you are driv­ing them around town.

The cock­pit feel is very much that of the 911. There is the tra­di­tional five-dial dash dis­play, ev­ery­thing is eas­ily to hand and — as Klaus Berning ad­mits— many lessons were taken from the Cayenne ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘Let’s call that a first at­tempt and maybe we went too much to an SUV,’’ Berning says. ‘‘That is why we have in­vested so much time and money into the Panam­era in­te­rior.’’

Porsche has elected not to fol­low the path of a cen­tralised com­mand unit for ad­just­ments to the en­ter­tain­ment, car set­tings and nav­i­ga­tion. In­stead a string of but­tons sur­round the gear­lever grouped ac­cord­ing to func­tion, be that com­fort, en­ter­tain­ment or ad­just­ments to the car’s air adap­tive sus­pen­sion, sports per­for­mance en­gine and dam­per map­ping.

It doesn’t take long af­ter turn­ing the ig­ni­tion key to an­swer the sec­ond ques­tion. The Panam­era is a Porsche wor­thy of the badge.

At just a tick un­der two tonnes and al­most 5m long there is no dis­guis­ing that it is a big car.

The first glance out over the bon­net con­firms that. Judg­ing where the cor­ners are makes for a test­ing first few min­utes — but set­tle in, tickle the Panam­era out on to the road and it is all good news.

With a near-per­fect 52:48 weight bal­ance and steer­ing feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a 911, the Panam­era will earn friends as a driver’s car. In the two nat­u­rally as­pi­rated mod­els the pick-up is good . . . in the Turbo it is breath­tak­ing.

One ir­ri­ta­tion is the size of the B-pil­lars, which, cou­pled with the small rear win­dow, make the ha­bit­ual blind-spot check when lanechang­ing or merg­ing more dif­fi­cult than it should be.

That said, the bot­tom line is the Panam­era seems to have suc­ceeded where many have failed. Here is a gen­uine Gran Turismo that can bring a smile to those in the front and in the rear.

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