For the fast family
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.