Men's Style (Australia) - - Contents -

Jez Spinks drives the sporty Porsche Panam­era and the less sporty Volvo V90

Porsche was among the su­per­car brands plas­ter­ing ‘ turbo’ de­cals across the flanks of its cars in the 1980s – a lit­eral ap­proach to point­ing out the speed at the owner’s dis­posal.

Such con­spic­u­ous stick­ers would fit into today’s en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious era about as well as Span­dex pants or a perm.

They would also be a con­tra­dic­tion for the rel­a­tively sen­si­ble Porsche Panam­era Turbo which, while it may have oo­dles of power, also fea­tures four doors, an en­gine po­si­tioned ahead of the driver rather than slung be­hind the rear axle, and aims to lure high-end ex­ec­u­tives away from high-per­for­mance li­mousines.

The orig­i­nal Panam­era re­leased in 2009 also al­lowed the brand’s more re­li­gious fol­low­ers – des­per­ate for a more prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to the 911 – to avoid the sin of the Cayenne SUV, though the sedan’s awk­ward, un­gainly styling made it sim­i­larly con­tro­ver­sial.

Porsche’s de­sign­ers clearly learned their les­son, as the new-gen­er­a­tion model is a sleeker, more co­he­sive shape that also clev­erly dis­guises an in­crease to what were al­ready sub­stan­tial di­men­sions.

The near-two-me­tre rear end has an es­pe­cially dra­matic, squat pro­file – and bears the rel­a­tively dis­creet ‘turbo’ badge. Porsche’s Turbo mod­els are no longer ex­clu­sively tur­bocharged in the man­u­fac­turer’s show­room, of course, yet the five let­ters still rep­re­sent mighty per­for­mance.

With a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 dis­pens­ing 404kw and 770Nm to all four wheels, the Panam­era Turbo ac­cel­er­ates to 100km/h in 3.6 sec­onds with the op­tional Sports Chrono pack’s launch con­trol sys­tem. When you’re al­ready on the move, over­takes re­quire lit­tle judge­ment when the Turbo can progress from 80 to 120km/h in 2.4 sec­onds. For ac­cel­er­a­tion, that puts the Porsche at the pointy end of con­ven­tion­ally pow­ered four-door cars (there’s an even faster petrol-elec­tric hy­brid Panam­era flag­ship).

The seam­less power de­liv­ery also makes it es­sen­tial to keep an eye on the speedo as the rel­a­tively un­event­ful thrust can dis­guise the fe­roc­ity of your mo­men­tum. There’s no wait­wait-ex­plode ex­pe­ri­ence here like Porsche’s orig­i­nal Turbo model, the laggy yet leg­endary 911 vari­ant of 1975.

No Porsche is a straight-line hero, of course, and the Panam­era carves along wind­ing roads like a gi­ant-slalom skier on his edges. Or per­haps that should be the skier that’s the gi­ant, as the Panam­era mea­sures more than five me­tres long and nearly two me­tres wide, and weighs close to two tonnes.

It turns more ea­gerly into cor­ners than you might ex­pect with a size­able en­gine over its nose, though even agility is a rel­a­tive term among Porsches. The Panam­era prefers hairy pace on flow­ing roads rather than hair­pin ter­ri­tory. There’s also less feed­back from the steer­ing rim than you’d re­ceive from ei­ther a 911 or Cay­man.

The Panam­era carves along wind­ing roads like a gi­antslalom skier on his edges.

Sport and Sport Plus modes – now via a dial on the steer­ing wheel rather than a tog­gle on the cen­tre con­sole – are the best for rein­ing in body con­trol. Twist to Com­fort and the Turbo’s stan­dard air-spring sus­pen­sion ab­sorbs bumps in a way that so of­ten eludes stiff-rid­ing sports cars.

Rear-axle steer­ing is a new, $4,990 op­tion that will move the back wheels in the same di­rec­tion as the fronts at higher speeds for greater sta­bil­ity, and is es­pe­cially no­tice­able for creating a phe­nom­e­nal turn­ing cir­cle by mov­ing the rear wheels in an op­po­site di­rec­tion at low speed.

The big­gest shift in the Panam­era ex­pe­ri­ence, how­ever, is found in­side. The pre­vi­ous model’s cabin was hardly from the stone age, but the new Panam­era plugs into the era of Google and Ap­ple. The old, huge cen­tre con­sole that looked like an over­sized Ca­sio sci­en­tific cal­cu­la­tor makes way for a sim­pli­fied lay­out pre­sent­ing touch-sen­si­tive words and sym­bols with hap­tic-feed­back.

Prom­i­nent above is a 12-inch, widescreen touch dis­play – al­ter­na­tively con­trolled by one of the rare phys­i­cal switches, or rather dial – while the in­stru­ment clus­ter also adopts high­res­o­lu­tion graph­ics. Quaintly, the tachome­ter – the sporti­est gauge – is de­lib­er­ately made odd-dial-out by re­main­ing ana­logue.

The in­te­rior’s pal­pa­ble sense of lux­ury can be ex­tended, of course, with ex­tra fur­nish­ings. Our test car added an­other $12,000 to the Turbo’s $376,900 RRP with a par­tic­u­larly taste­ful black and dark red two-tone leather in­te­rior, 18-way adap­tive sports seats, elec­tric sun­blinds for the rear and rear-side win­dows, and eight-way elec­tri­cally ad­justable rear seats.

There’s some ad­di­tional rear knee space through the slight stretch be­tween the front and rear axles, though the Panam­era con­tin­ues to cater for only two pas­sen­gers up back – di­vid­ed­vided by a smaller in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the cen­tre con­sole.nsole.

Porsche has, how­ever, also fixed this prac­ti­cal­ity is­sue. The Panam­era is now avail­ableail­able in a Sport Turismo vari­ant that seats an ex­tra,tra, fifth oc­cu­pant and ex­pands lug­gage space from 470 to 520 litres.

And it’s the ex­pan­sion of both the Panam­era’smera’s line-up and its lux­u­ri­ous­ness that spells dis­com­fort for sporty ex­ec­u­tive four-door ri­vals.


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