YES, IT’S A PORSCHE, BUT Jez Spinks FINDS THE FAMOUSLY SPORTY BRAND’S PANAMERA TURBO IS ALSO A GROWN-UP LUXURY SEDAN FOR GROWN-UPS.
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.
PORSCHE PANAMERA TURBO