A grander tourer

The sec­ond generation Panam­era is ev­ery­thing the first one wasn’t

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

THE sec­ond it­er­a­tion of Porsche’s Panam­era is ev­ery­thing the first strived to be: a se­ri­ously quick, lux­u­rykit­ted grand tourer that pays homage to the 911 with­out be­ing an en­gorged de­riv­a­tive.

This Panam­era is also, fit­tingly, the tech­nol­ogy flag­ship of the Porsche line-up. Sep­a­rate sen­sors at each cor­ner mon­i­tor ac­cel­er­a­tion, yaw, sus­pen­sion and body move­ment and elec­tron­i­cally ad­just the three­cham­ber air springs, dampers, roll-bars and all-wheel-drive torque de­liv­ery to max­imise per­for­mance in what Porsche calls “4D chas­sis con­trol”.

That sort of en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise is ex­pected in a Porsche. What isn’t in an in­ter­nal lay­out with an in­tu­itive 12.3-inch touch­screen for most car func­tions and a sen­sor sur­round­ing the gear lever with switches for the heat­ing con­trols, sus­pen­sion and seat heat­ing/cool­ing, all giv­ing off a solid hap­tic “pulse” through the glass when touched.

The driver’s dis­play is like­wise a big cen­tral ana­log tacho with an in­set dig­i­tal speedo, flanked by a pair of seven-inch screens show­ing con­fig­urable “Speed and As­sist” func­tions on the left and “Car and Info” de­tails on the right.

An­other dis­play be­tween the rear seats lets those down back con­trol their own heat­ing sys­tem and ad­just the seats. It’s a long, long way from the but­ton-fes­tooned in­te­rior of its pre­de­ces­sor and looks classy with­out chal­leng­ing the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe for out­right lux­ury.

A longer wheel­base con­trib­utes to the ex­tra legroom and back seat head­room shouldn’t be an is­sue.

De­spite the stretched plat­form the Panam­era be­lies its 5-me­tre length, at least when fit­ted with the $4990 rear-wheel steer­ing op­tion. The rear wheels move in the op­po­site direc­tion to the front at speeds up to 50km/h to im­prove cor­ner­ing an­gle. The most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple is the tight­en­ing in turn­ing cir­cle from 11.9m to 11.4m when the rear-steer is fit­ted. At higher speeds the back wheels fol­low the front to help with cor­ner­ing sta­bil­ity.

Be­yond the hi-tech driv­ing and dis­play aids, the Panam­era pro­vides a hugely sta­ble plat­form to ex­ploit the per­for­mance of Porsche’s new en­gines and equally new eight­speed dual-clutch auto.

The range is be­ing rolled out grad­u­ally, start­ing with the 4S, 4S diesel and Turbo vari­ants on sale now. They’ll be joined by the Panam­era and Panam­era 4 in April and May, and the Ehy­brid in the third quar­ter.

ON THE ROAD

Cars­guide drove the 324kW/550Nm 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo Panam­era S and the 404kW/770Nm 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo Panam­era Turbo at launch and con­cen­trated on the lat­ter be­cause most of the early or­ders are for the $379,000 flag­ship.

Early adopters won’t be dis­ap­pointed, al­though the Turbo will be a $400,000 car be­fore on-roads by the time it’s op­tioned with some of Porsche’s go-fast gear.

That in­cludes the Sports Chrono pack, which for $4790 sharp­ens per­for­mance and trims the 100km/h time to 3.6 sec­onds, dy­namic chas­sis con­trol with torque vec­tor­ing for $10,990, com­pos­ite brakes for $20,980 and a sports ex­haust from $6950.

In that guise the Panam­era is the fastest, most ag­ile and driver-fo­cused grand tourer on the mar­ket.

The Panam­era is a big car and its size and heft can be felt on a flow­ing down­hill run but the com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the electro­mechan­i­cal steer­ing and the bite from the brakes still en­cour­ages you to have a crack. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is in­stan­ta­neous in sports mode and the en­gine is still build­ing power un­til just 800rpm shy of the 6800rpm red­line. For the record, the Panam­era Turbo hits 200km/h in 13 sec­onds.

The sus­pen­sion’s stretch of ca­pa­bil­ity is an­other high­light. Leave the steer­ing-wheel mounted mode se­lec­tor in nor­mal and the Panam­era im­presses by iso­lat­ing the oc­cu­pants from the worst of the pock­marked bi­tu­men. Flick into sport and there’s no­tice­ably less give in the sus­pen­sion, while sports plus is best left for au­to­bahns and track days.

VER­DICT

Over-en­gi­neered with­out be­ing over-com­pli­cated, the Panam­era is the sporti­est of the big coupe-styled cruis­ers and it fi­nally has the looks in­side and out to match the me­chan­i­cals.

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