THE EVERYDAY SPORTS CAR
The redesigned Panamera 4S comes with four doors and the same number of seats, but as always, Porsche puts the drive ahead of all else
When it comes to the business of testing vehicles, it’s as inevitable as death and taxes that someone will ask: “If you could own any new car, what would it be?”
For many reasons both personal and practical, plus one unassailable fact — to me, at least — I often say the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. (The unassailable fact being that Porsche has continuously tweaked, fixed and re-engineered its sports car for more than 50 years to the point where it’s as damn near perfect as any rearengine car can be.)
The number 4 signifies all-wheel drive, and because Canada is a four-season country, I appreciate the security of all of the wheels supplying power.
Why the S and not just a base Carrera or the hairier Turbo? Horsepower is good, more horsepower is better, but too much will just get you into trouble.
Yet, even though I covet the 911, what if I more realistically need something with extra room? Well, then, the Panamera 4S is a more-than-acceptable substitute. It’s a car “developed for sports car drivers who appreciate four doors and four seats,” explained the esteemed automaker, “and for sedan drivers who swear by sports cars; opposites which the Panamera reconciles in superior style.”
OK, despite a touch of corporate hyperbole there, it’s pretty much an accurate description of Porsche’s flagship car.
Sure, the hard-core 911 faithful will point to the Panamera’s engine being in the wrong place (that would be up front) and being of the wrong construction (basic vee layout instead of horizontally opposed), but to me, that just means the full-sized sedan is inherently better balanced than the 911. More to the point, this secondgeneration
version, in addition to being significantly better looking than its predecessor thanks to a re-contoured roofline, has been reworked from stem to stern. Its engines are completely new for the 2017 model year, the chassis re-engineered, and the interior displays and connectivity components upgraded, incorporating multi-touch gesture controls to placate a more tech-savvy audience.
The Panamera 4S is powered by a twin-turbo, direct-injection, 2.9-litre V6 that’s mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. There’s a significant 440 horsepower to exploit as needed, plus a stout 405 pound-feet of torque available from a low 1,750 rpm up to 5,500 rpm.
So even though the Panamera 4S weighs an SUV-like 1,870 kilograms, it goes from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds, says Porsche, 4.2 if the car is equipped with the Sport Chrono package (the tester wasn’t).
The bonus is that, while all of the Panamera’s available engines have been made more powerful than the first-generation versions, fuel economy has been improved and emissions reduced.
In addition to its straight-line acceleration, the five metre-long four-door is also surprisingly adept at negotiating the twists in the road.
A lot of the credit goes to the reworked suspension. There’s a new electro-mechanical steering system for the front wheels and rear-axle steering for the rear wheels. Combined, they improve both high-speed stability and slowspeed manoeuvrability.
It’s worth noting, though, that the car was shod with massive P275/35R21 front and P315/30R21 rear Pirelli winter tires; the summer equivalents with sport rims cost a painful $4,150. In addition to being expensive, these low-profile tires seem to compromise some of the air suspension’s comfort as well as dulling the steering feel.
The four-seat Panamera’s interior layout mirrors the cockpit style of the first-generation model, though with touch-sensitive surfaces replacing many of the classic hard keys.
Immediately grabbing your attention is the centre console and the “advanced” cockpit system that features touch-activated buttons and a large, high-resolution 12.3inch TFT touch-screen display.
In addition to providing more than enough room for four adults to travel in comfort, there’s the practicality that comes from the 40/20/40 split of the folding rear bench backrests and 17.4 to 46.0 cubic feet (495 to 1,304 L) of luggage capacity.
When, late last year, I first drove the second-generation Panamera, one thing stood out: Porsche builds sports cars. And as big and comfortable and solid as it is, the Panamera is a four-door sports car.
Yes, looking at the car’s price of $133,170, there’s clearly a world of choice. Its rivals might have more sumptuous interiors. They, too, will have the most modern of mod cons, ultra audio systems, connectivity features, safety backups and warnings.
What they don’t have is the DNA that makes a Porsche a Porsche. The Panamera is built for those who put the drive above all else.
The 2018 Porsche Panamera 4S has been reworked from stem to stern, and is much better looking than its predecessor, thanks to a re-contoured roofline.
The Panamera’s interior layout mirrors the cockpit style of the first-generation model, though with touch-sensitive surfaces replacing many of the classic hard keys.