Once again Porsche si­lences crit­ics

Purists thought the Panamera sedan would di­lute the Porsche brand, in­stead it ap­pears to prove naysay­ers wrong by sell­ing well and adding a lu­cra­tive ex­tra rev­enue stream, just as the Cayenne does, writes DAVE MOORE.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Many peo­ple crit­i­cised Porsche for mov­ing away from its stock in trade sports cars dur­ing the late 90s, as ru­mours broke through about its dab­bling with SUV de­signs.

The howls of de­ri­sion were loud and nu­mer­ous when the re­sult­ing Cayenne model broke cover in 2001 and the noise was only slightly sti­fled when it pro­ceeded to sell like hot cakes, fill­ing drive­ways of Porsche fans want­ing some­thing they could take fish­ing or to the beach with a badge they could iden­tify with.

The fact is Porsche got it so right with the Cayenne that they got it wrong. They un­der­es­ti­mated the de­mand and had to go into over­drive to ful­fill it and be­came at the time the only lux­ury/sports car com­pany to have such a de­li­cious prob­lem where de­mand was out­strip­ping rea­son­able sup­ply.

The Cayenne was de­signed to re­place the SUVs with other badges that 90 per cent of its sport­car own­ers al­ready had, thereby im­prov­ing the street­cred of their car fleets overnight while mak­ing suf­fi­cient money for the brand that could be in­vested in main­tain­ing the heady stan­dards and fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of its sports cars. Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

Porsche’s way of say­ing ’ We told you so!’ was to de­velop the pos­si­bly even more po­lar­is­ing Panamera sedan. The pre­vi­ous whingers erupted again – ‘‘They’ve re­ally done it this time!’’ But no. The Panamera looks ex­actly what it was in­tended to be, a Porsche sports car with four doors and room in­side so it can com­pete with the lux­ury sedans from other mar­ques that the com­pany had also spot­ted were tend­ing to pop­u­late 911, Boxster and Cay­man own­ers’ drive­ways.

Job done again, with sales go­ing through the roof. As a re­sult the Panamera and the Cayenne have be­come the most pop­u­lar Porsches of all.

Since its in­cep­tion in 2009, when the Panamera of­fered two and all wheel drive and a choice of turbo and non­turbo V8s, with nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V6s fol­low­ing the next year, the model has grad­u­ally added other power units. Tur­bod­iesel V6s and a su­per­charged V6 hy­brid have joined the lineup, while af­ter a gen­tle facelift in April this year, brand- new 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s have been adopted, re­plac­ing the model’s pre­vi­ous nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8s.

They may not have quite the sound sig­na­ture of those units, but the new V6s are def­i­nitely not short of stoke, with 309kW avail­able at peak, while from 1750 rpm right up to 5000 rpm there’s a huge 520Nm wedge of torque and while the big twin­turbo V8 re­mains the lineup’s per­for­mance champ, the most use­able per­for­mance is in fact de­liv­ered by the new six, for nigh-on six fig­ures less in terms of sticker price.

The or­di­nary 3.6-litre V6 can be had for well un­der $200,000, but they lack the re­spon­sive­ness and urge of the new twin­turbo units, which work so well with the seven- speed PDK trans­mis­sion unit that it could have been built for them.

The styling and de­sign of the Panamera have po­larised self­ap­pointed style coun­cil­lors for years and I used to have a sim­ple co­nun­drum for them: ‘‘How would you de­sign a four seater that has to have a vis­ual con­nec­tion with the 911?’’ Well I reckon it would look some­thing like the way it does, who ever tried it. From in­side the car, it doesn’t bother me and I have to say that since the car has be­come es­tab­lished, I’ve warmed to it so much that next to the three- box lack of imag­i­na­tion shown by nearly ev­ery large lux­ury sedan maker – save pos­si­bly for Jaguar–- it looks lithe and mus­cu­lar. In other words it looks as it drives.

For its mid- life facelift, Porsche has sharp­ened the car’s head­lamps, en­larged and re­shaped its air in­takes, added neater rear lamps, blended the plate bet­ter into a re­shaped rear bumper and made avail­able a se­lec­tion of strik­ing new al­loy wheels.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. What seemed to jar a touch three years ago, has set­tled into some­thing much more at­trac­tive. No com­plaints.

One out of the box: The Panamera is not a con­ven­tional-look­ing sedan and stand­sout among tra­di­tional three-box en­gine, cabin and boot de­signs.

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