It’s eas­ier to look at, faster, and higher-tech

The Star Early Edition - - NEW MODELS -

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Un­der­neath is a com­pletely re­vised chas­sis that’s just a touch wider with a much longer wheel­base, and rear-wheel steer­ing can now be fit­ted op­tion­ally to make non-events of traf­fic cir­cles, and en­sure cruise mis­sile sta­bil­ity at high speed.

Three cham­ber air sus­pen­sion comes as stan­dard fit­ment, and to­gether with clever electro­mechan­i­cal anti-roll bars of­fers a ride qual­ity that ranges from plush like a duck down du­vet, to tight as a grasshop­per’s ham­string at the push of a but­ton.

The test route at last week’s me­dia launch in Dubai in­volved mostly long, straight stretches of desert high­way where its soft­est set­tings made hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters dis­ap­pear into bliss­ful obliv­ion. But then when a rare string of bends arose, sportier modes saw the two-ton luxo­barge hun­ker down with a tar-to-rub­ber mag­netism I’ve never be­fore ex­pe­ri­enced in this class of car.

What class is that? Yeah, that’s a dif­fi­cult one. Some­where be­tween four-door coupe, lux­ury limo and ul­ti­mate hatch­back. Tech­ni­cally this is an A7, CLS, Gran Coupe or Ghi­bli com­peti­tor, but the Panam­era leans way more to­ward the “race me, race me, I was born at the Nur­bur­gring” per­for­mance end of the sports sedan spec­trum.

The South African range will kick off with 4S and Turbo vari­ants near the end of the Fe­bru­ary, with base (rear-wheel drive) Panam­era, nor­mal (less pow­er­ful) 4 and ex­tended wheel­base mod­els ex­pected to land later. The plug-in E-Hy­brid prob­a­bly won’t make it to our mar­ket.

The 4S gets an all-new 2.9-litre V6 with two tur­bos nes­tled be­tween the cylin­der banks in sim­i­lar style to Merc’s lat­est high-per­for­mance en­gines. Out­puts are set at 324kW and 550Nm - good enough for claimed 0-100km/h times of 4.2 sec­onds with a top speed of 289. The Turbo’s 4-litre V8 sees the same in­ner-V turbo ar­range­ment, but power here is up to 404kW and 770Nm and 0-100km/h hap­pens in 3.6 sec­onds (not a typo!) with a max speed of 306.

Both, and all forth­com­ing mod­els have ex­changed seven-speed PDK au­to­boxes for new eight-speed­ers which Porsche con­fi­dently says is the “best shift­ing dual-clutch trans­mis­sion ever”.

While “best shift­ing” is quite the am­bigu­ous state­ment, we won’t ar­gue that it’s in­deed up there with the best in the busi­ness in terms of smooth­ness in com­fort, and sharp­ness in sport modes. A clever new In­noDrive sys­tem also uses radar, cam­eras and GPS data to pre­view the road ahead for up to 3km and prime the PDK with ideal shift maps.

The ma­jor­ity of my time was spent at the wheel of a 4S so I can’t re­ally com­ment on the range-top­ping Turbo’s fright­en­ing per­for­mance claims. But let me tell you, the lesser V6 still packs a hefty enough punch to stand toe-to-toe with the quick­est AMGs, Ms and RSs from ri­val brands. This is a se­ri­ously quick ma­chine, with sublime han­dling and enough elec­tron­ica to win over even the geeki­est technophile. It’s good to look at too.

Fol­low me on @PoorBoyLtd Twit­ter PRICES: Panam­era 4S R1 564 000 Panam­era Turbo R2 441 000

In­cludes three-year Porsche Drive­plan

The Turbo model, pic­tured here, comes with a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 with 404kW and 770Nm.

Func­tions are con­trolled via gi­ant touch­screen and touch sen­si­tive con­sole.

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