Mo­tor­ing

En­joy the smooth drive of the Porsche Panam­era Turbo Ex­ec­u­tive.

Friday - - Contents -

If some­body blind­folded me and took me out for a spin in the Porsche Panam­era there is no way I’d ever imag­ine I was in a saloon.

Within a few min­utes of driv­ing this car you will for­get all about the rear doors – the tiny trape­zoidal mir­ror can­not fully re­veal the back seats – and you will com­pletely dis­re­gard the screams of your flail­ing chil­dren. This is sim­ply a sport­scar that hap­pens to ac­com­mo­date four pas­sen­gers. At be­tween 180kph and 200kph on the gen­tly me­an­der­ing au­to­bahn, in the wet, the Panam­era is stub­bornly se­cure. The steer­ing wheel faintly quiv­ers, which I can only put down to the road sur­face – such is the Panam­era’s as­sured build qual­ity and road-hold­ing that it can’t be be­cause of the car.

On the other hand, the dig­i­tal read­out does dis­play 200kph, and when is the last time you drove in com­plete seren­ity at that speed? An­other strik­ing re­al­i­sa­tion comes at me when I com­pre­hend that there’s three-quar­ters of throt­tle pedal travel left. All the time.

I’m merely twitch­ing my big toe and the Turbo ac­cel­er­ates from 120kph to be­yond 180kph with the PDK do­ing absolutely noth­ing, and with a seam­less gush of torque that sum­mons worm­holes in the car’s path.

I have re­cently re­turned from Ja­pan where I re­marked to my hosts

how the Shinkansen (the Bul­let train) feels amaz­ingly smooth at 220kph, with min­i­mal vi­bra­tions and such com­po­sure through the bends. Well, the Panam­era Turbo is smoother, with even fewer vi­bra­tions and more com­po­sure. And the train is lit­er­ally on rails. You can think of the Panam­era as a Ma­glev train, then.

Some­thing may have been amiss with the tyres on my Turbo Ex­ec­u­tive (they looked small, quite un­ac­cept­ably small by Dubai stan­dards. In fact some­body could think you’re driv­ing a mere 4S. Go throw a tantrum at the deal­er­ship…) but in the pour­ing rain per­haps I was ex­pect­ing too much, pitch­ing the Panam­era into hair­pin turns with wan­ton in­dif­fer­ence to safety. With all-wheel drive and the car’s sta­bil­ity and trac­tion-con­trol sys­tems, the Turbo grips dur­ing en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing with no let up, but when­ever you push your luck just that lit­tle bit more, the front end scrubs off wide and tucks in only on quick throt­tle lift-off.

With trac­tion con­trol off, the na­ture of the Panam­era im­me­di­ately changes, with even fast, flow­ing esses re­veal­ing an ever so slight wig­gle at the back. You feel it through the sub­tly tug­ging steer­ing wheel and you feel it through the low-slung seat. Look, there is a lot of real es­tate be­tween you, the driver, and that rear axle way out there in the stretched wheel­base of this Ex­ec­u­tive model,

and yet you can read ev­ery­thing and re­ceive all of the car’s in­ten­tions. That’s pretty amaz­ing.

The 15cm-longer Ex­ec­u­tive model no doubt adds to the car’s steely high-speed sta­bil­ity, but to re­lax the driver to such an in­vul­ner­a­ble state of mind – in the wet, in case I haven’t said that al­ready – is noth­ing short of as­ton­ish­ing. On stan­dard 19in Panam­era De­sign II wheels in a light­weight five dual-spoke look and rid­ing ex­clu­sively on air sus­pen­sion, the Ex­ec­u­tive loses lit­tle of its agility in tighter turns.

The driver sits low with per­fect reach of all the con­trols and un­ob­structed out­ward vi­sion, with ideal ref­er­ence points out­side thanks to the vis­i­ble slop­ing bon­net and tall wheel arches. You could place this 5,165mm-long and 1,931mm-wide be­he­moth on a one dirham coin.

It rides per­fectly fine too; it’s no LS 460, but then again a Lexus can’t make an Alpine peak feel a bit in­ad­e­quate. And this is still in ref­er­ence to the long-wheel­base Panam­era, you know, the one that weighs 100kg more than the stan­dard mod­els.

The Ex­ec­u­tive is im­por­tant for Porsche be­cause China can’t get enough of Panam­eras as it is, de­vour­ing one-third of all ve­hi­cles built since 2009. The com­pany de­liv­ered 29,000 ex­am­ples last year – af­ter the ini­tial pro­jec­tion of 20,000 an­nual sales – and it’s look­ing to at least stay there.

With in­di­vid­ual rear bucket seats, silent soft-close doors, ex­tra in­su­lated win­dows and 12cm ex­tra legroom, not to men­tion the myr­iad Porsche op­tions (al­though more equip­ment now comes as stan­dard on the new range), there is a Panam­era Ex­ec­u­tive for all the favoured chil­dren of the Com­mu­nist Party of China.

And it’s not just the hy­brid that im­proved its ef­fi­ciency by more than 50 per cent, or the 20bh­p­stronger Turbo that have re­ceived up­dates. The S, 4S and GTS all ditch their nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8s for a bril­liant new twin-tur­bocharged V6 that’s more pow­er­ful, more flex­i­ble and more eco­nom­i­cal than be­fore. We’ll miss the GTS’s manic sprint to­wards the red line, again and again, but Porsche is quick to point out that it first launched a tur­bocharged road car in 1973 and now, 40 years on, their tech­no­log­i­cal break­through is at an evo­lu­tion­ary peak.

I had a brief go in the S be­cause it was hard to tear my­self away from the Turbo, and the V6 engine is bril­liant and the PDK su­perb, as is the brak­ing and the rear-wheel-drive chas­sis and ev­ery­thing else.

It’s an in­cred­i­ble piece of sports saloon en­gi­neer­ing. But it still looks like a preg­nant mana­tee.

The Turbo Ex­ec­u­tive is 15cm longer than the stan­dard car, which means 12cm ex­tra legroom

The car’s in­tel­li­gent de­sign means the driver sits low with per­fect reach of all the con­trols and un­ob­structed out­ward vi­sion

i IN­SIDE INFO Specs and rat­ings

Model Turbo Ex­ec­u­tive Engine 4.8-litre biturbo V8 Trans­mis­sion Seven-speed PDK, AWD Max power 520bhp @ 6,000rpm Max torque 700Nm @ 2,250rpm Top speed 305kph 0-100kph 4.2 sec­onds Price Dh733,100 Plus Bal­ance of ride qual­ity and amaz­ing per­for­mance Mi­nus Looks

Bold first 3words

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