Flick the switch, sport

It’s as wide as a truck, as low as its 911 sib­ling yet as nim­ble as a light­weight sport­ster ... it’s also tough to drive slowly

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­[email protected]

FOR­GET the gen­tle sounds of a waterfall, the run­ning of a tap or the hiss of a civic foun­tain, all you need to do is press one but­ton on this $475,000 Porsche sedan to make your pas­sen­ger need the bath­room.

I know this be­cause I was ex­per­i­ment­ing with the but­ton on the way up to the shops to get dessert af­ter last Sun­day night’s fam­ily feast.

In the car’s “com­fort” mode my pas­sen­ger, bal­anc­ing a tray of two dozen Le­banese sweets (fin­ger-sized cus­tard sen­sa­tions wrapped in sugar, driz­zled in honey and im­pos­si­ble to eat in a car with­out leav­ing ev­i­dence — on you or the car) felt fine at first.

Then I pressed the “sport” mode and, a bit mis­chie­vously, drove over ev­ery raised re­flec­tive marker in the road to see if he could feel the dif­fer­ence.

He could, and pleaded with me to stop im­me­di­ately. Not be­cause there was a risk we could lose some of our pre­cious cargo (he was tak­ing care of that, one by one, and planned to ex­plain that they were sold in trays of 19, not two dozen) but be­cause he was sud­denly bust­ing. I did what any good mate would do in this sit­u­a­tion: found more bumps and drove more slowly. Only af­ter he threat­ened to tip the re­main­ing sweets (which had rapidly de­creased to 17) did I re­lent and switch the sus­pen­sion back to “com­fort” mode.

Suf­fice to say, for once, a but­ton that prom­ises to switch be­tween var­i­ous modes ac­tu­ally does make a dif­fer­ence. But as my mate’s blad­der can at­test, in the Porsche it works.

The only prob­lem with this ex­per­i­ment is that the Panam­era Turbo S is very hard to drive slowly. Dare I say it, but in this case too much power may in­deed be too much.

This isn’t just any Porsche sedan. The Panam­era is pow­ered in turns by a petrol V6, a diesel V6, a hy­brid V6, a V8, and a twin-turbo V8.

But the ab­so­lute top-of-therange twin turbo V8 “S” has been tuned for so much power that you are ini­tially scared to floor the throt­tle — you need a speed un­lim­ited au­to­bahn (or your own pri­vate test track) to get the most out of it.

Some con­text: this car is as long as a Holden Caprice li­mou­sine, as wide as a Ken­worth truck and as low as a Porsche 911 sports car — that is, not the best start­ing point for cre­at­ing art on wheels. With its elon­gated body and rounded lines it looks to me like a big bar of soap that drove into the back of a Porsche 911.

But every­one who saw it loved it. So I loved it. “Yeah, it looks awe­some,” I lied. But I have the least fashion sense of any­one in our of­fice. Just ask.

Thank­fully, the part that re­ally mat­ters, the way the car drives, makes up for ev­ery­thing.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is so low (ex­actly as in the Porsche 911) it feels as if you’re driv­ing a bil­ly­cart. Your back­side is mil­lime­tres off the ground.

Once you take a cou­ple of turns you start to marvel at how Porsche has been able to some­how amend the laws of physics.

De­spite weigh­ing nearly two tonnes (or about as heavy as a Toy­ota HiLux), it steers and re­sponds with the re­flexes of a light­weight sports car.

The grip from the Miche­lin tyres is as­tound­ing, the ride com­fort is plush (un­less na­ture is calling) and the brakes (the discs are car­bon-ce­ramic, in com­mon with For­mula One cars) could quite pos­si­bly cause you to crack a rib against the seat belt if you slammed them hard enough.

And the power? Well, af­ter a few days you get used to it. You learn just how much throt­tle to give (or not) so that you don’t get into trou­ble. And when the road is clear and the speed limit is high enough, just floor it (briefly) and hang on, for it ac­cel­er­ates so hard you can feel it in your chest.

The big sedan ac­cel­er­ates harder and faster than a Porsche 911. In­cred­i­ble.

Be­cause it is all-wheel-drive — and all that power goes to all four wheels all of the time — it feels as sta­ble as a sumo wrestler in a crouch.

I started out driv­ing this car won­der­ing why it ex­isted. Now I want to know why ev­ery other high-per­for­mance sedan isn’t this good.

Given the drive-away price of $475,000, only about a dozen peo­ple a year will get to ex­pe­ri­ence such a ma­chine daily. Per­haps I can pick up a preloved ex­am­ple in, oh, about 20 years …

Fizz and physics: Porsche com­bines mas­sive power and com­fort­able ride; in­set, re­tractable bootlid spoiler

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