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
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