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first Panamera lacked style and driver engagement. Can the Mk2 have
these sorted out?
The first generation
Panamera had mainly two problems: firstly, it looked huge, bulky and
ungainly. Secondly, although it was certainly very fast, it was not
very engaging to drive. Both sounded very un-Porsche. However, its
concept was basically correct. It enabled the famous sports car
manufacturer to expand its business into luxury car class traditionally
dominated by Mercedes, BMW and the like all the while maintaining a
clear performance edge. Moreover, it was relatively cost-effective to
build because it shared a lot of components with Cayenne, including
powertrains, suspension and all-wheel-drive system. This means it was
capable to breakeven with annual sales down to 12,000 units. Although
it turned out to be not as popular as Cayenne, it still managed to sell
nearly 160,000 units over its 7-and-a-half-year lifespan. This secures
the development of second generation.
stylish than the last Panamera? Yes, but it fails to replicate the
beauty of 928...
Naturally, the most important task for Michael Mauer is to improve the
aesthetic of the new Panamera. There is no way to touch the car’s huge
dimensions, which actually get slightly larger again to provide ample
interior space and pack the sophisticated ingredients, but good
designers should find ways to hide the bulk and deliver a false
impression of sleekness. I would not declare the works of Mauer as
miraculous, but it is unquestionably more successful than last time. If
you compare the side profile of the old and new car, you will find the
latter appears to be sleeker. Both its roof line and shoulder line are
curvier. The tailgate gets faster, the tail gets slimmer and the
overall look of the back end is more akin to 911. The reshaped side
window looks more like 911’s as well, although it necessitates an extra
quarter window. Meanwhile, the more pronounced rear fenders look
sportier. The front end styling is also an improvement, although not
quite as obvious as the rear. The bonnet and front bumper get edgier.
The headlamps get larger and more pronounced from the bonnet in order
to appear more like 911. However, since the bonnet has to accommodate a
big engine, it still appears to be a bit bulky. It is quite
disappointing that the Panamera fails to replicate the sleek front end
of the classic 928. Yes, I know the
packaging constraints are different now and then (for instance, the
hot-Vee engine is inevitably taller), and pedestrian safety regulations
play a role, too, but still I can’t help feeling sorry that modern cars
roof line and shoulder line are curvier. The tailgate gets faster, the
tail gets slimmer...
The Mk2 Panamera has grown a little in all dimensions – 79mm longer,
6mm wider, 5mm taller and 30mm longer in wheelbase. It is still shorter
than all other performance luxury limousines, but wider than all except
Maserati Quattroporte. Its 1427 mm height is easily the lowest in the
class and is a clear indication to its sportier character. The slightly
longer rear overhang enables the boot to grow by 50 liters to 495
liters. Meanwhile, aerodynamic drag is unchanged from the old car, i.e.
0.29 for most models or 0.30 for the range-topping Turbo. A rear
spoiler normally recessed at the tailgate pops up at speed to cut lift.
On the Turbo, it also extends sideway to increase downforce further.
The new platform underpinning the car is called MSB. It is developed by
Porsche but will be shared with various Bentleys in the future. Body
construction is not a big departure from the last one though. It is
still primarily made of steel, with aluminum used as supporting roles
in areas such as crash structure, subframes and suspension towers. The
outer shell is mostly aluminum, including roof, bonnet, tailgate and
fenders. If you expected it to reduce weight like the rest of the
industry, you will be disappointed. At 1995 kg, the Panamera Turbo is
hardly a lightweight. In fact, it weighs the same as the outgoing Turbo
S which had the same power output. The base V6 model also weighs
exactly the same as before. So MSB is new, but we can’t see any
advancement it brings except the cost-saving modular nature.
overall look of the back end is more akin to 911.
Changes to the suspension are also rather subtle. The double-wishbone
front and multi-link rear axles are basically carried over, ditto the
PASM adaptive dampers, PDCC active anti-roll bars and PTV-Plus torque
vectoring differential. The most significant change is the air
suspension (standard on Turbo and optional to others), which has been
upgraded to a 3-chamber design like the new Mercedes E-class for 60
percent increase of air capacity hence wider range of variation.
Another addition is rear-wheel steering, but it is not exactly a
headline because BMW already has it on its 7-Series, not to mention
cheaper cars like Renault Megane, Talisman and Acura RLX. The last
mentionable new item is the so-called “4D Chassis Control”, which is
actually a software thing that integrates the PASM, PDCC, PTV-Plus etc.
together. The 4-wheel-drive system is carried over from the old car as
well. It uses a multi-plate clutch located just behind the transmission
to send torque to the front axle, so the torque-split continues to be
rear-biased by default.
AWD is mandatory on all the 3 Panamera models available at launch:
Panamera 4S (powered by V6 turbo), 4S Diesel (V8 turbo diesel) and
Turbo (V8 turbo). The Turbo employs a new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8,
which is 800 c.c. smaller than before but no less powerful. It is
developed in Weissach although it has many similarities with Audi’s
4-liter V8. Both feature hot-Vee architecture, i.e. the two twin-scroll
turbochargers are mounted inside the V-valley for compact packaging and
reduced turbo lag, while the cooler intakes breath from outside. Also
like the Audi V8, it features cylinder deactivation by means of Audi's Valvelift
mechanism, although misleadingly dubbed VarioCam Plus. In other words,
it uses moving pins and spiral grooves to switch between normal and
zero valve lift, therefore shutting down 4 of the 8 cylinders. Running
maximum boost pressure of 1.3 bar, the engine produces 550 horsepower
from a rather modest 5750 rpm. Peak torque of 568 pound-foot is
available between 1960 and 4500 rpm. (Remark: many publications quoted
the boost pressure as 0.3 bar, which is obviously impossible judging
engine's very high specific power and torque.) As a result,
astonishing for such a big car. It would sprint from rest to 60 mph in
3.5 seconds and 100 mph in just over 8 seconds, faster than a 911
Carrera S turbo! It would top 190 mph on Autobahn, or lap Nurburgring
in 7 min 38 sec. The latter trails Alfa Giulia
Quadrifoglio by only 6 seconds. This is the fastest luxury sedan in the
more aluminum used in its construction, Panamera Turbo still weighs a
good 2 tons.
The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 of Panamera 4S is derived from the same
modular family of the V8, but strangely, it was developed by Audi and
is closely related to the 3-liter single-turbo V6 of Audi S4. Needless
to say, it also employs hot-Vee architecture and 90-degree V-angle –
the latter necessitates the addition of a balancer shaft to smooth out
vibration. Running up to 1.4 bar boost pressure, it produces 440 hp and
406 lbft of torque, not quite in the same league as the aforementioned
Alfa Romeo Giulia QF but is nonetheless powerful (think of 959 power
from a similar capacity). The car tops 179 mph and achieves 0-60 mph in
The Panamera 4S Diesel is quite a super oil-burner. Its 4-liter diesel
V8 is sourced from Audi and derived from the similar motor serving SQ7,
but it is
stripped of e-booster (electric compressor), leaving the sequential
twin-VTG turbochargers to produce 422 hp and 664 lbft of torque – the
latter is available from as low as 1000 rpm! Even though the car weighs
some 2050 kg, it is good for 177 mph and 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. In other
words, the fastest diesel car in the world.
All 3 engines mate with a new 8-speed PDK twin-clutch gearbox supplied
by ZF. Don't be too excited with its increased ratios, because it still
reaches top speed at 6th, whereas 7th and 8th are overdrive to save
fuel. Manual gearbox? Sorry, it died together with the last generation
On the Road
touch-sensitive panel looks much simpler and more modern, but
touch-sensitive buttons could be difficult to find when you are
Open the door, you will find a spacious and properly luxurious cabin.
You sit low on the supportive bucket seat, facing a 918-style steering
wheel (with plenty of handy switches) and a modern instrument
consisting of a conventional tachometer flanked by a pair of LCD
screens. Interestingly, those screens can be reconfigured to display
Porsche’s traditional 5-gauge instrument together with the tachometer.
The center console is dominated by a large, 12.3-inch touch screen and
a gloss-black touch-sensitive panel, which looks much simpler and more
modern than the button-rich console of the old car, although
touch-sensitive buttons could be difficult to find when you are
driving. The materials and craftsmanship are no match with Mercedes
S-class, of course, and the design is rather unimaginative, but the
build quality of Porsche is never in doubt. At the back, the individual
rear seats are inevitably less spacious than the usual standards of
luxury limousines, but passengers up to 6ft 4in will find them
comfortable. Although the roof line has been lowered at the rear for
styling purpose, the new car has its seats mounted lower thus it still
offers ample headroom. Legroom is also more than adequate for those 6ft
4 guys. Entertainment provided to them is not as generous, as there is
only a small screen at the rear transmission tunnel. Forget about
airliner seats, massagers, folding tables or wine cabinet. This is a
Porsche, not Maybach.
Start the V8 engine, it burbles into life in a civilized manner. With
optional sport exhaust it might be a little louder than Audi’s V8, but
still it is too civilized for a Porsche, even a luxurious one. The
turbocharged V8s of Mercedes-AMG and Maserati sound angrier and more
thrilling. As it is quite subdued, and the cabin’s sound insulation is
quite effective, the Panamera Turbo feels slower than it is. In
absolute terms it might be as fast as some supercars, but unfortunately
you can’t feel that. Comparatively, the V6 feels peppier. It is smooth
yet strong enough, and it makes a more exciting whine at the top end.
The lighter car also feels more nimble. In contrast, the V8 diesel is
all about low-end torque, instant acceleration and relaxed cruising.
It’s a great diesel engine but not necessarily a great Porsche engine.
No complaints for the 8-speed PDK gearbox as it serves up quick and
smooth gearchanges. Moreover, it is capable to handle up to 738 lbft of
rear seats are inevitably less spacious than the usual standards of
luxury limousines, but those up to 6ft 4in will find them comfortable.
The most impressive of the new Panamera is its ground-covering
capability. It cruises at high speed with immense stability, composure
and quietness. Its air suspension glides over expansion joints and
speed bumps with ease. In corner, the grip it produces and the
resistance to pitch and roll is well beyond the levels of any other
performance limousines. Push it harder and you can feel the power
shifts forward to stablise the car, but the rear rubbers refuse to give
up. Now you understand why it could do so well in Nurburgring. The new
electrical power steering is quick and precise, letting the big car to
feel smaller than it is in twisty roads. Nevertheless, it is still
short of communication with the front wheels. Moreover, like anything
else in the class, the sheer size of the car prevents the driver from
pushing on narrow country roads. You will be happier to push a BMW M5
on the same roads.
In many ways, the Panamera seems like a car for every situation. It
serves the roles of luxury limousine, Autobahn missile and Nurburgring
hero equally well. However, as a Porsche, the driving thrills it brings
are modest. A more communicative steering, more characterful exhaust
note and maybe a bit more interactive chassis balance could be the
answer. The slightly bulky front-end design and the disciplined
interior design fail to inspire excitement as well. As a result, it has
to settle with 4-star rating, even though it is undoubtedly the most
capable performance luxury sedan currently on offer.
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| Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
greener and offers a longer EV range, the new E-Hybrid improves on
every aspect, except weight.
This is the second
generation Panamera E-Hybrid, or the plug-in hybrid version of the
Porsche performance limousine. The “4” in its name implies that it has
gained 4-wheel-drive system as standard, just like all other
derivatives of Panamera. Its powertrain looks similar to the one of its
predecessor, but it is actually brand new. The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6
is taken from Panamera 4S, but detuned to 330 horsepower and 332 lbft
of torque for the interest of fuel economy. The electric motor is
installed inside the housing of the 8-speed PDK gearbox, which replaces
the old car’s Tiptronic automatic. It produces another 136 hp and 295
lbft, a significant improvement from the old car’s 95 hp and 228 lbft.
As a result, the combined output is lifted by 46 ponies to 462 hp, and
maximum torque surges from 435 to 516 lbft. Unsurprisingly, the new
E-Hybrid is faster. It takes 4.4 seconds to go from zero to sixty, and
flat out at 172 mph on Autobahn, though it still trails the Panamera 4S
a little bit.
Not just quicker, the new E-Hybrid improves on virtually every aspect.
Its boot-mounted battery is enlarged from 9.4 to 14.1 kWh, enabling the
EV range to be extended from 36 to 50 km (31 miles). Like the rest of
the Panamera range, the new car looks relatively stylish, has air
suspension fitted standard for better ride quality, and its cabin is
roomier, more advanced and better built. The only drawback is
additional weight. It tips the scale at an eye-popping 2170 kg DIN,
some 95 kg more than its predecessor, and a full 300 kg heftier than
a very competent luxury car, but not fast or engaging enough to win
On the road, the electric-petrol power integration is close to
seamless, just as you would expect for a properly-developed hybrid
nowadays. However, when the V6 breaks the electric silence, its does
that with a gruffy soundtrack, which is a stark contrast to the superb
refinement you enjoyed before. The PDK box is slightly disappointing,
too, as it does not shift as smoothly as the old Tiptronic or the
versions on other Panameras. Still, there is plenty of performance on
offer. While the old car needed at least 80 percent throttle travel to
engage the electric motor, the new car has the electric power available
constantly. Its 516 lbft of maximum torque is available from merely
1100 rpm and sustains until 4500 rpm, so the car feels effortlessly
quick. It becomes less energetic when the battery is depleted, but you
have to do some very hard laps to reach that state, which is something
not expected to happen often on a limousine like this.
However, the weight does handicap its handling a little. No Panameras
could be described as truly agile, but the E-Hybrid feels even less so
than the lighter 4S. It serves the role of Autobahn cruiser very well,
but on a narrow twisty mountain road, you feel its width and its weight
hurting its maneuverability. Like all its siblings, its steering is
accurate but lacks feel. Its chassis offers good grip and body control
but none of the throttle steer of a performance sedan deserves. An M5
or E63 must be far more engaging to drive. Worse still, its bland of
mechanical and regenerative braking is flawed. The first few
centimeters of the brake pedal travel feels soft, and then it suddenly
firms up when the brake pads finally touch the discs. Porsche did the
braking perfectly in 918 Spyder, but that car has a direct-drive motor
at the front axle thus could be easier to tune.
All in all, the E-Hybrid is the least rewarding to drive among its
siblings. It is still a very competent luxury car, but if you want
performance and thrills, you had better to look elsewhere. Curiously,
Porsche prices the car slightly below the 4S, even though it shares
that car’s V6 and adds the expensive battery and electric components.
It must be sold at a heavy incentive.