Porsche has a history of creating cars that cause a negative reaction, even if only temporarily. Aging enthusiasts will remember the 914 from the 70s. Millennials will remember the first Cayenne. And more recently, there was the Panamera, the German carmaker’s first ever sedan which was actually a stretched hatchback. But while derided when launched, all three went on to become bestsellers, much more so than the iconic 911. For 2017, there is a new Panamera hitting the streets, but no one can say any more that the styling is found wanting.
The 2017 Porsche Panamera truly is all-new from the ground up, with new dimensions that enhances the car’s fastback look. With 911-inspired tail lamps and glass in the rear C-pillars, designers have finally addressed the most awkward aspect of the previous model’s design. New wheels vary from 19-inch to 21-inch in size.
Inside, the new dashboard is upright, with a wide integrated touchscreen in the middle, and the gauge cluster housing two further screens alongside a central analogue tachometer. The centre-console now houses mostly capacitive-touch buttons instead of physical ones, although Porsche wisely left the basic stereo and a/c buttons intact so they can be used without having to look down.
Still, some of the features are gimmicky, such as requiring the touchscreen to control the central a/c vents, even in the back. And the gear-shifter is of the joystick variety, with ‘Park’ being a small button on the knob itself.
The cabin is generously trimmed with leather, for the most part. The four sports seats have fixed headrests and are comfortable, with decent headroom and legroom all round, although storage-cubby spaces are limited due to the fancy console design. The boot is pretty big, with good access using the lift-up tailgate.
Initially available only in Panamera 4S and Panamera Turbo guises, both are powered by turbocharged engines mated to 8-speed dual-clutch automatics and all-wheel-drive systems. It’s hard to tell the cars apart, unless you’re intimately familiar with the front bumper and wheel designs.
Both engines are strong, although the extra power and aural drama of the Turbo model is easily felt and heard. There is no obvious turbo lag, and there is never any shortage of pull at any revs. It’s also easy to get fuel consumption below 15 litres/100 km.
Most of our time was spent with the Panamera 4S. It’s all the car you need, really. Fast, quiet and comfortable with a hint of firmness in the ride, it is also an excellent handler, taking corners with limited body roll and immense grip while keeping understeer to a minimum. The chassis appeared to be playful and responsive in the short coned course we drove it through, with sharp moderately-weighted steering and good brakes.
The dual-clutch “PDK” gearbox is the best of its kind, but there is still a bit of throttle delay when moving from idle. It takes almost a second to auto-downshift several gears on overtaking manoeuvres, pretty much like a traditional automatic. The shift-speed advantage is best felt while shifting gears in manual mode.
The Panamera really does feel like a bigger 911 from behind the wheel when driven at slightly-above-average speeds on public roads. While we didn’t get to experience the full breadth of the four-door Porsche’s capabilities during the launch event, it does seem to be all that you expect a Porsche to be.
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Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury & Porsche ME