When Luxe meets Sporty

When Luxe meets Sporty

The second-generation Porsche Panamera 4 is here and it's more '911' than before

By George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 4 Jan 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 5 Jan 2018, 1:00 AM

Porsche stunned the world, and had purists hating them, when they announced the production of the Cayenne - their first SUV that went on to achieve overwhelming success. Then, came another unusual product: the Panamera family wagon. Though it failed at cleanly mimicking the classic lines of the 911 - as every Porsche should, according to the manufacturer - it proved to be, arguably, the best luxury sports sedan around. Now, the Stuttgart-based company has rolled out a second-generation Panamera, and although it looks a lot like the older car, there are plenty of improvements on and under the skin. Here's a closer look at the 2018 Porsche Panamera 4 - the all-wheel drive variant of the Dh300k-plus 'base' car!
Although to some this may not appear so different on the outside, this is actually the second-generation Panamera. And yes, every Porsche has to answer to the 911 in terms of design. Expectedly, there's a slopping snout and large headlamp clusters that make up a bugged-eyed face. Upfront, the roundness of predecessor has been negated for an edgier visual, thanks to headlamps and lower air intakes that have been given a pulled-back effect.
This may look like a 911 from a distance, but it's actually a super limousine that is as big as any German full-size luxury sedan. But to reduce weight, they have used a bounty of aluminium in the bodywork and frame.
The profile hasn't changed much, except for the extra crease in the door. The major change, if any, is at the back end. The older Panamera was originally designed to have the sloping roofline of the 911. However, an important Porsche executive - a 6-ft 6-inch man - wanted to be seated in the rear, so they had to make last-minute changes to accommodate him; that's the reason it ended up with an odd hunchback look. But they moved quick and started work on the second generation almost immediately and that is how they have successfully incorporated the quintessential 911 look in the second generation. Even the bulbous rear lamps have been replaced by slim LED units (first seen on the Sport Turismo concept, also used on the current 911).
Overall, the second-gen Panamera can be viewed as a 911-inspired 'super sedan' that they originally meant to build. It's large, yet sleek, and cohesive detailing renders it oodles of presence wherever it goes.
A huge part of its success has to be attributed to its very sophisticated and luxurious interiors. Being Germanic in origin, everything is clear and crisp and made with purpose. Much credit goes to the Carrera-GT-inspired sloping centre console that gives you the impression of steering something more than just a car. In the new car, the architecture remains, but the stacked button has been replaced by a blacked-out glass surface with haptic surface controls that don't show face when the car is switched off. And everything is seen and controlled through a larger 12.3-inch multi-touch display with a landscape orientation.
The seats upfront are large and comfortable. The steering is a 3-spoke with metal spokes that have been pilfered from the 911; the instrument cluster has the same layout as the predecessor with the tachometer at the centre, but the adjacent meters to either side have been replaced by two customisable digital screens on which navigational routes can be accessed, so you don't need to take your eyes off the road much. The infotainment interface is legible, easy to access and looks chic.
The premium feel of the cabin comes from lavish use of leather, metres of thread used as stitching and plenty of aluminium, wood, alcantara or carbon fibre trims - all put together in a clean arrangement.
In an attempt to make things high-tech, Porsche digitalised the controls of the central air-vents; they now have a vertical orientation. The vents remain closed when the car is switched off and can only be adjusted using the screen, which is a bit of a bummer. Also, both occupants have to share the direction of vents.
The rear is designed to seat two and two only - thanks to the deliberate incorporation of a centre console that extends all the way from the front. However, for those seated here, there is plenty of room, even for tall folk. You have the option of getting the Executive variant, with the extended legroom, or the alternative body type called the Sport Turismo, with the more traditional estate roofline.
Gone is the 3.6-litre V6. Now, all engines come turbocharged, including the base car that uses a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6, which is coupled to a 8-speed PDK transmission. The latter, supposedly, handles up to some 1,000Nm of torque, which means, even in the mighty Turbo trim, it is under-stressed, that, in turn, means we could be looking at something way more powerful down the line. Our Panamera 4 test car just adds all-wheel drive for more surety of traction on all surfaces.
From the very moment you seat yourself to the time you roll it out into the streets, there is a certain poise you feel from the wheel. Perhaps it's the highly insulated cabin and noise cancellation speakers that turn this cockpit into a comfortable cabin. or it's the air suspension that soaks up the road irregularities like its second nature - almost matching the S-Class for waftability. Even as a base car with 326 horsepower and 450Nm, there is plenty of low-end grunt making city driving just as easy as highway overtaking. Bury the throttle at standstill, and you're slung forward getting to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds.
It's not just the pace, but the way it gets around corners, hiding its mass and size and showing very little bodyroll. To make all this happen, Porsche has embedded a lot of tech into their super saloon; besides its all-wheel drive, it's got sophisticated traction control system and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus system, which brakes the inner wheels while you take a turn, effectively lending you controlled over-steer on demand.
The dynamics, throttle response and steering feel made us think that this is a 911 disguised at some point of the drive. Yes, the 911 is more visceral, but this is probably the best compromise between a sports car and a luxury sedan, yet.
And who would imagine that the CO2 emissions of a large 2-ton luxury vehicle with a high sporty quotient would emit just 177-175 gm/km? True story! And with the 75-litre tank and a rated fuel economy of just under 8L/100 km, you know this car was built for transcontinental travel.
Lift the hatch and you get about 500 litres of space and that's as much as any large sedan. The air vents may have been a little fiddly but the air-conditioner worked with an enthusiasm not just observed in its fan speed but its condenser performance also. Add that to the convenience of 4-zone climate control and you have a near perfect cabin setting!
Being a Porsche, you get a huge list of customisation options - like the Dh20k alloy wheels. You can get colour seat belts to match your personality. How about a Dh24k Burmester with 1,455 watts and 21 speakers instead of the prodigiously premium Bose system with 14 speakers and 710 watts, which treated us to brilliant audio quality throughout the drive? Getting a phone connected through Bluetooth is easy and you also have USBs and AUX within reach for convenience.
This 911-inspired super sedan is definitely amongst the best cars money can buy. And depending on how much you spend, you can calibrate its luxury and sporty quotient to spectacular levels.
In ways, the 1941 Tatra T87 is the pre-runner to the Porsche Panamera.
Body type: 4-seater; 5-door, premium high-performance sedan
Engine: Front-engine; twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed PDK (automated manual)
Peak output: 326bhp @ 5,400-6,400rpm; 450 Nm @ 1340-4900 rpm
0 to 100km/h: 5.5 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 262km/h (drag limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at Dh393,700
Pros: Sporty, classy exteriors; impeccable build quality and interior architecture; power and road dynamics; intuitive infotainment system
Cons: Strict 4-seater; air controls via haptic controls only
Author's rating: 8.5/10

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