With the new Panamera, Porsche has managed to stretch the four-door sports car concept even further. We drive it around the beautiful roads of Oman to give you a first hand report!
Flawless multi-lane freeways enclosed by mountains, the picturesque scenery provided the only reprieve from the tunnel vision induced by the recurring features of the road. Merging lanes, white arrows, exit signs, repeat. But then this was also the perfect surrounding when you are behind the wheel of a Porsche whose engine in the ‘front’ is pushing out a monstrous 500 plus horsepower via 8-cylinders and two bellowing turbos. What we are talking about here is the new second generation Porsche Panamera which just got regionally launched in Oman.
Coming to the car, in the realm of premium sports cars, Porsche takes a back seat to no one. But when it comes to back seats, Porsche isn’t the first marque that springs to mind. Every person geeked on cars knows that premium sedans with generously proportioned aft quarters hail from the likes of Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, and BMW. Porsche builds light, agile two-passenger sports cars, right?
Keeping the 911-stretch limo jokes aside, the sales graphs from Porsche clearly indicated the Panamera as one of its highest selling models after the hugely popular Cayenne and with the second generation model, which gets a host of changes including the much awaited larger wheelbase variant, the numbers are sure to rise. Of the six variants present, we got behind the new V6 3-litre biturbo, the 4S Executive with the extended wheelbase and the mental turbo.
Panamera 4S Executive
India is the land of chauffer-driven luxury cars and now with the extended wheelbase, the Panamera will finally be able to match up to its other German rivals. At first glance, you will be hard-pressed to notice the difference between the old and the new car. In fact during the design presentation it was only because of the marked areas that we were able to tell the difference. So what are the changes like? For starters, you have a more teardropesque shape to the headlamps, bigger nostrils in the front fascia, a flatter liftgate window, lower mounting for the rear license plate, and revised tail lamps. Overall, visually tighter lines, more pronounced contours and newly shaped body elements all combine to enhance the Panamera’s Gran Turismo character. A widened rear windscreen gives the car a visually lower stance, whilst a wider spoiler and optional LED lights further distinguishes the car from its predecessor. Following Porsche’s design ethos, the changes are more evolutional rather than revolutional.
Likewise, the well-tailored cabin carries forward the upscale feel. The layout is typical Porsche offering a nice blend of sporty and luxury. Even with my wide-ish girth I fit quite snugly into the driver’s seat and before you know it was already buttoning my way to a suitable driving position. The nice array of circular dials not only looks fantastic but also offers a comprehensive amount of information. The nice chunky steering feels good to hold but the wooden inserts, a la other German luxury sedans, feel out of place in a Porsche.
Even the shifters on the steering wheel are more like buttons; flappy paddles are not only more fun but would have felt better as well. But this being the 4S executive, it’s the rear seats that are going to be sunk into for a better part of the time and that’s exactly where I headed. It’s surprisingly roomy, with ample leg- and headroom in all four seating positions, even in the standard-wheelbase version but in the Executive you get an additional 150mm of legroom to play around with, rear seats that move fore-and-aft and recline, with optional fold-down picnic tables.
Interiors checked, it was time to motor. It’s a Porsche so why wait. The sport plus button pressed, dampers in their stiffest setting, I shifted the 7-speed PDK into drive and off we were. As we drove through the city towards the highways, what was immediately noticeable was how friendly the car feels even around tight traffic. Make no mistake this is a wide, low and a considerably long car (especially the executive variant) but still feels quite friendly even in traffic conditions. Once the city roads led us to the open highways, I decided to put the newly developed twin-turbo 3-litre V6 to the test. However, with us following the lead car there was little opportunity to put the 420PS to work.
What I can testify to is the incredible ease with which the 4S accelerates. This is put to the test by leaving just enough of a gap between myself and the car in front and persuading the accelerator with a dab of right foot. Initial lag from the twin-turbos is quickly forgotten about as the 4S picks itself up and powers forward with serious purpose without any fuss being made whatsoever by the V6. Now this bi-turbo V6 replaces the naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V-8 in these models and not only does it make more power and torque than the V8 but it’s also more fuel efficient.
Arriving at the base of our destination, the Hajar Mountains, it was time to change the car and this time I got into the Panamera S. Now the S has the same 3-litre V6 bi-turbo from the 4S, but the interesting bit is that this baby is ‘only’ rear wheel drive unlike the 4S which is all-wheel drive. Lots of horsepower coupled with rear wheel drive, it’s the perfect recipe for twisty mountain roads and the S did not disappoint. With lesser weight in the front, the Panamera S felt brilliant in the corners. The steering feels a little too electric but other than that, the feedback from the chassis coupled with supreme mechanical grip and the fantastic brakes makes the Panamera S an ideal luxury car for the enthusiast. Going up and down the box, the S also sings a more sonorous tune from its quad pipes and it was an absolute joy to bury the throttle just to hear that V6 motor singing at full pitch.
A nice lunch had made us a wee bit heavier; as a result I thought I must get something a little more powerful for the post lunch session downhill. So I slipped into the most powerful Panamera of the lot, the Turbo. It feels special right from the moment you slip into the contrasting red and black leather seats. Starting the car lets out a typical V8 rumble which lets you know about the beast under the hood. But it’s only when you dig that smiley pedal deep down into the carpet that you realise what you’re dealing with. There is all of 4.8 litres with a massive V8 which is fed by two turbos. So what you have is 520PS and a diesel like 700Nm of torque which simply pushes you back into the seat. Powering all four wheels, the Turbo is capable of hitting 100km/h in a very supercar like 4.1 seconds and go on to hit a claimed speed of 305km/h which we do not doubt at all. The only frustrating bit was having to follow the lead car which was driven quite enthusiastically but wasn’t a patch on what the Panamera is capable of.
Now the India-bound Panameras would definitely differ in spec. The first thing to go will be those yummy 20-inch rims which will make way for a smaller rim to accommodate a larger profiled tyre for our road conditions. Forget the Turbo variant as well. We are likely to get the base 3.0 litre V6 or if lucky enough the bi-turbo 3.0 litre V6. And of course, Porsche is all set to introduce an all-new diesel next year, which according to them is sure to offer petrol-like fun along with the efficiency of a diesel which is just what the Indian buyer would prefer. Once in India expect pricing to be on par with the top of the range S-Class, 7-Series and the likes. If it’s a sportscar for four that you are looking at, I would advise you to hold on to that cheque of yours for just a little while longer!