New Porsche Panamera
"Porsche doesn’t claim Panamera holds five people because it knows a fifth person is never comfortable in a sedan."
The neat thing about Panamera is that it’s all Porsche in terms of engineering, performance and drivability. Buts it’s most un-Porsche like in that it will hold four people and their luggage – comfortably – and it’s not an SUV, it’s a pure sport sedan. Porsche doesn’t claim Panamera holds five people because it knows a fifth person is never comfortable in a sedan, so it built Panamera with two real back seats – sport seats. It put a console between them with usable features like seat heaters.
The GTS starts life at $126,700, but by the time all the options are added, the price tag was up to $146,900. I understand the pricing except for one item: $3,500 for the paint (Carmine Red) which is an attractive tint to be sure, but it has no exotic metal flake additions. It’s just ordinary paint as far as I can tell from looking at it. Of course if you have an up-cost paint job, you really should have an interior to match, so this tester comes with the GTS interior package in Carmine, which ups the ante another $3,940 for colour keyed seat belts, upholstery stitching and “GTS” appliques on the headrests.
I have no clue what’s so special about Carmine that makes it cost more than $7,000; that’s a mighty large price tag for a colourful name.
The rest of the additions are those heated seats for rear passengers, a sport steering wheel for me, and BOSE audio system for everybody. The 20-inch wheels and side skirts are nice, too, and there’s a nifty brushed aluminum shifter for me to play with…provided I’m not playing with the paddle shifters.
No matter what the colour, the GTS is a blast to drive. Under the hood is Porsche’s 4.8-litre V8 that turns out a massive 480 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets power to all four wheels through the now-famous Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, better known to the Germanically-challenged as PDK.
Despite the fact I can carry three other people with me, this is a sports car in every sense. I get to choose the performance level (the rate at which acceleration rolls your eyeballs back into your head) at the push of a button on the centre console. I can opt to just leave things alone or select Sport or Sport Plus for performance that is simply awesome. Sport tightens up the suspension somewhat, holds gear selection slightly longer and propels the Panamera at a rate appreciably faster than normal mode. The transmission matches revs as you downshift to give me the best possible gear for exiting a corner. Sport Plus should really only be used on a track. Acceleration is breath-taking and the suspension is stiffer than you really want on the street or highway.
In any selection, the car sticks to the pavement like glue in the corners, steering response is instantaneous and this thing is so quick, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. As velocity builds, the car’s spoiler unfolds from just below the back window. It’s a complicated little manoeuvre that, it seems, requires some work because there’s a loud “thunk” when it goes to work.
The fun stuff is so easy and so natural I have to be careful not to get into “hello officer” velocities. Zero to 100 km/h takes less time than it takes to read this sentence. It’s easy to forget there are people in the car with me. These people are usually so chatty, but now they seem to be so….quiet! Their conversation picks up in proportion to the decline in speed, it seems.
There’s no wind noise, only softly muted road noise. In fact I have control of the noise level, too. There’s a little switch on the right side of the centre console that bears the graphic of a twin exhaust. Push that rascal and the exhaust note increases to a beautiful, melodic rumble that turns heads on the street and draws admiring glances wherever I go.
2013 Porsche Panamera
Trim level: GTS
Price as tested (before taxes): $146,960
Options on test vehicle: Carmine Red paint ($3,590); GTS interior package ($3,940); rear heated seats ($610); front and rear park assist ($690); Bose surround sound ($1,650); satellite radio ($860); carbon interior package ($2,280); sport design steering wheel ($340); brushed aluminum PDK shift lever ($850); sport design side skirts ($1,590); 20-inch Panamera sport wheels ($3,860).
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 4.8L V8/ 7-spd auto. with sequential shift
Power/torque: 480 hp/ 384 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Ultra (100L)
Fuel economy ratings: 13.3 L/100km city; 8.5 L/100km hwy.
Observed fuel economy: 10.9 L/100km over 449 km
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (comprehensive)
Competitors: Aston Martin Rapide; Audi S7 Prestige; Ferrari ff
Strengths: performance; looks; space
Weaknesses: cost, clunky spoiler deployment.