|2010 Porsche Panamera
- A true Porsche without compromise
- Peerless steering, handling and driver control across the range
- Brilliant interior packaging and rakish liftgate provide remarkable utility and comfort for four
- PDK transmission is possibly the best sporting automatic on the market
- Build/materials quality on par with the best
- It is not a Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Lexus in any way. Limited suitability for limo duty
- More expensive than equivalently equipped primary peers
- Styling is an acquired taste that may never be acquired
- An extensive test drive is required to fully appreciate Porsche’s definition of luxury and refinement
Remember the Cayenne as the four-door Porsche that wasn’t? While an undeniable success story, the Cayenne was a shared platform spearhead into the burgeoning SUV market carrying only bits and pieces of Porsche DNA along for the ride. The Panamera is different. From its purposeful stance to the pervasive Stuttgart logic in every detail, it declares itself as a car designed to be driven.
On first approach the well-known question of styling lingers. From a distance, as with the first generation Cayenne, the 911 design language seems ill-suited to the car’s length and purpose. The Panamera is not a classically proportioned sport sedan. Yet in-the-metal it has a presence that cannot be captured in photographs. The wide track, low sill and roofline and ruthlessly efficient packaging leave a powerful and distinctive impression. Head on one can see a hint of Carrera GT. In ¾ views careful attention to surfacing and horizontals reveal themselves as purposeful and Porsche. Especially in darker colors it becomes clear that the Panamera one of a family of cars where form follows function, not fashion.
Step through the low threshold into the driver’s seat and you are ensconced by the right kind of firm. This is not a luxury throne. It is designed to comfortably put you in touch with the sporting intentions infused throughout the rest of the car. Your surroundings are at once familiar and new. Hands on the steering wheel and you see and feel Porsche heritage. The world shrinks around the driving position with clear primary gauges, sight lines and mechanical controls where they should be. You feel ready to drive, no orientation required.
Then as you gaze across the dash to the passenger seat you find unexpected space and luxury. Unlike the 911, secondary controls no longer seem squeezed to contain the technology required to keep up with the rest of the segment. In the Panamera everything seems to have its place. It is a clean sheet interior, stylish and impeccably built. Yet some of the high-luxury interior amenities, while clearly present and accounted for, feel secondary. Perhaps the dramatic rising center console with its myriad of buttons intimidates drivers from exploring the more complex, high tech interfaces. To be fair, the layout as a whole makes abstract sense and the more regularly used features can be found when needed. Still, for the techno-luxury minded, the console and secondary controls across Panamera’s dash may seem somewhat fussy and inaccessible, even if its presentation aesthetically elegant.
The sporting focus from the driver’s position is so clear that one begins to wonder if the space in the rearview mirror is real. It is. The rear passenger compartment is a simple, elegant place with plenty of legroom and two of the best passenger sport seats in the business. Of course it can be dressed with entertainment displays and incredible sound systems, but again the luxuries seem slightly out of place given the simplicity and sport inherent in its design.
There is more. Behind the rear seats is a remarkable amount of cargo space facilitated by a large liftgate. Suddenly the shape and styling make sense. Fold the rear seats forward and you will be amazed by the amount of Home Depot or Costco shopping this car can swallow. Such flexibility puts traditional sedan layouts to shame, but can this be a real Porsche?
There is only one way to know. Return to the driver’s seat and pause a moment to wonder whether Porsche’s tradition of placing the key on the left foreshadows how the Panamera will drive, or ask yourself the question, why is keyless drive is a $1000 option in a $100K car? There is a fleeting recollection of Cayenne disappointment, but when you turn the key all is forgotten.
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