What is it?
Loads of manufacturers claim they’ve invented market segments. The Panamera is Porsche's attempt at the same.
It's a four-door, four-seat, fastback sports car which it says creates "the Panamera class." I can't see the tag catching on but there's merit to the concept, along which lines Aston Martin has developed the Rapide.
Really the Panamera is a grand tourer and is offered initially with V8 engines derived from the Cayenne SUV, giving fast-sports performance in naturally-aspirated S tune (with 2 or 4wd), or supercar-baiting pace in the 4wd Turbo flavour tested here. In 2010 there’ll be a hybrid and, probably, later a diesel and a faster GTS/Turbo S too.
The Panamera’s natural rivals are top-end versions of existing luxury cars like the AMG S-Class and Maserati Quattroporte, but given the Panamera’s latent dynamism don’t discount the challenge from smaller but overtly sporting cars like the BMW M5, Mercedes CLS63 AMG and Jaguar XFR.
What’s it like?
Let’s first deal with the boring stuff. The Panamera easily seats four in comfort. Its seats – front and rear – neither look nor feel as wide as in traditional luxury cars and you’ll find more room in the back of a ‘proper’ saloon, but the seats are comfortable and very supportive.
It’s a low-set cabin; the driver’s seat position is similar to a 911’s in relation to the front wheels. The cockpit architecture is cosseting too, with a high transmission tunnel running the length of the passenger space, a high-set gearlever and excellently clear switchgear and dials.
The rear seats are set slightly inboard (to afford passengers a decent view out), and they split/fold giving up to 1263 litres of boot space. You can even have a towbar.
But is it like a Porsche to drive? For the most part, yes. Porsche says the Panamera sits somewhere between a 911 and a Cayenne but, by dint of having a front-mounted engine and weighing all-but two tonnes, it’s more like the SUV than the rear-engined sports car.