The Porsche Panamera is something special when it comes to Teutonic sports cars, even those with four doors and a hefty price tag. Purists have decried this luxo-bomb - Porsche's first sedan - in the same fashion that they screamed about the Cayenne SUV.
But you can't argue with success, as the Cayenne became the best-selling vehicle in the Porsche portfolio, and has helped to make the company the most profitable manufacturer in the industry. Along the way, the Panamera has also developed a following, and Porsche is looking to attract more buyers with a mild facelift that arrived for 2014.
Just how much of a difference does the update make? We're taking a closer look.
What is it?
A four-door, four-passenger luxo-cruiser, the Porsche Panamera is five model years into its first generation. Domestically, the Panamera is now sold in nine different flavors including the base, 4, S and 4S models, as well as the GTS and 520-horsepower Turbo. Those wanting to display their green credentials can order a new-for-2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid version, which is a plug-in capable of more than 20-miles of electric-only range at speeds up to 83 mph.
All standard models measure 197.44-inches long, with a wheelbase of 115-inches. Need more stretch out space? Long-wheelbase Executive and Turbo Executive variants with an extra 6-inches of rear seat legroom are now available. Finally, buyers outside the US market can take advantage of a Panamera Diesel. (Why not us?)
Our tester, the Panamera S, is newly powered by a twin-turbocharged and direct-injected 3.0-liter V6. Although downsized, the mill produces 20 more horsepower than the 4.8-liter V8 engine that it replaces, up to 420 ponies and 384 lb-ft of torque between a relaxed 1,750- and 5,000-rpm. With that smaller engine comes a corresponding increase in fuel economy when compared to previous models.
The V6 is mated to the silky, but difficult to pronounce, Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) seven-speed transmission. A dual-clutch gearbox, it preloads the next cog for almost imperceptible shifts with improved acceleration and economy. It is also equipped with an Auto Start-Stop function that deactivates the engine when coasting to a stop, but also manages to consciously uncouple when lifting off the accelerator, for increased mileage while on a highway.
The Panamera's standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, bi-Xenon self-leveling headlamps, eight-way power seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, Porsche Communication Management with a 7-inch display for Navigation, Audio and Bluetooth, and a 4.8-inch instrument cluster TFT screen that is driver configurable. But ours is the uprated Panamera S model, which includes the aforementioned twin-turbo V6, adaptive air suspension and adaptive headlamps.
It also boasts Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which brings adaptive antiroll bars and a limited-slip rear differential. The Porsche Sports Chrono kit with launch control, making an appearance here as part of the optional Sport Package ($6,790), is one of numerous rather pricey extras fitted to our example.
What's it up against?
The Panamera runs in rare air. As such, it competes against the Jaguar XJ, Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. The list continues with high performance variants of those models and tops out with the Bentley Flying Spur, the next iteration of which will share a platform with the second-gen Panamera.
How does it look?
From various angles, our Panamera S bears a distinct resemblance to the legendary 911-model. Despite its taller greenhouse and two extra doors, it's clear there is plenty of Stuttgart DNA in this luxury sport-cruiser.
Our sampler was fitted with the Sport Design package, with a special front fascia and oversized intakes and side skirts. Stacked with adaptive LED headlamps and the typical long, sloping Porsche hood, the normal aggression is all here.
Sexy rear hips project a powerful presence rearward, leading to a bulbously shaped fishbowl that may or may not have been inspired by the late Porsche 928. Some have challenged its overall design ethos, but we appreciate how it shakes up brand convention.
The 2014 refresh did bring subtle revisions, including a wider rear window and lower-mounted license plate, that help smooth things out back somewhat. Reworked head- and tailights round out the changes.
Finally, our Panamera was complete with the optional exterior package in high-gloss black ($390), along with 20-inch black painted sport wheels ($4,935).
And on the inside?
The Panamera's interior looks now form the basis of what is seen in nearly all the other vehicles in the product lineup. The traditional five-gauge instrument panel returns, as does the ignition key location to the left of the steering wheel. Four expertly-bolstered sport seats coddle their charges during fits of grand touring bliss that can include heating and ventilation as needed. Our tester was equipped with an available Bose 14-speaker audio system ($2,120).
But not all was perfect inside the black-leather cockpit that would have whetted the appetite of any leather fetishist. A center console splits the cabin and presents a multitude of control buttons that potentially could number as many as 80. As much as we appreciate the accommodations, we think there must be a more elegant solution.
Not just a people hauler, the Panamera's rear hatch lifts to yield 15.72-cubic feet of space with the seats in the upright and locked position. Fold them forward and that number climbs to 44.6-cubic feet.
But does it go?
Out with the old, in with the new says Zuffenhausen as they dispense with last year's V8 in favor of the new twin-turbo V6 engine, which makes short shrift of a zero-to-60 mph excursion in a claimed 4.9 seconds. The PDK transmission clicked through the gears in such smooth fashion that it eclipsed the quarter mile in 13.7-seconds. Although we never got close, Porsche says the Panamera could be pushed to 178 mph.
For the sake of convenience, we avoided the annoying steering wheel-mounted shifter nubs, instead giving the seven-speed tranny a chance to row itself automatically. Stylistically the nubs look fine; functionally, they can change gears with an accidental bumping from a hand on the wheel. Speaking of steering, the variable-ratio power steering offered some of the best feedback we have experienced in any high-performance road car.
The adaptive air suspension system, also known as PASM, adapted to changing road conditions with nary an untoward noise or behavior. Impressed with how this large Porsche actually felt smaller than it truly measured up, it was almost as though our right foot was being urged to really exercise this beauty masquerading as a beast. Kudos are also earned for the serene quiet of the cabin that results from the thermal- and noise-insulated glass.
But the real beauty of the Panamera is the ability go into button-pushing mode, which changes major characteristics of the car. Clicking Sport and Sport+ enabled a throttle remap which held gears longer, firmed up the steering and set the dampers for a firmer ride that was still compliant enough to not rattle your fillings. Speaking of button-pushing, other buttons of note included an ECO Auto Start/Stop mode, which can be disabled, and a sport exhaust button that opens a baffle to increase the underhood growl.
For those keeping track, the EPA says to expect this 3,990-pounder to achieve 17 city / 27 highway, with an average of 21 mpg.
Weight aside, as big as this four-door sled appears, there is no getting around it - it's still a Porsche through and through.
Leftlane's bottom line:
The refreshed Porsche Panamera S answers the call for buyers who have, perhaps through marriage and/or childbirth, grown out of a 911 but still want to maintain their motoring mojo regardless of how many people are inside.
Sure, it may be bigger and, in the eyes of some viewers, a touch awkward, but we can think of only a few other vehicles we would rather be in.
2014 Porsche Panamera S base price, $93,200. As tested, $126,995.
Ruby Red Metallic paint, $790; Black leather interior, $3,655; extended range fuel tank, $400; heated steering wheel, $270; Rear wiper, $360; Interior lighting package, $605; Park Assist, $1,505; Telephone module, $930; Voice Control, $595; Porsche Car Connect, $495; Exterior high gloss package, $390; Thermal and noise insulated glass, $1,240; Retractable luggage compartment roller, $150; LED exterior lighting package, $845; Leather key case, $165; Painted key, $335; Bose Audio System, $2,120; Premium package plus, $6,280; Sport Package, $6,790; 20-inch Panamera sport wheels, $4,935; Destination, $975.
Photos by Mark Elias.