If you have a supercar and put it away for the winter and are looking for a “winter beater” that’s not an SUV, here are two very compelling choices.
The Porsche Panamera Turbo and BMW M760i are two big engined, super luxurious executive sedans that make you feel like a boss. With all-wheel drive, proper winter tires, and heated everything, they are glorious cruise beasts to get you through the cold months.
It might not seem like an apples-to-apples comparison, but as tested, these big sedans (OK one’s not really a “sedan”) match up pretty closely in price, around $170k (about $180K in Canada), and despite them being totally different cars with totally different engines, it’s not crazy to think that people would cross-shop them.
But after driving them back to back, we did realize that they’re aimed at two very different buyers.
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The BMW is So Extra
The biggest edge that the BMW has over the Porsche is that everything about it is over the top — it’s cool, but just a bit extra. The matte paint job is over the top, the V12 engine is over the top, even the key is over the top — it’s like a tiny smartphone with a touchscreen, but it’s not that useful because everything you can do with this key you can do with an app.
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The tech in this is also over the top: gesture controls, massaging and reclining seats, a little table in the back, two screens, soft closing doors, a removable tablet, and a footrest? These all look pretty cool, are useful for people being chauffeured and are impressive to people who are lucky enough to ride with you, but they can be quite gimmicky and aren’t that useful for people in the front two seats.
Also, these screens in the back aren’t touchscreen, so passengers have to use an integrated tablet to control the seat-mounted screens, which makes sense if someone sitting in the back is too reclined to reach it. Still, it is super cool that the M760i is basically a business class cabin, and if you’re being driven, it’s is a classy and comfortable way to get around.
On the Road
The M760i is big, brash, and has a ton of attitude. When someone sees this car rolling down the road, they know someone important is inside.
One of the best aspects of the BMW is how it accelerates. This V12 is one of the smoothest engines out there and it’s the same one that Rolls-Royce uses, which says a lot about how good it is. It surges forward effortlessly no matter what gear you’re in and just a little tap on the pedal is all it takes. Absolutely no vibration or harshness makes it into the cabin.
The massive 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 is one of the biggest engines you can buy and it outputs 600 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, which is available from just 1,900 rpm. The power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It naturally has a rear-wheel bias, but when it’s wearing winter tires, it is an animal in the snow.
Although the BMW is geared towards people who want to be chauffeured, the M760i still manages to feel great from the driver’s seat. I drive it exclusively in sport mode because the steering is just too light otherwise, but besides its obvious weight (and it is really, really heavy), the BMW handles like a much smaller car.
This excellent handling has a lot to do with the rear axle steering that makes the imposing sedan more stable at high speeds, more nimble at lower speeds, and more composed in the corners. The big sedan doesn’t love corners, but it feels confident, if only a little cumbersome, on a twisty road. The active suspension control system combines with the damper control system and the air suspension to keep roll to a minimum while still keeping things cushy. The car’s weight also helps it glide over rough surfaces, so it just irons out bad roads.
And the BMW also easy to park and maneuver despite how big it is. The rear steering makes it feel like it has a much shorter wheelbase and the variable steering cuts down on the effort needed to snake through parking garages. It also has a useful 360 top-view backup camera that shows you if you’re at risk of dinging the car next to you. Combined with an army of sensors, drivers will have no fear when docking this ship.
And if you’ve ever parked in a spot that’s too tight to comfortably exit, the BMW has a neat feature that will allow you to half-park it, exit the car, and then finish the parking job remotely using the touchscreen key. It works, but it’s not very smooth or intuitive and it takes too long to set up.
The infotainment system is much improved and the head-up display is crisp and useful. The main screen has a couple different input options: drivers can use the touchscreen or the rotary knob that also recognizes handwriting when you draw on top of it, which is great while driving so you don’t have to scroll through letters and take your eyes off the road. The menu structure has been simplified, but it still requires a bit of a learning curve.
Panamera Fights Back
When it comes down to infotainment, the Panamera is down by about three screens (four if you count the key), but the one the driver uses is the most is probably the most important, and it’s superior to BMW’s setup for a few reasons. The menu structure is much more intuitive, the options are clear, and in general is just better thought out and more user-friendly.
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The interior also looks much more modern in the Porsche, and I like that the wall of buttons has been replaced by a slick buttonless setup. It works because everything is well labeled and gives you haptic feedback when you push the “buttons,” which don’t get as greasy as you’d think. Porsche simplified the interior all while making it prettier and more user-friendly in the process. BMW’s interior ends up looking dated in comparison.
The Panamera is a Porsche, After All
And while the Panamera Turbo doesn’t come with all those fancy executive back seat features and cool tech that the BMW does, it is the better drivers car of the two, and it’s a Porsche, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Panamera is down four cylinders, but it feels much more like a sports car, which the BMW does not. The Porsche feels more nimble in corners and the steering is so much more alive and responsive. The sportback displays a crispness all around that the BMW lacks.
Like the BMW, the Panamera Turbo has rear-wheel steering that makes it feel more nimble and gives it a tighter turning radius, as well as a standard three-chamber air suspension that allows for sports car handling without sacrificing comfort. I adore the way the Panamera Turbo handles.
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The Panamera Turbo is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that outputs 550 horsepower and 567 pound-feet of torque, which is obviously quite a bit less than the BMW. Power gets to all four wheels via Porsche’s excellent eight-speed PDK. This sportback is way faster than you’d ever need it to be. It gets to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and the BMW does it in 3.7, but with the Sport Chrono package, which our car has, it does it in 3.4 seconds. The V12 BMW gives me the giggles in a straight line, but the Panamera is actually entertaining in corners.
The Verdict: 2018 BMW M760i vs Porsche Panamera Turbo Comparison
These two cars are aimed at very different consumers. As tested, the Porsche is the better pick for drivers, while the BMW is better for people who prefer to be driven or people who value luxury over handling. If you prefer to be chauffeured, the BMW wins this comparison hands down. It has the prestige, status, and sheer wow factor that people shopping executive sedans want.
Although I find it really hard to say no to anything with 12 cylinders, in the end, I’m a driver, and I like to drive, so the Panamera Turbo ends up being my personal pick, even though the BMW is the better executive sedan.
Porsche Panamera Turbo