Of all the things the Porsche 911 does well, accommodating more than two people isn’t among them.
This poses an obvious problem for those without room in their driveways — or budgets — for more than one vehicle. This is where the Porsche Panamera comes in. Because make no mistake, this thing is born from the same bloodlines as its sibling from Stuttgart. It just so happens to have four doors, and with them, room for four people. It’s also new for 2017, with nothing except the badge on the hood carrying over from the first-generation car, offering a fresh take on the four-door sports car concept.
Two Ways to Tango
Much like the 911 and its umpteen derivatives, the 2017 Panamera will be offered in a whack of trim levels that scale the price ladder in a way only a Porsche can. The sedan will be offered in familiar 4S and Turbo guise at launch, the former acting as the gateway to four-door Porschedom; cost of entry: $100,000.
Both are powered by new twin-turbocharged engines, with a 2.9-liter V6 found in the 4S and a 4.0-liter V8 in the Turbo, that house their turbochargers inside the cylinder bank to save space under the hood.
The smaller of the two engines makes a stout 440 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque, while the burly eight-cylinder is good for 550 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of twist. Regardless of engine choice, the Panamera gets a Porsche-first eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system.
Work That Body
To describe the 2017 Panamera’s exterior in one word it would be: Refined. The new looks build on all of the good from the previous generation, leaving all of the bad. Gone is the bubble-like shape of old that made the car look a bit like a Volkswagen Beetle that got caught in a panini press, replaced by a sharper profile that is lower, longer and sleeker. It also leans much more heavily on the likes of the 911 for inspiration, particularly around back where the wide rear haunches do the Panamera plenty of stylistic favors.
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The car has grown, albeit slightly, in its second generation, adding 1.18 inches to its wheelbase and 1.34 inches to its overall length. The Panamera may be long — at 198.8 inches, it’s less than three inches shorter than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan from bumper to bumper — but you wouldn’t know it from the its sleek and low profile, which finds a way to deceptively shrink the proportions.
The new dimensions haven’t done anything to shrink the Panamera’s curb weight, though, tipping the scales at 4,123 lb in 4S guise and 4,398 in Turbo trim. That compares to the the same unladen weight in the outgoing 4S and the old Turbo’s 4,343-lb curb weight despite the expanded use of aluminum in the car’s construction, including the doors, hood, hatch, side panels and roof.
Porsche Advanced Cockpit
It’s somewhere around the time you slip into the cabin of 2017 Panamera that you realize it’s special. There’s just something about the way the car envelops you and puts you firmly in control that brings on a level of confidence and excitement not often felt in a sedan, sport or otherwise. The interior is so simplified and streamlined, due in part to the automaker’s new advanced cockpit design, which brings a completely 918 Spyder-inspired approach to the Panamera that’s heavy on the digital.
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The first-generation Panamera featured enough buttons on the center console to rival a Boeing 747, but not this time around. Hard keys are replaced by touch-sensitive surfaces that are easy to use and cut down on the clutter. Likewise, most controls have been centralized through a new 12.3-inch touchscreen atop the center stack that runs Apple CarPlay and offers WiFi hotspot connectivity.
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If that’s not enough, the Panamera’s instrument cluster features two digital display screens on either side of the tachometer that offer info on everything from g-forces to maps and radio stations.
Like the last generation, the 2017 Panamera has two personalities: Sports car and luxury sedan. But unlike its predecessor, the two are much less distinctive from one another — and that’s not a bad thing. Both sides of the car blend together in a seamless way, providing equal parts corner-carver and comfy cruiser.
Expecting anything less than superb handling is futile, with an almost 911-like ability to slice up a twisty road and serve it on a platter thanks to electromechanical steering that is tremendously crisp and precise and available four-wheel steering that turn the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts at speeds above 30 mph for increased stability and control. But the Panamera also boasts a ride quality that rivals its peers, effortlessly — if a little firmly — intercepting the imperfect subtleties of the tarmac. A new three-chamber air suspension, which is optional on the Panamera 4S and standard on the Turbo, has three height settings to go along with the electronic damper control system’s trio of driving modes. Like the steel springs that come fitted as standard on the 4S, the air suspension falls on the stiffer side than the competition no matter the drive mode, a hallmark of Porsche.
That’s not to say it’s unpleasant, though, particularly at speed. Driving the 4S, the Panamera gently glides to 100 mph and beyond quietly and comfortably — a little too comfortably. It also doesn’t drive its size, with the way the Panamera slithers through corners quickly quelling any notion of how much car is behind you.
Turbo lag is noticeable until revs hit 1,750 rpm — the point where all 405 lb-ft come online — and then it’s lights-out, hustling to 60 mph in just four seconds with the Sport Chrono package. Not only does it add launch control, but it brings with it a steering wheel-mounted sport response button. First introduced on the 918 Spyder, sport response acts like overboost, unleashing maximum power for 20-second increments while also dropping as many as five gears at a time for impressive passing ability. If 20 seconds isn’t enough, simply hit the button again and exhilaration ensues. With the Sport Chrono pack option box ticked on the Panamera Turbo, expect rest to 60 mph in an otherworldly 3.4 seconds, faster than every Porsche model on the market this side of the 911 Turbo.
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For all its athletic accoutrement, the Panamera is as civilized and foreign dignitary-worthy as the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series. When family duty beckons, it easily answers the call.
The Verdict: 2017 Porsche Panamera Review
The only real problem hampering the Porsche 911 — aside from the fact I don’t own one — is its inability to transport more than two people in luxo-sport glory, a problem the Panamera handles with ease. Fear not, though, aficionados, because the Panamera isn’t a four-door 911. But it does do a fine impression, pushing the boundary of what a sports car can be.
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