Porsche launches an entirely redesigned Porsche Panamera, and we come along for extensive testing!
The launch of a new luxury sedan flies below the radar on this site. Unless it’s got implications for future sports cars. And unless it is a new Porsche. Zuffenhausen is about to launch the second generation of the Panamera – and we came a long for extensive testing on the Cape, where the roads are sufficiently twisty, empty and unpatrolled.
The second generation of the Porsche Panamera, codenamed 971 and internally called G2, is no standalone product anymore. Instead, it serves as the technical basis for a number of upcoming Volkswagen Group products. MSB stands for Modularer Standard-Baukasten – and we applaud the fact that Porsche identifies a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout as “standard.” The platform underpins the next-gen Bentley Continental family, due in about two years; the next Bentley Mulsanne, which will be launched in four to five years; the compact Bentley Speed Six, which will come after the Continental – and a possible two-door variation of the Panamera. There will be a shooting brake version of the Panamera, too. And it shares a number of components with the upcoming, fully electric Porsche Mission E, internally called J1.
The briefing for the first Panamera was tough: It was supposed to serve as a perfect autobahn stormer, it needed to live up to Porsche’s handling standards on curvy roads, and it needed to offer enough rear seat space to accomodate the company’s portly former CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking. It delivered on all counts, but beautiful it wasn’t. Its successor needed to exceed the first generation on all counts – and the designers needed to fix the looks.
It looks awesome!
Mission accomplished. Even though the dimensions of the new Panamera remain virtually identical to the outgoing model, the proportions have been reworked – and vastly improved. The windshield is more steeply raked, and the roofline above the rear passengers is lower by a full 20 millimeters – yet rear headroom, at minus 3 millimeters, is virtually unchanged. The side windows lose their upwards kink and end in an almost perfect oval, much like the 911. The wheelbase is elongated by 30 millimeters, and the trunk grows significantly. Porsche has achieved a low drag coefficient of 0.29.
You’ll need to see it without the camo: The new Porsche Panamera’s front and rear fascia are sharper and more angular than before, and the LED taillights – still hidden under disguise on the testing prototypes – assume the shape of futuristic, horizontal slits. Up front, the headlights are fitted with ultra-modern LED lighting units of the standard and the matrix LED variety – also still hidden under disguise. The next Panamera looks more compact, more contemporary and infinitely more elegant than the outgoing model. The Turbo model, it is clearly differentiated with larger and more aggressive lower front air intakes. You can also tell the models apart by their exhaust tips: The 4S model gets four round tailpipes, the Turbo sports four rectangular ones; the upcoming entry-level Panamera will have a two oval exhausts.
Totally new under the skin
Under the skin, everything is new. The MSB architecture is designed for rear- and all-wheel drive applications; the Panamera will be offered exclusively with an all-wheel drive system that can operate from a 100:0 to a 20:80 rear/front torque distribution. The Panamera stands on 19-, 20- or 21-inchs wheels; there is a choice of steel or carbon-ceramic brakes, and the stability control system features several modes and can be switched off entirely. A rear-wheel steering system is optional, and it makes a significant difference: The turning circle shrinks, there is more agility on twisty roads and incredible high-speed stability. When specified with this 4WS system, the Panamera is upgraded with a 48-volt electrical architecture. An innovative software connects all chassis systems, including the optional three-chamber air suspension, and adjusts the car to road conditions and driver input permanently.
Even more than its predecessor, and unlike any other luxury sedan on the market, the Panamera seems to shrink from behind the steering wheel. It is extremely responsive, there is virtually no body roll, and this sedan sucks up the miles with incredible ease. It’s slightly lighter than before, despite much added content, and that’s thanks to a new body and structure that’s strong on aluminum.
All-new engines are loud
At launch, Porsche will offer the 971 Panamera 4S with a 440-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6; the uplevel Panamera Turbo gets a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower, and the Panamera 4S Diesel comes with a 4.0-liter V-8 TDI that easily tops 400 horsepower as well. Down the road, there will be a single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 as an entry-level model; Porsche will also add an entry-level diesel with a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI, and we know that a gasoline- and electricity-powered V-6 plug-in hybrid is in the works as well. So is a Turbo S with at least 600 horsepower. All engines represent the latest in the VW Group’s modular engine architectures: The 3.0-liter V-6 engines, as well as the V-6 and V-8 TDI models are developed by Audi; the 4.0-liter V-8 is a Porsche development that will eventually work its way into other VW Group cars.
The soundtrack of the new engines inspires with awe, and that includes the artificially enhanced diesel. The V-6 gasoline engine delivers the most impressive exhaust crackle, and the V-8 gasoline engine is the dark apex predator. Top speed is ungoverned, and the Turbos should top 300 kph easily.
All models are fitted with a ZF-supplied 8-speed dual-clutch automatic; this, in fact, is the only transmission that will be used on any of the VW Group’s MSB vehicles, Porsche or not, and it is designed to incorporate an electric motor on hybrid models. The 6-speed manual, available on the predecessor until 2014, was ordered in such low numbers that a replacement was discarded early on.
A touch-sensitive cockpit
While its styling language looks similar to the predecessor, the user interface has been entirely redesigned: The orgy of buttons that adorns the first generation has been replaced with touch-sensitive surfaces and a few toggle switches. Many functions can be accessed only through the large, central 12.3-inch central screen – and the display surprises with ultra-reduced gray-on-black graphics. In front of the driver, there is an analog tachometer, flanked by two 7-inch TFT displays.
There is a three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters, and when the owner specifies the Sport Chrono package, there is a separate switch on the wheel that triggers an aggressive vehicle configuration. Sport Chrono also comes with the obtrusive stopwatch atop the dashboard, a styling element that we would gladly do without.
An incredibly aggressive driver’s car, the Porsche Panamera 971 can watch and pamper the driver with an available suite of assistance systems – including a stop-and-go functionality for traffic jams, a night vision system, and advanced connectivity that integrates much of your smartphone functionalities. Turn the nannies off, we say: This will be the most dynamic and fun-to-drive luxury sedan on the market – by a huge margin.