Source: Car and Driver
Full Article: 2017 Porsche Panamera First Ride: Everything’s Been Redone
When Porsche launched the Panamera four-door hatchback in 2009, it was a shock to enthusiasts. Although the Cayenne SUV had already tested Porsche loyalists’ patience, at least vehicles of that type convey a whiff of adventure. But a large hatchback, engineered to serve as a chauffeur-driven limousine for Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking?
It wasn’t pretty—but it worked. The Panamera wowed us with fantastic straight-line performance and cornering ability well beyond anything else in its class. Its Achilles’ heel? The inflated roofline, which made for a roomy back seat but contributed to an altogether disagreeable shape.
On June 28, Porsche will officially unveil the next generation of the Panamera. We expect to see production cars on the road in early 2017, but we’ve recently had a preview, spending extensive time with the new Panamera in prototype form during preproduction testing in South Africa.
Even though the new Panamera is sized almost exactly like the outgoing model, the proportions have been reworked and vastly improved. There’s a bit more wheelbase, a more steeply raked windshield, and a roofline that drops far more aggressively. Add to that a new side-window shape more reminiscent of the 911’s, new LED headlights, and slimmer horizontal taillights, and the result is an elegant, muscular, and slightly futuristic hatchback sedan that looks just right. The prototype photos don’t do it justice, but this is a car you could buy for its looks, not in spite of them.
The various versions are differentiated by their front fascias and exhaust treatments. The 4S model gets four round tailpipes, the Turbo sports four rectangular ones, and the upcoming entry-level Panamera has dual oval exhausts.
Miraculously, Porsche has managed to keep rear-seat room virtually identical to the predecessor—meaning spacious—despite the prettier roofline. And the cargo capacity has actually grown. But the most significant interior changes happen up front, where the ergonomics have been entirely rethought. The mass of buttons that adorn the current car’s center console have been replaced with touch-sensitive surfaces and just a few toggle switches. Many functions can be accessed only through the large, central 12.3-inch screen. In front of the driver, there’s an analog tachometer flanked by two 7.0-inch TFT displays.
As on other recently introduced Porsches, when the next Panamera is ordered with the Sport Chrono package, it will feature a separate switch on the steering wheel that calls up more aggressive chassis settings. Sport Chrono also comes with the usual (and slightly cornball) stopwatch atop the dashboard; it couldn’t look more out of place than in this interior, which is otherwise defined by its clean surfaces. The central air vent can be closed entirely, and, when not in use, the bottoms of the cupholders rise flush with their surrounding surfaces.
The new Panamera is built on a new architecture with significance beyond Porsche. Its MSB platform (which stands for the German Modularen Standardbaukasten) will underpin a number of upcoming Volkswagen Group premium cars. The Panamera will be all-wheel drive only, and the system can distribute up to 100 percent of the torque to the front axle and 80 percent to the rear.
The Panamera will offer 19-, 20-, or 21-inch wheels as well as a choice of iron or carbon-ceramic brake rotors, and the stability-control system features multiple modes (including completely off). A rear-wheel steering system is optional; it shrinks the turning circle, provides more agility on twisty roads, and helps deliver incredible high-speed stability. With it comes an upgraded, 48-volt electrical subsystem. The standard air springs adjust to road conditions and driver input, and our experience showed that the Panamera can swallow miles with incredible ease.
The new Panamera will be available exclusively with turbocharged engines. At launch, Porsche will offer the Panamera 4S powered by a 440-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, the Panamera Turbo with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 with 550 horsepower, and the 4S diesel featuring a turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 that will top 420 horsepower. (Numbers are preliminary.) Every model is fitted with a PDK eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission supplied by ZF. (In fact, this will be the only transmission used in the VW Group’s MSB vehicles, Porsche or not, and it is designed to incorporate an electric motor for hybrids.) The six-speed manual that was available on the original Panamera until 2014—and ordered in unbelievably low numbers—won’t return. Rumor has it that Porsche may have built more prototypes for testing than cars for sale.
Down the road, a single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 will be offered to create an entry-level model. Porsche also will add a smaller 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, and a 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 diesel units, were developed by Audi; the gas-fired 4.0-liter V-8 is a Porsche design, albeit distantly related to the Audi V-6. Porsche says this is a different engine from Audi’s 4.0T; supporting Porsche’s claim is that the bore and stroke differ from the Audi engine’s. The soundtracks of the new engines are fantastic. The diesel gets plenty of artificial enhancement, but the V-6 gasoline engine delivers the most impressive exhaust crackle, and the V-8 gasoline engine speaks with an appropriately deep tone.
Naturally, Porsche will offer a suite of driver-assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality for traffic jams, a night vision system, and advanced connectivity that integrates many smartphone functions. If the car is equipped with all the goodies, it will allow you to take your hands off the wheel for a period of time defined by speed and other parameters. But who would ever want to? This is a luxurious four-door that promises to drive like a full-fledged sports car, an art that only Porsche has mastered thus far.