2014 Porsche Panamera – Review

Better, fitter, cleverer, but is it any more desirable?

By Shahzad Sheikh

Porsche_Panamera_2014_1

I’m not one to be blinkered. Things change, times change, viewpoints change. And when it comes to Porsche, there is precedence. I was a vehement critic of the Cayenne – it just seemed wrong to me on so many levels.

However from behind the wheel it was a beast of a thing and remarkably competent. It’s also Porsche’s biggest seller by far. Out of 81,565 Porsches sold globally in the first half of this year, 42,000 were Cayennes, and in our region – Porsche’s fourth biggest market – 6201 of them found homes – that’s 61% of all Porsches. It could very well be singled out justifiably as the saviour of the fabled sporting German marque.

2014 Porsche Panamera

By the time it came to the latest generation Cayenne, I was not only grudgingly accepting its qualities, but quietly becoming an admirer, especially with its sleeker more point new styling and extraordinary torque-vectoring voodoo that genuinely makes it a blast to drive.

So right off the bat I have to admit that Panamera too had me riled when it launched, feeling like another abomination out to sully the race-bred purity of the Stuttgart stallions.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Giving it the benefit of the doubt, the first time I got hold of one I took it for an extended run across the UAE from the Northern Emirates right down to the delightful little squiggly road that takes you up to Moreeb hill from the Liwa oasis.

I returned impressed with its dept of engineering and build quality excellence, wowed by its performance and long-legged comfort, and convinced of its distance-crushing capabilities.

2014 Porsche Panamera

But I remained unmoved by its dopey, horrendously obese 911-styling, and disappointed that it had not been worth the long trek to that exquisite little piece of desert-lined tarmac. This was because whilst amply adept at high-speed cruising, it proved too large, too wide, too heavy, too unwieldy and, well, too un-Porsche-like to feel comfortable, never mind joyous on such a road.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Once again however, the numbers speak for themselves. Panamera sales in our market were actually up in the first six months of 2013, despite it being an outgoing model, it accounts for 14% of sales – that’s the same as the 911.
Here we are then in Oman, home of some thrilling black top sections snaking their way up the other side of the Hajar mountains from the UAE, with the new 2014 Panamera range.

2014 Porsche Panamera

The visual changes

They are calling this the second generation of the four-seat luxury grand tourer, but really this is just a mid-life facelift, since the car’s only been around since 2009.

Changes to the outside include reshaped headlights with four LED spotlights acting as daytime running lights. The front overhang is shorter and restyled with bigger air intakes, and the same goes for the Turbo which gets even bigger intakes, but only two LED spots per light. The wing mirrors are new and the bonnet is bigger.

2014 Porsche Panamera

At the back the window is wider and flatter and the number plate has now been moved to the bumper and the tail lights are narrower. There are two retractable rear spoilers, one that simply slides up, and the Turbo version that rises and expands – very clever.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Engines and specs

There are a couple of new engines including the 3.0 V6 biturbo for the S models and the hybrid. Neither of which are to be underestimated. The biturbo produces 420bhp from the 3.0-litre giving an acceleration time of 5.1 for the 0-100kph dash and on to 287kph whilst only sipping 8.7L/100 – though not at the same time, that’s an overall combined economy number.

And if you like the sound of that thriftiness, you’ll like the very clever plug-in engine even more, as that returns just 3.1L/100, yet still gets to 100kph in 5.5 seconds, and will hit 270kph thanks to 416bhp. You may not like the sounds of hybrids, and Porsche are only expecting to sell 200 of these in the region over the first year, but this tech is important, because like it or not, it’s the future.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Of course you still get the regular 3.6-litre V6 for the base car (310bhp, 0-100 in 6.3 and 259kph, 8.4L/100). The GTS comes with the 4.8-litre V8 (440bhp, 0-100 in 4.4 and 288kph, 10.7L/100), and the Turbo serves up the same 4.8 with a couple of breathers pumping things up to 520bhp (0-100 in 4.1 and 305kph, 10.2L/100)

Oh, and there’s an extended wheelbase version of the car, for China and for us available in Turbo and 4S guise. It boasts a 15cm longer wheelbase, and they’ve used that to increase the rear legroom by 12cm and adding in three-inches of seat-back movement to allow the two rear passenger to recline in comfort.

2014 Porsche Panamera

The difference to the available rear legroom is vast, and levels of comfort for rear passengers is close to the best offered by the luxo barges from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. On the outside too, the elongated rear door, and slight-stretching of the profile, evens out the proportions a little.

To me the most interesting new engine is the V6 … so that’s the car I leapt into first.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Panamera 4S – 3.0-litre V6 BiTurbo

This is the logical one to get. It’s got all the performance you want but doesn’t scorch the earth with promiscuous consumption and flagrant disregard for the eco-system, yet still delivering junior supercar performance.

Get it with the paddle shifts and the sports exhaust to spice up the aural sensations, as it’s a little plane otherwise. Whilst it doesn’t feel breathtaking, it feels pretty rampant. The four-wheel drive is perhaps slight overkill, and not entirely necessary, especially for our dry roads, but it does give extra grip and composure.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Panamera S E-Hybrid

You get an Audi-sourced 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine and a synchronous electric motor giving a total of 416bhp. And the stats suggest that it’s less than half a second off acceleration time of the regular S, and only down 17kph in top speed.

So it should feel pretty sprightly. However you can’t shake the sensation that it has a weighed-down feel, and in the company of its non-hybrid siblings it felt the sluggish. Having said that, in isolation, this is plenty of performance, and would suite luxury fleets and owners who have to do a lot of in-town mileage and who’s DEWA bill is paid by the office.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Panamera Turbo

But of course in our market it’s the full-fat Turbo that’s the most popular, usually specced in white, blue or grey with 20-inch 911 Turbo wheels.

From behind the wheel that’s not entirely surprising, it seems worth the premium. Not just for the solid wall of torque that your right foot can unleash, but for the sound, the grunt and sheer ease with which it does it. Not that it feels lightning quick compared to the others, but the thrust and potency is very much in evidence.

2014 Porsche Panamera

Verdict

So am I convert? Have I revised my view? Has the Panamera finally won me over? No not really.

And the reasons remain the same as before. For the best examples of how to do the four-door coupe shape, see the extremely elegant BMW 6-series Grand Coupe, beautiful Aston Martin Rapide (although the previous car, not the latest iteration with the guppy-mouth grille, and aside from the looks the car is claustrophobic, outmoded and poorly thought-out compared to the sublime execution of the Porsche).

2014 Porsche Panamera

Plus it’s still no sportscar. The grip and poise is there (although leave the suspension in comfort, as sport just makes the ride knobbly without any substantive benefit to the body control) but the steering is the efficient but silent and dour type, the weight transference is lethargic and you find yourself ordering the car to do your bidding, rather than naturally gelling with it. It’ll leave you impressed, but not engaged.

Having said that, for a lot of owners at this end of the market, that’s all that is required. Drivers who want to, well, ‘drive’ will probably also have a tasty 911 tucked away in their multi-car garage anyway.

2014 Porsche Panamera

The Panamera for them is the business barge, the luxury express that will whisk them on the way to another corporate takeover ahead of time. For that it’s eminently suitable. Although the Cayenne would fit the bill just as well.

But the Panamera will continue to sell and sell in good numbers here in the region. Except for the E-Hybrid. Nobody will buy that curiosity apart from the environmentally-conscious and technically savvy. Rest assured though, one day this is the sort of tech that will be driving all our cars.

2014 Porsche Panamera

2013 Panamera
Specs for cars tested
Price:
Panamera S E-Hybrid – AED485,600 ($132k)
Panamera 4S – AED486,600 ($133k
Panamera Turbo – AED671,800 ($183k)
Engine:
Panamera S E-Hybrid – 3.0-litre V6 supercharged, 416bhp @ 5500rpm, 435lb ft @ 1250-4000pm
Panamera 4S – 3.0-litre V6 biTurbo, 420bhp @ 6000rpm, 384lb ft @ 1750-5000pm
Panamera Turbo – 4.8-litre V8, 520bhp @ 6000rpm, 516lb ft @ 2250-4500pm
Performance:
Panamera S E-Hybrid – 0-100kph 5.5s, 270kph top speed, 3.1L/100
Panamera 4S – 0-100kph 5.1s, 286kph top speed, 8.9L/100
Panamera Turbo – 0-100kph 4.1s, 305kph top speed 10.2L/100
Transmission:
Panamera S E-Hybrid – Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Panamera 4S – Seven-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Panamera Turbo – Seven-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Weight:
Panamera S E-Hybrid – 2095kg
Panamera 4S – 1870kg
Panamera Turbo – 1970kg

2014 Porsche Panamera

 

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