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2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review

Despite the fact that we’re apparently still in the midst of a global economic meltdown – are you as tired of this phrase as I am? – the introduction of a brand new executive sedan may just be the most important reveal of the 2009 automotive season.

Words and pictures by Mark Hacking, in Elmau, Germany

Let’s study the facts: Porsche has been building cars since 1939, many of them of the sort that get the blood percolating.

Its built a wide variety of sports cars of the front-, mid- and rear-engine variety, its built a four-wheel-drive sports car and used it to win the Paris-Dakar Rally, its even built an SUV, but Porsche has never built a production sedan, until now.

When the company introduced the Cayenne back in 2003, the business case was relatively straightforward: research indicated that Porsche customers were also buying luxury SUVs and it had none in its showrooms to offer.

So, to stem the tide of people venturing over to the BMW and Mercedes lots for their SUV fix, it produced an off-roader of its own.

It was a fantastic move. Around the world, sales for the Cayenne have been incredibly strong until the recent downturn; so strong, they helped bring Porsche unprecedented financial stability.

2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review

With the Panamera, you have to wonder if lightning will strike twice; now that Porsche has abandoned its status as a manufacturer devoted exclusively to sports cars, will it find an audience for another model that deviates from its initial raison d’être?

Let’s not beat around the bush and jump right to the conclusion; yes, the Panamera will find an audience, economy notwithstanding, for a very simple reason, if you’re in the market for an executive express or a gran turismo sedan (as they like to call it), the Porsche absolutely must be on your shopping list.

For the press event held in the Bavarian Alps, three versions of the Panamera were at my disposal: the rear-wheel drive Panamera S, the all-wheel drive Panamera 4S and the rear-wheel drive Panamera Turbo, all equipped with the PDK dual-clutch transmission.

Many markets will receive other versions of the new sedan, including a V6 model, rear-wheel-drive V8 paired with a six-speed manual transmission, and –eventually – a petrol-electric hybrid.

The drive route was brilliantly conceived. The Panamera is a big car – very big – and wider than the average executive sedan, so it’s not the perfect choice for Europe’s famed switchback turns or alpine passes.

But it is great for a selection of gently winding roads and quick blasts along the autobahn; for it’s here where the sheer genius of the car’s engineering comes into sharp focus.

Even though lightweight materials have been used throughout the build, the Panamera still tips the scales at between 1770kg, for the manual S, and 1970kg, for the Turbo. Given this weight, motivation was a key factor and, as expected, Porsche has answered the call with a pair of potent engines.

2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review

The Panamera S and 4S are powered by a 4.8-litre V8 that features direct fuel injection, four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing and a dry sump lubrication system. This powerplant generates 294kW and 499Nm of torque with a healthy band that stretches between 3500rpm and 5000rpm.

Meanwhile, the Panamera Turbo rings in with the same V8, aided and abetted by twin turbochargers. The net result is 373kW and 699Nm of torque, most of it in the useable range between 2250rpm and 4500rpm.

With the optional Sports Chrono Package, the Turbo gains an overboost capability that sees the engine generate 768Nm of torque for even sharper acceleration.

The Turbo, as well as the 4S, came equipped with this option, which also delivers quicker shifts and a launch control system for the PDK versions, an air suspension system that lowers the sedan by 25mm, active suspension for sharper handling, a less intrusive stability control system and a nifty stopwatch on the dashboard.

Given all this, it will be a wonder if anyone orders a Panamera without the Sports Chrono Package!

All versions of the Panamera feature a very interesting new engine management feature: automatic start/stop.

While this system has been available in hybrid cars for years now, and is responsible for a significant portion of fuel savings in those vehicles, this is the first application in a production luxury non-hybrid.

2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review
2009 Porsche Panamera Review

When the car is in normal mode, it automatically shuts down when the car is stopped and immediately fires up again as soon as the brake pedal is released.

Full credit to Porsche for setting the pace with the start/stop system, there’s really no reason (except perhaps cost) why all cars aren’t similarly equipped.

Of the three versions, I came away most impressed with the Panamera S because it seemed lighter on its feet and easier to plant when entering corners of all descriptions.

You could hardly call any of the iterations “flickable”, but the S came closest. Of course, the Turbo also impressed with its sheer brute force, nothing makes an impact quite like an additional 75kW.

The PDK proved to be up to the challenge of transmitting all that power to the wheels. Of all the current dual-clutch systems on the market, my money’s on the Porsche system for being the quickest and slickest of them all.

The visceral pleasure of a well-sorted manual transmission will never go out of style, but the PDK has a charm all its own, setting aside the shift buttons on the steering wheel.

Porsche continues to insist that these buttons are a better solution than the far more ubiquitous shift paddles that derived from motorsport. Last year, virtually every review of the Porsche 911 included a complaint about the buttons, which are far from intuitive to operate.

Interesting, then, that the rumour is that Porsche will offer shift paddles as an option for any Panamera equipped with the PDK, and suffice to say it’s a decision whose time has come!

Regarding the Panamera 4S, I was a bit under-whelmed and the culprit seems to have been the variable-assist power-steering (it was the only car of the three so fitted), which felt too light and not confidence-inspiring in the same way as the regular power steering.

The 4S also suffered from additional weight (compared to the S) and less power (versus the Turbo).

No doubt, the all-wheel-drive system would come in handy under more extreme driving conditions, but if you have a rear-wheel-drive car that can scream along a very damp autobahn at well north of 200km/h without moving a millimetre out of line, you have to wonder at exactly what speed you’d need to be going before the additional traction is required.

The Panamera boasts the lowest centre of gravity of any car in its class. When you pair this fact with aerodynamic trickery such as the adaptive rear spoiler (a four-way version for the Turbo) that deploys and adjusts its angle automatically depending on the speed traveled, you have a sedan that seems more suited to hurtling down the Bonneville Salt Flats than shuttling business executives in rush-hour traffic.

Still, if you are forced to do the latter, the Porsche is more than ready to answer the call. With an interior cabin treatment reminiscent of the Carrera GT, the Panamera is easily the most luxurious Porsche ever built.

The most unique aspect of the cabin is the centre console, which extends from front to back, creating separate “cocoons” for the driver and three passengers.

The console houses the vast majority of the controls, including the audio system switches, climate-control buttons, suspension and engine mapping switches, and gear selector.

Everything is very logically organised for easy access to the driver and the surfaces are finished with rich materials, and it’s all very well executed.

In terms of comfort, the Panamera also sets new standards for the company. The seats are a marvel and there’s an abundance of headroom and legroom for back-seat passengers, something that was a very clear objective when designing the sedan.

Not so long ago, it was clear that Porsche devoted the vast majority of the development effort to the mechanical aspects of its cars. With the Panamera, it’s equally clear that the company is now setting aside time for creature comforts as well.

By this point in the story, keen observers will note that I’ve left the most contentious topic for last, the exterior design.

Some have compared the Panamera to a squashed Cayenne, or a stretched 911. Others have complained that it’s just flat-out ugly. One thing’s for sure: It’s unlike anything else on the road today.

To these eyes, the design blends elements of the 911 and the Chevrolet Corvette at the front with the Jensen Interceptor at the back.

While I won’t go as far as saying the Panamera meets the average person’s concept of beautiful design, it is strikingly original and there’s a strong chance it may grow on you. In the final analysis though, looks are a secondary concern because this is very definitely a true Porsche.


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PORSCHE PANAMERA BREAKDOWN

2009 Porsche Panamera Review
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  • Shane

    Porsche has single handedly rewritten the rule books for large 4 door saloons with this car.

    There is nothing else in this segment that can compete with this car. Aston Martin Rapide- Looks ok, wont be very practical will be too expensive and questionable build quality. Maserati quattroporte- same as the Aston Martin, AMG Mercedes- an old mans car with a good engine and that’s it, BMW M5- too old and outclassed by the Panamera, Audi RS6- Great engine in an ordinary body, not a great driving experience

    While looks are subjective I think it will look stunning in the metal, I am sure of that.

    Cant wait for the Turbo S…

  • Acfsambo

    Porsche have once again made a decent car in a poor shell. Like the Cayenne, they have tried to make it look too much like a 911. Though they have made a very good car, but will its looks drive people away?

  • Frenchie

    Surely two turbo chargers don’t weight 200kg?

  • Shane

    Dont judge the looks until you have seen one in the metal. This is what may journos have said in recent weeks

  • Supply & Demand

    What’s the point in a Porsche limousine? I thought a limo was something you rode in, not drove. The interior is easily the best I’ve seen. I only hope they use the same design in the next 911.

  • Alex

    The Panamera has really grown on me. I don’t think it’s beautiful by any means but I don’t think it’s the ugliest car in the world anymore and I did when the first pictures came out. It just looked so awkward but I think after some time, it looks a lot more composed.
    I do think it’s too expensive though. I think it starts at about $270,000 and it doesn’t even come with a reversing camera as standard and for a large car with poor visibility, that’s shocking.
    It’s certainly one of the few cars I’ve seen in recent times that can pull off gold paint.
    I would much rather a Rapide, but I have no problems with this and I do quite like it.

  • nobody

    No doubt a brilliant car and will thrash everything else that is considered it’s competition. Too bad so much is emphasized on the way it looks, though I suppose if you were to drop close to 400K you’d want it to look great.

    But surely whatever doubts or hates one has about look will be put aside during the test drive. What’s more this is actually a proper car with Porsche DNA, unlike the Cayenne which is a tarted up Touraeg not that there’s anything wrong with a Touraeg or a Cayenne, it’s not the same as a full fledged Porsche.

    Styling wise though I believe it’s a step up from the Cayenne which looked a mix between a 911, a boat and a duck’s head. The Panamera looks like a stretch 911 that resembles an ox tongue. The interior looks fantastic!

  • Supply & Demand

    I’m already starting to dread the first aussie road test. I imagine the headline will read something like “HSV takes on Stuttgart!!!!”…. Whatever sells.

  • Tony

    here’s a sideways thought… the Jaguar XFR is heaps better looking that this AND even better looking that the AML Rapide… is just as fast, cheaper to buy and insure and run and you look like much less of a dick in one than a Porsche or a Aston Martin

  • Frenchie

    You’re right Tony, but I don’t think rich Europeans and Arabs really care!
    Also think the backseats offer more in the limo class.
    Look at those rear headrests! Bert Newton would love it!

  • http://skyline The Salesman.

    If Porsche are moving into new markets then maybe we might see a hot hatch?

  • Baz

    “automatic start/stop… first application in a production non-hybrid.”

    Doubt this is true. The Smart car had it in some markets, the US big SUV “hybrids” are actually just auto start/stop models of normal cars.

  • The Realist

    Tony Says:
    June 26th, 2009 at 4:30 pm
    “here’s a sideways thought… the Jaguar XFR is heaps better looking that this AND even better looking that the AML Rapide… is just as fast, cheaper to buy and insure and run and you look like much less of a dick in one than a Porsche or a Aston Martin”

    The Jag has an ordinary interior. The interior in the photos above is gorgeous.

    Plus why would you care if you look like a dick? We live in the tall poppy capital of the world, where anyone who’s made something of their lives is called a dick. So most successful Aussies are used to it.

  • Mumble Duck

    I guess it does depend on your taste……..but really I think the shape and the look is just wrong!

  • observer

    Styling is questionable….especially from the side view rear doors back it looks like a jelly bean. (Hint of E type jaguar design)

    Nicely appointed interior but overall it doesn’t have that Maserati Quattroporte exterior suave styling that makes it desirable to me…anyway.

    Each to own. Cheers

  • john

    yuk. what an ugly vehicle.

  • http://carz.com/ Carz

    Interior is impressive, stylish and elegant. I don’t doubt for a moment that this new Panamera would cause problem for its competitors. It’s from Porsche, so it must be something.

  • Jacob

    “Jeremy,look at it, it’s an Austin Maxi”.They are so right about this car.

  • Alex

    Oh please, it looks no more like an Austin Maxi than an Aston Martin looks like a Hyundai. The two don’t even have the same basic shape for goodness sake.

  • Motorhead

    It’s horrendously ugly by any measure but then again so it the Cayenne so it mightn’t hurt it too much. The interior would be quite nice with out so much brown, you’d have to wonder who would order the awful brown paint of the test car too.

  • Shak

    The Rapide will kick shite in this cars face in the looks department. But otherwise i think this will drive better than any other 4 door sedan car in its class(es).

  • Hans

    have seen it twice passing me on the autobahn, and i can tell u this is thing has pure “überholprestige” (http://www.proz.com/kudoz/german_to_english/automotive_cars_trucks/849827-%DCberholprestige.html)

    it’s so wide, it won’t fit in most rear mirrors…
    once u see it on the road, u will find the design very appealing!

  • Minnow

    Porsche needs this to stay profitable so that it can continue to make the coupes. In my opinion its an attractive car in darker colours, not the old man beige. And im sure it will be more attractive in the metal. But then an Aston Martin Rapide looks great in pictures, how much more in the metal?? The Rapide will come along and just shade the porsche in every situation. It will be a show stopper when driving down a cafe strip or parked outside a restaurant and the porsche will be ignored.

  • Yanzo

    omg that thing! that’s so effing ugly but ooooh the engin bay is very nice

  • Allergic to Nuts etc

    You guys kill me:)
    On the one hand cars are bland and all look the same.
    Next day something comes out of a different box and its ugly.
    Kia Soul, brave alternate design, cops a floggin’,now this strange looking number thats outside the triangle gets abuse.
    I reckon you lot make the poms from the 60′s seem like mutes.
    Ho ho away we go {} {}

  • crouchy

    Im not too sure about this. That rear quarter is cringe-worthy but then again, what a stunning interior!

  • NacaYoda

    I’m sure this new direction by performance car manufactures to stretch their sports cars to accomodate two more doors will make a few sales, but accross the board, it is results in a range of cars that will be celebrated as the ugliest of the era. Aston Martin, Porchse… the rest of you… you should be ashamed. These things are hideous and you’ve soiled your name and integrity by releaseing them!

  • UR far too snobby Alex

    YacaNoda, I have just soiled my pants laughing at your comment.
    Do us a favour, go and start your own car company.
    I am sure the existing car co’s will take note of your input by the way.

  • macca

    I hate Porsche’s! But I am kinda left with a warm feeling looking at this…which is scaring the bejeezers outa me!

  • Verdigris

    Well i wish they made d boot proportion bit sleeker & left d miserable hatch-style door which reminded me of nissan pintara rofl. And i cant help wondering why they place a “porsche” logo on d boot unlike other porsches.
    Meh..better go for maser quattroporte. Way classier, its just like “not trying hard to look cool” haha

  • Frank

    It is really trying too hard to have that Porsche look, but as mentioned about, does not have that real appeal like the Maserati Quatroporte does.

    It nearly looks like someone stepped on the Cayenne and converted it from SUV to 4 door sedan. Honestly, stylistically and aesthetically I think the Caymen S is Porsche’s best effort.

  • Frank

    Hans, from your your Fiat 500 Bambino’s rear view mirror, everything coming from behind must look “überholprestige” from your vantage point. (:

    Woody Allen driving a Smart Car makes more sense than anyone in this Porsche…

  • Detlef

    Ugly car, just saw it in Germany. Who will buy this crap in today’s time where fuel efficiency is the trend. Porsche is a real Dinosaurs, glad that VW bought a major share in this dying brand and hopefully drive it in a better direction and away from the current crappy Cayenne and Panamera.

    • MultiAir

      I agree, the first thing FAG should do is fire all the design team and let the Italians design all future models.

  • Howie

    Just saw this in the flesh over the weekend.

    Far better in the flesh than the pictures would have you believe. Interior console styling is by far the best in the Porsche range. Went there over the weekend to put my name on a 997.2 C2 PDK in Meteor Grey, the interior of which is like comparing my other car’s interior (’08 Golf R32) to the 911. The Panamera looks that good.

    The only thing that looks strange is how small the wheels look in comparison to the rest of the car. Even though the Turbo S’ 20″ are monstrous, the arches and wheel-base looks disproportionately small and long. Monster truck wheels 22″ or 24″ should be fitted!

  • Martin Kennedy

    This is definetly the most over priced ugly sedan on the market. And whats with the Nissan dashboard design looks like it belongs on a $29,000 all you can eat sedan and yes I have seen one in the flesh and its just as ugly and old looking at the side and back as it is in the pictures. Sadly many people with no taste will buy them becuase they have a porshe badge on them porbally the old porsche drivers who have moved away from there 911′s its very much an old mans porsche. The porsche your having when your not having a porsche. The Aston may be questional quality but the lines of the Aston as far more alluring and supremely buitiful in comparison to this ugly duckling.

Porsche Panamera Specs

4S : 4.8L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 7 SP AUTO DUAL CLUTCH - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 4D COUPE
Car Details
Make
PORSCHE
Model
PANAMERA
Variant
4S
Series
970
Year
2009
Body Type
4D COUPE
Seats
4
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
4.8L
Cylinders
V8
Max. Torque
500Nm @  3500rpm
Max. Power
294kW @  6500rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
158.1W/kg
Bore & Stroke
89x96.4mm
Compression Ratio
12.5
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
7 SP AUTO DUAL CLUTCH
Drive Type
ALL WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
100
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
11.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1860
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1418mm
Length
4970mm
Width
1931mm
Ground Clearance
119mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
0
Front Rim Size
8x18
Rear Rim Size
9x18
Front Tyres
245/50 R18
Rear Tyres
275/45 R18
Wheel Base
2920
Front Track
1658
Rear Track
1662
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Heated Front Seats, Power front seats, Power Sunroof
Control & Handling
18 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Driver
Cruise Control, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Satellite Navigation
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio Compact Disc Player
Exterior
Power Mirrors, Power Tailgate, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Leather Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
36 months /  60,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
8-G-21
Country of Origin
GERMANY