New Porsche Panamera: Suited and boosted

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Old 30-Sep-2011
New Porsche Panamera: Suited and boosted

UNP ImageIt's all about the details. Even the key of the Porsche Panamera is shaped like the luxury sports saloon. The carmaker obviously doesn't doubt its looks, taking every chance it gets, it seems, to show them off. But the debate whether everyone else outside of Stuttgart thinks it's aesthetically pleasing or not rages on and will continue to do for the foreseeable future. Frankly, I'm not interested in its looks. I'm not a superficial kind of guy. In fact, it could look like a monkey's bare-bottomed uncle and I would not mind. Not when the key in my hand is for the new, 550bhp, 750Nm of torque and 306kph Turbo S. For those of you yet to be convinced by its looks, you needn't worry. It'll fly past before your brain has even registered what just happened. This car is all about brute speed.

Under its bonnet lies the same twin-turbocharged V8 engine that churns out 500 horses in the Panamera Turbo, mated to the same seven-speed PDK feeding the power to all four wheels. But, it's not the same. This 4.8-litre monster summons up 50 horses more in the Turbo S — and you can feel each and every one of them smacking you in your belly when you bury the throttle. In Sport and Sport Plus mode, the overboost generates 50Nm more torque making 800 in total, and with a redline at 6,700rpm, there's so much power here, you could probably pull a small planet out of the sky.

There's no other way to appreciate its performance, which just grabs you by the neck, other than getting behind the wheel and flogging it. But, I might be one of the few who gets a kick out of this 4,970mm long Porsche when it's just sitting there, sleeping. Up close, you begin to appreciate the Turbo S's hulking size and wrestler-like squat. It's got a new pair of shoes — 20in Turbo II alloys with coloured wheel hub covers and an increased rear axle track width. The wheels sit flush to the body thanks to 5mm thick spacers which add to its sporty character. The Porsche Exclusive range side skirts bulk it up some more and last but not least, it's got an adaptive four-way extending rear spoiler, painted the same Carrara White as the rest of the exterior. Rounding off the package is the "Panamera Turbo S" lettering on the rear that you'll only ever see up close when this car is stuck at the lights.

Where is all this extra power coming from? Well, there are two distinct reasons for it. The first is an improvement in the turbos, which use titanium-aluminium turbine wheels that are half the weight of the regular Inconel turbines. This results in a more agile engine response. Secondly, they've incorporated the good old tried-and-tested massaging of the ECU.

The results are breathtaking. What we now have is a luxury saloon that is capable of propelling itself to jaw-droppingly fast times that are not dissimilar to those of fully-fledged, two-seater supercars. With launch control at the ready, the Turbo S blasts itself from 0-100kph in just 3.8 seconds — which is as quick as the GT3 RS. But, for a four-door limo, that isn't just fast, it's insane. It then manages to sprint from 100kph to 200kph in 9.1 seconds.

And if you're one of those people who thinks it's consuming enough fuel to power a small country to generate such astonishing figures, think again. It sips the same amount as the Turbo —11.5 litres-per-100km. I know what you're thinking. "How?" That's because this biturbo V8's on-board electrical recuperation system increases efficiency, with the battery being charged mostly during braking or when you're cruising. But, when you've got your hands clasped around the multifunction carbon-fibre steering wheel with your foot through the floor, the alternator's charging current and the load on the engine is reduced, making the power available for acceleration. Very clever. Throw in the stop-start system which saves yet more power and fuel, and the results are breathtaking.

In terms of sheer, straight-line performance, I'd say it's akin to one of those top fuel dragsters. But the good thing is you don't need to wear a fireproof suit or buckle up into a painfully tight three-point safety belt and all manner of harnesses. You can doll yourself up to the max because when you swing the door open, you're greeted by a world-class cabin, decked out in luxurious materials and an assortment of trims. It easily combines exclusivity with sportiness.

The new black and cream leather interior can only be had in the Turbo S. The birch anthracite package also gives you Porsche badge on the headrests which add a touch of class. You get a tingle down your spine every time you notice the front door entry guards which feature "Turbo S" lettering. I don't know about you, but my back bends forwards, backwards and a little to the left but not so much to the right following a blatant body check during my Sunday League years, but that's another story. However, contortionists, rejoice! They'll be pleased to know it has 14-way adjustable seats which are well padded and comfortable during long drives and can be heated and cooled too.

Despite the coupé roof eating valuable millimetres, the two back seats have plenty of head room for tall passengers, while a chunky armrest splits the two chairs in the middle. Legroom is equally impressive.

If rip-roaring speed doesn't do it for you, perhaps some of the creature comforts such as the Bose Surround Sound system will. It has no less than14 speakers, a 200-watt active subwoofer and nine amplifier channels to trick your ears into thinking they're at a live concert.

But, I find there are just way too many buttons inside this car which only serve as distractions. I counted just fewer than 100 in the front portion alone, but one very important one is missing; the button that makes all the others disappear.

When it comes to technology, this thing is bursting at the seams with some superb standard kit. For example, the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), an active anti-roll system, reduces lateral body movement when you drive it like you've just robbed a bank. It enhances stability, handling and overall passenger comfort. (Mental note to self; great getaway car.) Then, there's the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) which ensures superb traction by applying a variable torque split to the rear wheels thanks to an electronically controlled rear differential lock. Best of all is the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) — a truly smart system that adapts the air suspension's spring rates and dampers to the particular surface you happen to be driving on, or the style in which you're currently driving. The PASM has three settings — Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. Comfort is for those who like the feeling of being in a bathtub full of marshmallows, while Sport Plus is for people who wish they were strapped to a rocket ship. The latter mode stiffens up everything from the shocks to the steering wheel and you can feel the Panamera transform from a lazy limo to a 911 in a matter of milliseconds.

On an open road is where the Turbo S excels. Sure, it's brilliant at ferrying business people from meeting to meeting in absolute comfort, but using this Panamera like it were a taxi would be borderline criminal. You need to drive this car hard and push it to the limit to really appreciate all the whiz-bangery it brings to the party. From the moment you slip the PDK into D and peel out onto the road, you're just counting down the seconds before you floor it. When you do, you're met with a ferocious roar from the sports exhaust system as it charges forward with angry intent. If you're brave enough to keep your foot planted past third, you'll be in triple figures, and getting the attention of the law before you know it. Be careful, it feels so stable and planted when you are doing 180kph, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're doing a leisurely 70kph. But be warned, it can be twitchy. You can send the back out by merely thinking about touching the loud pedal. Though when you do, the torque-vectoring system brings the Turbo S back in line with a quick slap of its wrist. You have to really try hard to misbehave with it once the technology gains control. But, rather than being a killjoy, it makes the whole experience even better. Who doesn't want to take a corner at 130kph without skidding into oncoming traffic, crashing and going up in a ball of flames?

Then there's the steering, an advanced speed-sensitive Servotronic system which stiffens up at higher speeds and is extremely precise and doesn't lack in response. However, it also doesn't give you the same sort of feedback as, say, the steering in a Cayman R. And that's because the Turbo S weighs considerably more than its thinner sibling, crushing the scales with its 2,500kg mass. But, its chassis does its best in trying to hide the flab. It's thoroughly impressive to drive for what is a large luxury saloon and it sure doesn't lack any element of fun.


It's on the heavy side, has four-doors and carries four passengers in comfort. Does that qualify the Panamera Turbo S as a sportscar? Just remind yourself of those figures again. 550bhp. 750Nm of torque. A top speed of 306kph and 0-100kph over in 3.8 seconds. Nah, this isn't a sportscar at all — it surpasses that category and lands squarely in the supercar segment. Now, if it could just get a mid-life refresh to resemble that sleek looking key fob…


Model Panamera Turbo S
Engine 4.8-litre twin-turbo V8
Transmission Seven-speed auto, AWD
Max power 550bhp @ 6,000rpm
Max torque 750Nm @ 4,500rpm
Top speed 306kph
0-100kph 3.8sec
Price Dh813,600
Plus Ferocious power, great handling, neat interior
Minus Looks and rear-view visibility could improve

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