MEXICO CITY, MEXICO/CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA-Yes, we go to opposite semi-hemispheres to bring you the Automotive Truth ...
The Porsche Panamera sedan has been a decent hit for Porsche, if for no other reason than that it is a somewhat more palatable way for the company to branch into multi-passenger vehicles than SUVs.
No, wait; trucks are the company’s bestsellers.
So much for tradition; I guess they’re in business to make money ...
The Panamera is about as all-new as it gets for 2017 — the badge, the name and the concept are all that remain from the original, launched in 2009.
The Panamera also comes to Canada in no fewer than 15 different flavours to suit a wide range of consumer demands.
(Sadly, we don’t get the best one, the Diesel. But that’s your fault, Canadian Porsche customers; if you’d buy it, they’d sell it ...).
Prices start at $97,300.
Common to all is a new body, which at first glance doesn’t look all that much different from the old. Closer examination reveals a lighter (and much-welcomed) touch throughout. The new car is slightly longer (by 34 millimetres), most of which goes into a longer wheelbase for slightly more interior room, notably in the rear seat.
Despite the extra size, the car weighs about the same as before, thanks to various weight-saving techniques, notably the increased use of aluminum in the body.
Most of the changes are positive, except for the minor controls. I admit, the former Panamera, like all current Porsches, had a large array of buttons and controls to work various interior and performance features which could be intimidating at first. But the new Panamera Porsche has replaced the array of buttons with an array of touch switches, most of which are simply spots on that centre console. Now, you have no idea if you have switched something on or have just rested your hand on some portion of the centre console. There’s just no excuse for this sort of nonsense. We can only hope that massive whining by owners will force Porsche to see the light.
Also Read: Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo debuts at Geneva
Then there is Porsche’s defroster system. You want it on? You get it on. Full blast. No choice. C’mon guys, sometimes we only want a light breeze on the windshield!
The now-mandatory touchscreen occupies pride-of-place in the centre of the dash. As I always say, if you hold your personal touchscreen (your cellphone) up so you can see it while you drive, that’s a $400 fine. Lean over to stare at the touchscreen bolted to the centre of your dash, and that’s just “fine” ... a pox on all their houses.
Otherwise, the Panamera remains a comfortable, well-appointed car that will reward the driver with its performance and its passengers with its ambience.
Panamera is available with an ever-wider range of powertrains, embracing rear- and full-time four-wheel drive. All engines are forced induction, with turbo 3.0-litre V6, twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6, twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 and that 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 with a hybrid component.
(A 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 hybrid model has subsequently been introduced — can’t wait to try that one ...).
So, where to start?
We drove the turbo V6 and V8 variants in Mexico, following a route that included city and highway roads, and a stage of the Carrera Panamericana, once a flat-out road race, now a rally which follows some of the route of the original competition. More on that in the accompanying story.
The hybrid variants and the new-for-2016 extended wheelbase model dubbed ‘Executive,’ available with the full range of power plants, except the rear-drive option, were tested in South Africa, hence the unusual dual dateline on this story.
Panamera has always been about trying to bring the driving performance of a Porsche into the full-size sedan market. It accomplishes this feat with varying degrees of success with the new models.
Only a new manual-automatic 8-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkublang, a.k.a. Porsche double-clutch) transmission is offered on any Panamera. This system as always represents a bit of an anomaly. Flat-out in automatic mode, the car achieves a better 0-to-whatever number than you can probably achieve if you shift for yourself.
But if you’re just tooling along and all of a sudden decide you want to go a whole lot faster, you stomp on the loud pedal and the transmission seems to take its own sweet time reacting. There’s a distinct lag in the transmission’s response. Under these conditions, a manual downshift will probably shave a couple tenths off your time.
Either way, the twin-turbo V6 is more-than-adequately quick; the twin-turbo V8 is downright fast.
But here is where the hybrid model
really shines. Yes, me praising a hybrid! Peak electric torque is available at zero r.p.m., and the car reacts much more quickly to demands for greater pace.
Depending on how fast you plan to go, the hybrid is the more responsive, quicker car. Get above, say, 120 km/h, and the V8-turbo-engined machine will begin to walk away.
But for most driving in our country, the hybrid will subjectively at least feel to be the quicker car, so Porsche appears to have been first (at least among the first) to use hybrid technology, not for fuel economy reasons, but as a performance enhancer.
OK, the hybrid gets away with a V6 engine, which does save fuel. But you are spending six large for this car; is saving a buck or two a week on fuel really on top of your priority list?
The hybrid will also go up to 50 km without firing up the engine under ideal conditions, assuming you went to the trouble of plugging it in overnight. Really? You paid this much for a car and you’re worried about a few bucks worth of gasoline?
No; the end result is with the hybrid, you get a more responsive, quicker-in-the-real-world vehicle.
The Executive model we tested in South Africa also had the hybrid powertrain, although, I think you would be even less likely to plug this car in; after all, you’re an Executive!
It’s also a bit unusual to imagine a Porsche owner who would rather just sit in the back, clipping coupons instead of driving him- or herself. Geez; there’s lots of cars you can do that in; why buy a Porsche if you’re going to let someone else drive it?
Then again, who would want a Porsche truck?
I guess Porsche knows their customers better than I do ...
2017 Porsche Panamera
Four-door four-passenger sedan. Rear / full-time four wheel drive.
base, rear-wheel drive V6 turbo — $97,300; base, four-wheel drive V6 turbo — $102,500; Executive four-wheel drive V6 turbo — $110,200; E-hybrid four-wheel drive — $113,400; Executive E-hybrid four-wheel drive — $118,600; turbo V8 — $167,700; turbo Executive four-wheel drive — $182,700.
base — 3.0-litre V6, double overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, single turbocharger; turbo S — 2.9-litre V6, double overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, twin turbochargers; E-hybrid — 2.9-litre V6, double overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, twin turbochargers, hybrid electric drive; V8 turbo — 4.0-litre V8, double overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, twin turbochargers.
POWER/TORQUE, horsepower / lb.-ft.:
3.0 litre V6 turbo — 330 @ 5,400 — 6,400 r.p.m. / 331 @ 1,340 — 4,900 r.p.m.; 2.9 litre V6 twin-turbo — 440 @ 5,650 — 6,600 r.p.m. / 405 @ 1,750 — 5,500 r.p.m.; 2.9 litre V6 twin-turbo hybrid — 462 @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 516 @ 1,100 — 4,500 r.p.m.; 4.0 litre V8 twin-turbo — 550 @ 5,750 — 6,000 r.p.m. / 567 @ 1,960 — 4,500 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION, Transport Canada City/Highway, l/100 km:
3.0-litre V6 turbo — TBA; 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo — 11.4 / 8.5; 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo hybrid — TBA; 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo — 12.9 / 9.2. Premium unleaded fuel.
For the true Porschephile, there is no true competition ...
A taste of the famed Carrera Panamericana road rally
The 1950s were the golden age for road races. I mean, real races on real roads.
A couple of major crashes, some involving spectators, put an end to that.
But a few of those events have evolved into rallies, conducted at speeds, which if not quite legal, are at least restricted. One such is the Carrera Panamericana.
Originally a flat-out road race, it has evolved into a road rally, not unlike our own Targa Newfoundland.
Upwards of 100 cars run the nearly 3,000-kilometre distance over seven days, which has been run on various courses since 1988,
A Studebaker has won 22 out of 29 of those years. A Studebaker? Yes.
We got a taste of what the event is like during our visit to Mexico to test the new Porsche Panamera.
One stage, 9.42-km long, was closed off for our use. Mexican police equipped with machine guns (!) enforced the closure. Now, that’s my kind of policing ...
We were to run two to a car, one to drive, the other to navigate. I was teamed with Brian Harper of the National Post, a particularly harmonious pairing since we have known each other for much of our respective careers, and knew that neither of us had any desire for a premature end to said career.
We were given detailed instructions as to where the road went, and a set time which we were to take to complete the stage. We were to run the route twice, changing drivers after each run.
But unlike a real rally, which would require us to run as close to the bogey time as possible, we were to be scored on how close our two runs were to each other. In other words, we both could be slower than the proverbial molasses, as long as we were equally slow.
Still, the competitive fires burned. I was to be timed first, and I wanted to be as close to the bogey time as possible. Nailed it — within a couple tenths.
We returned to the start line; Brian’s turn. Brian is an excellent driver but hasn’t had that much competition experience. Still, he nailed the bogey time, too. Another couple tenths, tops.
How could anyone have beaten us? They say we came second.
Hey, it was a fun competition. There were no losers here. We all got to run a leg of the famed Carrera Panamericana. I’d still like to have another look at those scores ...