Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 16, 2022
Sedans may be a dying breed in the face of SUVs but there is still a sizable market for them, even more with examples like the Porsche Panamera that expertly blend comfort and performance. It hasn’t been around for as long as say, the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series, but the Panamera is already in its second generation since its 2009 debut.
Sleeker and no longer looking like it’s carrying around a loaded diaper in the rear, the new Panamera is not as awkwardly proportioned as the outgoing model. The silhouette is still not as elegant as an Audi A7 or Maserati Quattroporte, but it looks exceptionally modern and is infused with enough 911 design cues to give it a nod to the brand’s DNA. The full-width rear light bar now looks like it’s wearing a pair of sunglasses, and the extendable rear spoiler pops out like a Transformers robot, and actually balances out the soap bar shape quite well, just like in the Mercedes-AMG GT 53 Sedan. To think of it, the Copper Ruby paint on our Panamera looks eerily similar to the Rubelite Red in that GT 53 we just tested. Must be in trend. In addition, our Platinum Edition model meant it was further equipped with black exterior trims and exhaust tips, 21-inch wheels in a satin platinum finish, and tinted privacy glass for the rear windows.
Looks go a long way into car purchasing but the interior is equally as imperative. Because if you always wanted a 911 but desired more functionality and practicality, the Panamera has been the go-to alternative, delivering in spades with a low-down driving position, the same steering wheel as a 911, and exceptional outward visibility.
The steering wheel is of a smaller diameter than most, especially when compared to the chunky BMW M wheels, but it adds a sense of lightness and agility to the steering, which is spot-on in terms of feel and feedback. You always have a sense of what the front wheels are doing and where they’re pointing. And it can’t be rotated with just one twitch of the ginger - you need some actual arm effort to get it going, and you feel much more connected to the machine as a result.
Porsche has equally nailed the driving position, making you feel like you’re in a 911 - that’s no exaggeration. The seats have a great range of adjustment and unlike other sedans, can be lowered right to the floor so you feel like you’re sitting on the ground. Even then, the large windows and front windshield give you a clear view out in front, and visibility out the rear isn’t as bad as in a BMW M850i xDrive Gran Coupe.
But it’s not just the wheel and driving position that offers a sense of driver connection. There is solidity and durability to all the cabin switchgear and their feedback. Each switch feels premium and each press feels deliberate. There are never any wiggle or dead zones, and that goes for everything from the metallic paddle shifters to how the center console opens up.
We’re not a fan of the glass-like control panels, which are constantly marred by our fingerprints and disturb its otherwise upscale look. Though they emit haptic feedback when a button is acknowledged, it takes an accurate push to press what you want and more crucially, forces you to take your eyes off the road. Even worse is that under that glass panel, you can clearly see non-functional buttons that aren't assigned because you haven't ticked them on the options list - this generation's variant of blank buttons.
On a positive note, Porsche have retained an actual volume dial and rotary knob to control the infotainment and left the fan controls down to a knurled switch, so not all hope is lost. We like how the gear shifter is neatly integrated into the center of the console area, as it leaves room for two (weirdly different-sized) cupholders, but it also means the storage under the L-shaped armrest is incredibly small and narrow, barely able to swallow up your driving paraphernalia.
The retention of an analog tachometer is a blessing in our hearts, and it’s flanked by digital dials on both sides which display everything from the speedometer to the tire pressures. But viewing these screens can be a pain when the steering wheel spokes get in the way. Sit too high or too low and you won’t be able to see them. Like in Audis and Range Rovers, there is a shortcut (diamond logo) button on the steering wheel that allows you to program certain features for convenience such as engaging the start/stop system, suspension lift, and sport exhaust system. But weirdly enough, there are some high-use features that you can’t program, like raising the rear spoiler. We do like the Drive Mode dial integrated into the bottom spoke, though, and how pressing the center button engages Sport Response mode, a 20-second blitz where the powertrain is ramped up to the maximum for quick overtakes and the sort.
The Panamera’s sloping roofline may have you thinking its rear accommodations are sparse and cramped like the Audi A7 or BMW 8 Series but it’s actually quite generous. I can sit behind my six-foot self and still have enough legroom and headroom to wiggle about. The 2+1 configuration for the rear seats is a bit of a stretch, as the center tunnel is taken up by a control panel, meaning that middle-seat occupants will have to caress their neighbour’s knees, but it’s doable. There’s a separate sunroof for the rear cabin instead of a large panoramic one, but it still adds enough natural light to feel airy and spacious. Speaking of which, the trunk is large and the tailgate swings up like a hatchback - also handy that you can roll down the rear seats and have a spacious passthrough for taller items. The Sport Turismo wagon has always been our favourite body style for the Panamera but you really aren’t losing much storage with the sedan either.
Though there are V8s and hybrid powertrains in the stable, the Panamera 4 uses the base engine spec in the range, which is a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 delivering 325 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed dual-clutch (PDK) transmission. 0-100 km/h comes in 5.3 seconds, or 5.1 seconds with the Sport Chrono package equipped. This all-wheel-driven Panamera 4 also shaves about three-tenths of a second over the non-4 rear-wheel drive model.
The output is quite nominal, especially when you see what this engine is capable of in the Audi RS 5, but it’s more than enough to get the Panamera 4 up without hesitation. It still feels properly quick and that mostly comes down to the lightning-speed PDK gearbox that always seems to know which gear to select and when to downshift to keep the needle in the meatiest parts of the powerband.
With that, we actually don’t see much of a need to spring up for the 4S model with its uprated 443 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, unless you really want that extra kick into your seatback. Yes, it will shave a full second from its 0-100 km/h time but we find the 4 much more reserved and relaxed, playing up to the luxury side of the Panamera’s spectrum. The exhaust opens up when you select Sport Plus but it’s never intrusive, howling at a restrained frequency until its somewhat soft 6,800 rpm limiter.
The V6's power delivery is linear but not as polished as the inline-six in the GT 53 AMG, but where the Panamera really shines is under rotation. No matter how much throttle or steering lock you add, the chassis is always up for more, and we know it can handle more. There is so much mechanical grip that you want to load up those sticky Pirelli P Zero tires and chuck it around like a 911. A staggered tire setup and meaty 315-section width rears mean there’s a huge contact patch too, and with AWD sending power biased towards the rear, it’s simply a joy around serpentine roads and is a much more sensual and engaging driving experience than in a Macan or Cayenne. Better than the Maserati Quattroporte too. The Panamera takes the connection between driver and road more seriously than the Mercedes-Benz S 580 and BMW 750Li, the latter two of which embody a much more coddling and luxurious ethos to their executive sedans.
That said, the Panamera doesn’t soak up bumps as well as its rivals, riding with an underlying firmness that is the compromise for such a well-heeled sedan. It’s still very comfortable and usable on a daily basis but it's got an edge to it, and the others are much more suitable if comfort and separation from the outside world are of paramount importance. Still, the one option we think all Panamera buyers should opt for is the rear-axle steering ($1,530), which effectively shrinks its wheelbase considerably. Not to the point where you feel like you’re driving a small hatchback but it adds a great deal of maneuverability to this large sedan, and actually makes the Panamera feel much more lithe and agile at low speeds.
The Panamera has proven to be an expertly engineered product that successfully instills the essence of the iconic 911 into a four-door sedan. Spacious, functional, and practical, the Panamera is comfortable while sacrificing some road mannerisms for a more engaging drive. It’s as willing to carve up a canyon road as it is unfurling hundreds of kilometres down south. We can think of other luxury sedans that are more focused and are objectively better in some areas but the Panamera has undeniably nailed down the spirit and enjoyment of driving, from its sporty driving position and exceptional cornering abilities to its speedy gearbox. And when behind the wheel, it will never let you forget that.
Model: 2022 Porsche Panamera 4 Platinum Edition
Paint Type: Copper Ruby Metallic
Base Price: $123,100
Price as Tested: $138,120
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,049 / 1,937 / 1,423
Unladen weight DIN (kg): 1,900
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 325 hp @ 5,400 - 6,400 rpm
Torque: 331 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK)
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.2
Tires: Pirelli P Zero; 275/35R21 front; 315/30R21 rear