2010 Porsche Panamera — Review
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
When Porsche developed the new Panamera, its first-ever sedan, the "No Substitute" carmaker wasn't willing to compromise.
The vehicle had to have four doors, a coupelike roofline, plenty of rear-seat room, lots of cargo capacity and the handling of, well, a Porsche. Those requirements led the company to choose a unique hatchback body style.
While the resulting machine may look a bit odd, the Panamera excels in every way intended and, in our humble opinion, enters the market as one of the world's best luxury performance grand tourers.
Standard safety equipment on all Panameras includes dual front airbags, front knee airbags, front and rear side airbags, side-curtain airbags with rollover deployment, a tire-pressure monitor, rear park assist, anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control.
Options are numerous, including front park assist and rearview camera, and they can add $60,000 to the price of the car if you choose everything. Just about every amenity is offered, and Porsche also lets buyers trim numerous interior bits in leather, Alcantara, wood or aluminum.
Under the Hood
Both engines are mated to the Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) 7-speed automated manual transmission with steering-wheel shift paddles. The PDK uses two clutches, one to hold the current gear and one to ready the next. It provides better performance than a human shifting a manual transmission, and power to the wheels is never interrupted. The Panamera also comes with a start/stop feature that turns the engine off at stoplights to conserve fuel. EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway for the S and 4S, and 15/23 mpg for the Turbo. No Panamera is subject to a gas-guzzler tax.
Like other Porsches, the Panamera's instrument cluster features the tachometer front and center, with an almost useless speedometer marked in 25 mph increments to its left. Not to worry, though, because a digital speedo that is much easier to see provides better feedback. A multifunction display sits in one of the gauge pods. It pairs with the navigation screen to show just about any information the driver might want.
Passenger room front and rear is generous. All occupants will be comfortable, thanks to supportive bucket seats at each position and an adjustable headliner in the rear seat, which rises to accommodate tall riders. The useful room front and rear could make the Panamera a fine chauffeur-driven vehicle, but who in their right mind wouldn't want to be behind the wheel of this impressive sport sedan.
The Panamera could easily be pressed into service as a family vehicle. The hatchback design provides 15.6 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats up, about the size of a large sedan's trunk. If you fold the seats down, there is 44.2 cubic feet of cargo volume, which is about the same as a Subaru Impreza hatchback. That's enough room for a family of four and their luggage on a weekend getaway.
On the Road
The base suspension comes with a Comfort mode that isn't too soft and a Sport setting that isn't too hard. Standard on the Turbo and optional on the others is an adaptive air suspension that adds a firmer Sport Plus mode and can lower the car 1 inch for better handling and stability and raise it 0.78 inches to help the front end clear curbs. Also offered is Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which firms up the anti-roll bars to counteract body lean in turns and disconnects them to improve straight-line comfort on bumpy roads. With the touch of a couple of buttons, you can transform the Panamera's character from firm and racetrack-ready to smooth and refined.
To give journalists a taste of the Panamera's ultimate potential, Porsche put us behind the wheel on the 14-turn, 4.1-mile Road America road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. On the track, the Panamera proved very capable, with quick, precise steering, a flat attitude through turns (especially with PDCC), and the willingness to change direction like any of the world's best sport sedans (the BMW M5 comes to mind). The Panamera's brakes, however, were overmatched on this demanding, high-speed track. While the base brakes will more than do the job on the street, we'd recommend opting for the composite ceramic brakes if you plan to take your Panamera to the track (Who would?) or regularly tackle twisty canyon roads.
The base V8 engine in the Panamera S and 4S delivers as much power as anyone would need. The S reaches 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and the extra traction of the all-wheel-drive system cuts that time to 4.8 seconds in the 4S. The available launch-control feature takes another 0.2 second off both times.
The Turbo is a monster. Floor it and you'll be knocked back in your seat, with little feeling of turbo lag. Keep your foot in the throttle and the Panamera keeps accelerating hard until you let up. In fact, the Turbo can reach 188 mph, 12 mph more than the other two versions. Both engines are well-matched to the PDK transmission, which works well as a smooth automatic and, in the Sport and Sport Plus modes, keeps the rpms up to deliver more willing power for sporty driving.
Right for You?
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.