If Porsche takes one thing seriously, it’s performance. Not a car escapes from Stuttgart without the chops to reinforce Porsche’s reputation for driving excellence. Tha Panamera is no exception. We give it a 9 out of 10 for performance.
We’ve driven about half of the available models in the Panamera range, including the base 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that makes 330 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque. In base RWD form it can scoot to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds; that time drops to 5.2 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono package—who knew adding a timepiece to a car can make it go faster—and finally down to 5.0 seconds in all-wheel-drive models equipped with the Sport Chrono pack.
For a base engine, there’s nothing particularly base about that 330-horse V-6. Nonetheless we do prefer the next engine up in the pecking order, which is the 440-horse twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 used in the 4S trim. It does an excellent job of motivating the Panamera, thanks in large part to the fact that its full 405 lb-ft of torque is available from 1,750 to 5,500 rpm. Translation: mash the throttle at just about any given moment and you’ll be thrust back into your seat as the Panamera bounds forward like a golden retriever after a tossed ball.
For a little more gumption there’s the new-for-last-year GTS, which uses a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. In terms of power this engine isn’t too far removed from the 4S: its 453 hp is just 13 more than the twin-turbo V-6. Torque is rated at 457 lb-ft, which is a 52 lb-ft gain.
But if you know about engines, you know the adage about no replacement for displacement. That sentiment comes to mind with this engine. This V-8 has a feel that’s all its own, and though it’s heavier than the V-6 in the 4S, it feels more alive and high-strung. It can tackle a 0-60 mph run in just 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 181 mph is attainable.
If that still sounds weak-chested, the venerable Turbo model turns up the wick on that 4.0-liter V-8 until it churns out 550 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. For all that power, it doesn’t have the untamed, raw feel of a muscle car. Instead it’s composed and progressive, with the power coming on in a linear, predictable fashion. It seems to know what kind of machine the Panamera is intended to be and behaves appropriately. Still, if you let its hair down you can hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and ultimately reach 190 mph.
With all these engines you get an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, known as PDK in Porsche parlance. Typical of the dual-clutch design, it can bang off shifts with incredible speed both when triggered by the paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel or when left to its own devices. The only niggle we have with this gearbox is its tendency to occasionally stumble at low speeds—a common trait with all dual-clutch transmissions.
Included with all Panameras are multi-mode adaptive dampers. In their firmest setting the car becomes noticeably stiffer but the ride doesn’t get jittery. Dial it to the soft side of things and the Panamera gives a buttery ride that cradles passengers. There’s also the available Porsche Active Suspension Management system, or PASM, which lowers the Panamera slightly and allows for individual damping adjustments at each wheel.
Another worthwhile upgrade is the available rear-steer system. By turning the wheels in tandem with the fronts or opposite of them, the system can either increase stability or maneuverability. In cars so equipped you can feel the difference, and it does help to make the Panamera’s considerable bulk more manageable.
In a nod to the times, the Panamera has branched out from internal combustion engines to include a pair of hybrid gas-electric powertrains. Known as the E-Hybrid line, these Panameras are pairing an electric propulsion setup to either the V-6 from the 4S or the V-8 found in the Turbo model; those with the V-6 are known as the 4 E-Hybrid, and those with the V-8 are the Turbo S E-Hybrid.
The more approachable, both in price and performance, is the 4 E-Hybrid. It makes 462 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque and will run a 0-60 mph sprint in 4.4 seconds. The Sport Chrono pack is standard, which gives it the launch control necessary to replicate those numbers. When you’re not flat-footing it, there’s an available 30 miles of electric-only range. It’ll also reach 186 mph in electric mode, but don’t expect to run along at that speed for 30 miles.
The E-Hybrid comes with the usual Sport and Sport+ modes which are part and parcel of the Sport Chrono package, but it also includes a few modes unique to the hybrid: the Hybrid Auto mode, E-Power mode, E-Hold mode, and E-Charge mode all are exclusive to the E-Hybrid lineup.
If you drain the battery, it’ll take nearly 13 hours to recharge using a standard house outlet. If you’re fast charging on a 240-volt outlet that time drops to just about 2.5 hours. It’ll cost extra for the proper high-voltage charging hardware, though.
The Turbo S E-Hybrid is for those who demand the pinnacle of performance and technology. Pairing the 4.0-liter V-8 from the Turbo with some lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor makes nets a total of 680 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque. These are impressive numbers outright, and because all that torque is available from a standstill it’ll practically push you into the back seat during acceleration.
In the transition to hybridized propulsion, the Panamera didn’t lose any of the traits that make it such an enjoyable executive sedan. The crisp and communicative steering remains, as does the nimbleness that is downright surprising for a car that’s nearly 200 inches long and 5,000 pounds. If you want the finest-driving, highest-performing big luxury sedan around, this is it.
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