Porsche sure as hell have taken an interesting turn in the past couple of years. I’m sure you’ve all seen that hideous 4×4 the Cayenne. There’s about a squillion of them up here in Sandton. I can’t imagine St.Davids lets any MILF through the gate to drop off her kids if she isn’t driving one. It’s not my favourite SUV / SAV of the lot, as amazing as they are to drive. Let me tell you why … They’ve made a car that’s hideous on the outside, but yet hits the nail on the head on every other dynamic criteria within the segment and knocks the competition out the water. Makes me ill. For a company that made 2 door supercars, racers, legendary sports cars … beetles, whatever you want to call them, for so long, they have expanded their line-up really well.
They do it so well, they decided to join another pool, the 4-seater executive sports saloon. It’s a niche about the size of Vatican, but it’s a niche nonetheless. The other players on the field here are the Aston Martin Rapide and the Maserati Quattroporte S (The Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 are kinda in here… kinda)
So we’re in good company here, the big names, Aston and Maserati make some of the most staggeringly beautiful cars the motoring world has seen. Porsche, let’s not lie, seem to be on secret little a competition with Ssangyong for the ugliest car they can build. Expensive little game that … for Porsche. My ride, the Panamera, seem to be the crowning glory and winning move from Porsche in that competition. I didn’t know what to expect with the Panamera. Well I did. I knew it was ugly, so I wore a hat and sunglasses when I drove it, but thankfully I didn’t have to see it while driving … that was every other unsuspecting road users problem.
In all honesty, that’s really it’s only major flaw. Its ugly. Sadly, that is totality of my opinion, so if you think it’s pretty (you are then blind and must be having this article read to you) you’re probably in for the most amazing 4-seater car on the road today.
The Panamera 4 I drove is the mid level model. Quick stats burst (skip if you’re not a car nut) Engine upfront is a 3.6 litre six cylinder, producing 220kW and 400NM of torque at 3750RPM. It’ll rocket you to 100km/h in 6.5seconds, and lead you up to a top speed of 259km/h. It weighs 1.7 tons. One point seven tons, and gets that type of performance. Staggering. Crazy thing is that’s not even the fast one.
Engine note is authentically Porsche, and I’m glad it hasn’t been subdued. It’s not as audible as the 911’s, for obvious reasons, but you can easily hear it, especially in Sport Plus.
While I’m here, that little Sport Plus button is something sent straight from heaven to make this car about a zillion times more exciting than it would have been. I have never driven a car that is so bi-polar. You can cruise along happily at 140km/h subdued, soft, cosseted and as relaxed as any S-Class driver around you, however fancy a 1/4mile blitz? Sports Plus button depressed and the gear changes are forceful to the point of abuse, and the sound from the 6cylinder can raise a semi wood.
The interior is phenomenal. You feel incredibly involved, wrapped in the car more than on it. No funny iDrive or mouse wheel, just a shit-load of buttons. Once you get used to them though, it’s easy to navigate, and works better. It’s got everything you’d expect, I’m not going to list, but will rather highlight a few things. Firstly, the various instrumentation displays you can switch to in the instrument binnacle include your sat. nav. with full colour screen, radio and vehicle stats. Nice. The sound system is something else – pristine levels of clarity from what is a stupidly easy system to operate. All electric seats that are so perfectly split between a comfortable and sporty feel I just want to give the person who made them a long, uncomfortable hug. Amazingly the 2 seats in the rear get the same treatment, and have enough legroom for one Jeremy Clarkson to stretch out, I’m sure. He’s a behemoth you know?
Ride and handling is something else. I’ve never seen a 1.7ton car corner and relay this amount of information to the driver, keeping balance and poise through hard cornering like only a focused sports car should. The PASM (Porsche Active Stability Management) system and PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) makes little calculated decisions (I like to think of lots of tiny German scientists and engineers running around with calculators making sure everything is tweaked just right) in milliseconds to make sure the suspension is just right, and power is making it to the right wheels.
The PDK 7-speed gearbox is also a masterpiece, and can go from absolutely relaxed to vicious changes at the push of the Sport Plus button. What I did find strange is the steering paddles. Push down to gear up (either side) and pull to gear down (either side) confuses you if you come from a car that has left for down and right for up. Silly really.
The best part about this car? The wing that raises itself at speed and under heavy braking. Porsche said they didn’t want it to provide too much additional down-force as it affects drag, but damn it that thing is cool. I could drive all day watching it raise and lower and raise more when you slam the brakes. (which will pull your intestines out of your naval if you brake fast enough)
For just under R800K it don’t come cheap, but if you have any blood left in your penis at all, you’ll buy this car over a 7 Series or an S Class any day. (I say this because I haven’t driven the Maserati or the Aston) I haven’t driven any other car that can go from back seat relaxed cruising to crazy watch out imma-effing drive you out the way … with that level of execution on both sides.
Yes it’s hideous and children will cry as you drive past, but damn, it is as awesome to drive as it is ugly.