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World debut for Porsche Panamera

2009-04-20 07:50

Porsche has officially unveiled its most controversial car yet, the Panamera, at the world’s preeminent auto show - Shanghai.

The oriental location seemed quite fitting for the Panamera unveiling, as the burgeoning Chinese car market remains geared to purchase all and sundry from premium manufacturers, with styling and heritage secondary considerations to image value.

Gentleman with the orange tie is Porsche R&D boss. How much hate-mail must he receive from budding design graduates the world over?

Joining the charcoal-hued four-door on stage was Wolfgang Dürheimer, Porsche’s research and development, who was wonderfully diplomatic. “Our engineers, technicians, and designers have invested all their know-how, years of experience, a wealth of ideas, and their full passion for sports cars in this four-seater Gran Turismo.“ Note how the word stylists did not feature.

As much as the automotive world is aghast at the design elements of the Panamera. this car is sure to usher in a level of engineering purity and dynamics never before experienced in the four-door GT class.

Validated engineering

Industry pundits and general enthusiasts have expressed dismay at the dilution of the Porsche brand due to the Panamera. Yet it remains perhaps the world’s most successful manufacturer, so one would expect the Panamera to be a runaway sales success, almost in spite of itself, much as the Cayenne has been.

Although the entry level V6 engine is a rebadged VW unit, it does produce 224kW from a swept capacity of 3.6l, and features direct-injection, as do the larger V8 engines. Both V8 options are 4.8l in capacity, producing 302kW in naturally aspirated trim and 373 in turbocharged form.

Rear and all-wheel drive traction options will be available across the range. Porsche has managed, quite impressively considering the significant 700Nm turbocharged torque output, to equip all cars with PDK, direct-shift, dual-clutch transmissions, driving through seven-ratios.

It might be ugly, but thanks to sophisticated construction techniques and exotic materials, Panamera can hardly be classed at grossly overweight, with naturally aspirated, rear-wheel drive 4.8l V8 models 1 770kg. Add the all-wheel drive hardware and forced induction though, and the picture changes radically.

A particularly unhappy angle of the Panamera.

The turbo model is 1 970kg of German engineering though, which is heavier than the four-door performance yardstick, BMW’s M5 (1 855kg).

In fact, it’s heavier than the car which defined the four-door coupe class Panamera is now attempting to dominate, Merc’s CLS AMG (1 905kg). Panamera turbo can take solace by the fact it’s at least still less portly (just) than Audi’s four-wheel drive, turbocharged RS6 (1 985kg).

Classy interior

Though Panamera will major as a four-door GT, it will not be a five-seater, configuring a more traditional four-seat, two couples and no kids, cabin arrangement.

Considering Panamera’s drive configurations (necessitating an intrusive transmission tunnel along the cabin floor centre line) the split rear seating is a fait accompli. Panamera’s odd exterior proportions are done no favours by its extreme width (1.93m) which is more than Merc’s S-Class (1.87m) – yet the filled out flanks should render impressive interior space.

Hopefully cabin design team is tasked with doing the exterior too during Panamera's midlife product cycle facelift.

When Wolfgang Dürheimer extolled the virtues of Porsche’s designers as the car was unveiled in Shanghai, he was no doubt referring to the cabin design team. Textures and shapes owe more to fine British interior design than Porsche’s own sombre, geometrically perfect German heritage. Fascia trim panels are set at a stark, vertical angle to the occupants, contrasting sharply with the elongated, low-set centre console.

Four-zone automatic air-conditioning and a Burmester surround-sound audio system with 16 speakers and 1 000W should keep passengers cool and entertained.

Luggage capacity has specifically been designed to accommodate tall objects, enabling the stowage of up to four suitcases in an upright position. The boot fills up to 445l, which is 5l shy of Maserati’s Quattroporte and 60l less than a Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG.

Porsche is offering 14 colour and leather combinations for the interior, including four two-tone choices, and seven interior trim finish styles, from Olive Nature open-pore wood to carbon fibre.

The Panamera features a start-stop system in conjunction with PDK transmission, air suspension with additional volume available per damper and active aerodynamics with an adjustable, extendable, rear spoiler - on the Turbo model.


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