IN 1976 if you wanted the fastest four-door car in the world, you called Australia. In 2016? You’re looking at it. And, err, the cost of admission has gone up a little...
Porsche’s second-generation Panamera – just released – is prettier (though it would have been difficult to go backwards), cleverer and faster – and boy, is it fast. But we’ll come back to that.
You’d hope it was all these things given the investment involved. It’s an all-new car, and most of the time car companies make this claim it’s a half-truth. Rarely will a car company risk the development costs of a new chassis and new powertrain on the one generation – and then go build a new factory, too.
But that’s exactly what Porsche has done for its new super sedan, truly clean-sheet, and in doing so has broken rank with what is apparently the ‘golden rule’ of making cars.
Panamera v1.0 was actually built in two factories 250km apart. The body-in-white was built and painted in Volkswagen’s Hanover plant before being sent to Porsche in Leipzig for final assembly. Plainly this is not very German efficient. So Porsche splashed AUD$2b renovating Leipzig to handle it all.
And its baby is without doubt much prettier thanks in part to more compact engines and a shorter, less hands-on CEO. The story goes that then Porsche-boss Wendelin Wiedeking would casually drop in on the engineers developing the first Panamera and, presumably to their chagrin, insist he had plenty of headroom in the back.
Sadly for them, he was taller than average and, in turn, so was the first Panamera’s roofline. Other factors were in play, but before the public knew it, Porsche’s first four-door had become the hunchback of Stuttgart.
Styling-wise, though, the new one is the closest thing to a four-door 911 you could imagine. Das booty is now eminently slappable, no small thanks to a 20mm drop in the rear roofline.
The wheelbase has grown, absorbed by a shorter front overhang (very sporting, a stylist will tell you) and the bonnet is now more deeply scalloped thanks to lower engines. The new Panamera is at its most photogenic seen from its three-quarter angles, and on a ladder – not unlike, err, these flattering press images.
Under that restyled skin is the Volkswagen group’s brand new Modular Standard Drive Train Platform – MSB – designed entirely by Porsche and set to underpin other models in the VAG like the next Bentley Continental.
A Panamera coupe – a modern day 928 – is in theory possible and was reportedly under consideration but shelved from fear it would cannibalise Bentley Continental sales.
For now, the big sedan kicks off with three new engines – a base, Audi-derived-but-Porsche-influenced 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 (324kW/550Nm), good for 0-100km/h in an M5-scaring 4.2sec.
There’s the new oil burner making for the ‘fastest diesel production car in the world’, a 4.0-litre V8 with 310kW and 850Nm (from 1000rpm), hitting 100km/h in 4.3sec and, with its 90-litre tank, boasting a theoretical 1500km range. Then there’s Big Daddy, the supercar-scaring 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8.
Brand new, and developed entirely by Porsche (though expect to see it pop up elsewhere in the Volkswagen group), this small-on-cubes, big-on-punch donk belts out 404kW at 5750rpm and 770Nm from just 1960rpm.
Think 0-100km/h in just 3.6sec and a scorching 7:38 ‘official’ Nurburgring lap time – the fastest production four-door car the world had ever seen, until Alfa Romeo unleashed the Giulia QV for its amazing 7min32sec run.
The Panamera’s ’Ring effort beats a Cayman GT4 and 997 911 GT3, both 7:40, is just six seconds off a Carrera GT and blasts the BMW M5’s 7:55 into the weeds. Though in fairness an M5 is $230,615; the new Panamera Turbo will be $376,900 when the first wave hits Oz in February.
And we mightn’t have seen anythin’ yet. A 447kW Turbo S is reportedly in the works with a sub 3.5sec 0-100 sprint. A 918-inspired performance hybrid is supposedly inbound. And while all three Panamera variants are all-wheel drive, Porsche says rear-drive is possible.
A wagon (sorry, Shooting Brake) is on its way and with its more rounded rump better suiting the 911 design DNA, could be the prettiest Panamera of them all. Much to look forward to, then, and we haven’t even driven it. That happens next month.
It’s the most technologically complex Porsche ever, but gadget fans must wait a little longer for fashionable gear like heads-up display and semi-autonomous cruise control