2017 Porsche Panamera First Drive: The Brand’s Best Sedan Yet
Porsche has finally dropped all the info on the 2017 Porsche Panamera. Consumers will be pleased: The company has hit a home run, as it were, on this second-generation luxury sedan.
Most notable are two new all-wheel drive variants: the Panamera 4S and Panamera Turbo, each of which have more power and better fuel efficiency than previous models. (More on that later.) But there is much to be excited about regarding the many novel improvements and upgrades that aren’t immediately apparent when you first see the car.
“Obviously, it can still be recognized as a Porsche from any angle,” said Gernot Döllner, head of the Panamera model line, last week in New York. He’s right. But when you start seeing the new Panamera on the road next year, you’ll definitely know it’s the new version, rather than the one from 2016. But you won’t be able to put a finger on what exactly has changed.
Here’s what to point out to your friends (i.e. impress them with your knowledge) about the new exterior body.
- It’s hard to notice some changes because they are very small, but the combined effect is a great improvement: The wheelbase is 34 millimeters longer, with the front tire pushed forward 12mm. The car is a quarter-inch wider and 5mm taller, which translates into a bit more room inside—even though the new roofline slants more steeply in the rear.
- I like the more obvious flourishes, too, such as the aluminum door panels and hood, which lighten the car by 20 pounds, and the increased trunk space. (On a road trip, that could mean the difference between bringing that party dress and extra swimsuit, just in case things go well and you get invited somewhere swank.)
- The new hood looks exciting, with its four corners of brilliant LED matrix lights. In back, a narrow LED strip elegantly connects the tail lights, and I like the spoiler that elevates with the push of a button on the Turbo version. What’s more, the wheels are bigger on the new car, with 19- and 20-inch rims coming standard, and 21-inch optional wheels for a bolder look.
The changes leave us with a car that is closer in look and feel to the 911 than any previous sedan. The 2017 version is the best-looking Panamera since it debuted in 2009.
Even More Under the Hood
Now for the fun part, the engines. The new $99,900 Panamera 4S comes with a 2.9-liter V6 gasoline engine that gets 440 horsepower and will hit 60 miles per hour in four seconds. The $146,900 Panamera Turbo, the version I tested last week, has a 4.0- liter V8 gasoline engine that gets 550 hp and that will hit 60mph in 3.4 seconds. Both come with a new Porsche dual-clutch transmission (PDK) that has eight speeds and all-wheel-drive.
What’s more, a new, $99,600 hybrid version—462hp, 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds, 31-mile pure electric range—will debut in late in 2017. It will get 70 percent better fuel efficiency than the Panamera 4S.
In plain terms, this means that the new Porsche Panameras are more powerful and, because of the lighter body weight and better technology in the engine components, more fuel efficient than previous models. Porsche has so far declined to give EPA numbers on this, though, so at the moment we have to take their word for it. It’s worth checking back to verify this claim.
The Interior Is Smart and Beautiful
The first thing you’ll notice when you slip inside the car is that the center console looks amazingly refined and futuristic. The d buttons and knobs, which were sometimes irritating on the 2016 Panamera, have been removed in favor of a touch-sensitive surface with functions grouped together methodically across the platform. This is a great improvement.
Also new inside is the round knob that lets you select drive modes—it has been mounted on the steering wheel rather than placed at your side. And the setting for park (not the parking brake) is now a button on the shifter that you must press separately from the other drive, neutral, reverse positions.
In front of the steering wheel are two new seven-inch display screens on either side of the center gauges; their high resolution and intuitive design are vast improvements over the former configuration. One new function they allow is smart night vision that uses a thermal imaging camera to detect people and large animals at night. The system classifies heat sources (is this a person or a motorcycle with a warm engine?) and then displays a color warning indicator in the instrument cluster in front of the driver.
In fact, new technology abounds in the 2017 Panamera: You can even sync most of it with your Apple Watch. Adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, and lane-keep assist all come standard. The new chassis underneath it all includes rear-axle steering and a three-chamber air suspension with electromechanical roll stabilization that makes you feel as if you’re monorail-ing up the highway, rather than doing anything so plebian as driving.
In the rear of the car, a second, new control screen that is smaller but no less beautifully designed and capable sits in front of the pilot-style passenger seats. Those seats are positioned two inches closer to the ground than any you’ll find elsewhere, making passengers feel more integrated into the car rather than just riding on top of it. It makes everything else seem outdated, so last year.
This, then, is the story of the new car. The minute it hits the streets early next year, the 2016 version will seem impossibly outdated. And that, my friends, is how you do a redesign.
As for how it drives, well, don’t listen to detractors talking about turbo lag until you drive this yourself. I drove the 2017 Panamera a full day around New York. It’s better than its predecessor, with minimal delay after you press the gas pedal. The many new driving systems (rear steering, torque vectoring, four-dimensional chassis control), combined with increased rigidity, make this car feel as if the wheelbase got shorter rather than longer. It’s bigger and more powerful than in previous generations, and it’s lighter and more agile. That combination can’t help but return dividends behind the wheel.
The 2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo feels more like a “real” Porsche than the better-selling Cayenne, and it's closer to the 911 than any of its predecessors. If you’ve been considering a Panamera for a while now, this one is worth having waited.