Yin and Yang…
… is the Chinese principle that all things are inseparable and contradictory opposites. Motor Online experienced just such a thing in Porsche’s all-new Panamera.
Leipzig’s engineers clearly don’t struggle to wake up in the morning do they? We’re guessing there must be a roaring trade in alarm clocks in their small enclave North of Stuttgart. That’s if the highly militaristic fashion with which they’ve gone about the second-gen Panamera is anything to go by. New engine, new platform, new body, new interior – all built in a new factory. Dr. Stefan Utsch, the marketing man behind Panamera version 2.0, explained at the world launch that only two things were carried over from before: the concept… and the Porsche badge. Are we getting the picture yet?
Of course, Porsche’s first attempt at a four-door saloon was met with ostensible woe by aficionados of the brand; harangued for its extraordinary heffalump size and styling. Owners developed a well-rehearsed arsenal of excuses to defend against the nastiness, but frankly, what you couldn’t argue against was its effectiveness – it was a capable car. And Porsche being Porsche, they persisted with it for as long as they could, pretending everything was fiiine, before having another crack at it seven-years later.
New Millennium Falcon
Unlike the financial strife of 2009 that beset the original Panamera launch at the Beijing motor show (signifying Porsche’s ambitions in the sedan-loving Far East), Porsche’s now flush with cash after three consecutive years of record sales – somewhat ironically – from selling big Cayenne SUVs and littler Macans, so they’ve now overtaken three-box sedans as the de-facto family cars of their time. Nevertheless, the reborn four-door has benefitted enormously from the cash injection. It wears a curvaceous new business suit with a revised frontal aspect, massaged rear fly line and LED taillights that sculpt and split the rear end. The inside sees a comprehensive update with four… yes, four screens to communicate trip info, sat-nav and driver assistance. Gone are the mass of buttons, replaced instead with a touch-sensitive surface made of capacitive glass down the centre console that won’t get grubby fingers prints all over it. You know why? Because Porsche throws in a special set of non-static cleaning wipes at no extra cost. How German is that?
After PanAm 2’s big reveal last year (again in the Far East, this time at Shanghai); for 2017 the emphasis falls on its eco-worthiness with the 4 E-Hybrid and first-class comfort with Executive models. The former doesn’t exist quite in the same vein as the Porsche performance hybrid, the 918 Spyder, but combined output from its V6 petrol turbo (243kW/450Nm) and 14kWh electric motor (100kW/400Nm) is impressive: 340kW/700Nm. First and foremost it’s a PHEV so to get the most from it you must charge its lithium-ion batteries between commutes. Do so and the industry-accepted NEDC test promises incomprehensible returns: a pure electric range of 51km at a top speed of 140kph, and a guaranteed lifetime membership to Greenpeace with fuel consumption of 2,5l/100km (in theory promising a range of 3200km from its 80 litre tank) while emitting just 56g/km of CO2. Better still, acceleration to 100kph is 911 Carrera fast at 4.4sec, with all that electric torque available from just 100rpm.
In practice, however, it’s less electric to drive than it sounds. At over 2100kg there’s no hiding the heft of the batteries on board and despite three-chamber adaptive air suspension, all-wheel drive, and drive mode selector with Sport+ to tease you from the steering wheel – it’s less ‘sting like a bee’ and more ‘glide like a butterfly’. It’ll hustle if prodded but you get the sense it’d really rather you didn’t. What it does do brilliantly though is cruise through urban environments silently on battery power (we achieved 40km) and coast on the highway with the engine disengaging all together.
“You revel in its supercar rigidity, yet bath in its executive-saloon suppleness”
After a few hours we return to the hotel riding only on the V6 – batteries depleted with a ‘Ready for Charge’ icon displaying on the dash – unable to ignore our pessimism over the E-Hybrid. Owing to the accelerated progress of battery technology, e-motors and parallel electronics, the tech will likely be out of date before its next recharge is complete. Unless Porsche can somehow upgrade the 4 E-Hybrid with smaller, lighter energy packs, with shorter recharge cycles and longer EV ranges as they become available (a la Tesla), any hybrid is merely a time capsule, frankly – an interim solution ultimately destined for the auto scrapheap.
Summon the Turbo
Which is why after plugging in its 3.6kW electric charger – approximately a 3-hour wait till she’s fully lit again – we couldn’t stop ourselves from taking the wheel of a Panamera Turbo Executive sitting unattended. No need to wait three hours to get the full 404kW/770Nm experience from this twin-turbo V8. Granted, there’s 110mm extra room in the rear, with lounge-style seating, picnic tables, panoramic roof and a touchscreen to control audio from the back, but this is still in essence the AWD leviathan that lapped the Nurburgring in 7min38sec, faster than any other saloon in its segment. With a chassis honed for months at the famed proving ground, you feel its prowess the instant you take it through a corner at speed, reveling in its supercar rigidity yet bathing in its executive-saloon suppleness. Then you come to a standstill, engage launch control – a process as simple as flicking it into Sport+ and holding the throttle and brake at the same time – and you’re catapulted at the horizon with a relentlessness that never feels like slowing. Its exquisite new eight-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) transmission is a star-turn and the lighter, cleverer 4.0-litre engine displays neither lag low in the rev range nor breathlessness at the top end. It’s a masterpiece that puts it into another realm of A-to-B, cross-country performance for a five-star executive sedan. This is the yin and yang of Panamera range – one half admirably eco-worthy but ultimately flawed, the other quite possible the most complete car in the world right now.
Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive in a nustshell
Turbo is faster than The Flash, now with a tailor-made suit to match. Obliterates executive-saloon expectations.
Expensive. Will SA take to the plug-in hybrid, or the Executive for that matter? Thankfully there’s no time to mull it over in the Turbo tornado.
Engine: 3 996 cc, V8, twin-turbo
Power: 404 kW @ 5 750 – 6 000 rpm, 770 Nm @ 1 960 – 4 500 rpm
Performance: 0-100 km/h 3.7 sec, top speed 306 km/h
Tyres: 20-inch, F: 275/40, R: 315/35
Economy: 9.4 l/100 km
Transmission: Eight-speed PDK
CO2 emissions: 214g/km
Price: R2 684 000
Maintenance: 3-year Drive Plan. 5-yr Drive Plan can be purchased
Must-have options: The Turbo comes fully loaded but an essential add-on is Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes (PCCB) – worth every penny to ensure the two-tonne miss slows as effectively as she accelerates.