WHEN A FELLOW Aussie scribe suggests to Matthias Müller that the subtly restyled Panamera still ain’t sexy, the 60-year-old executive’s lips curl up at the corners and his eyes narrow. The small talk continues, but soon the Porsche CEO disappears into the night in a swirl of stogie smoke.
Who are we Aussies to judge, anyway? Porsche’s Leipzig plant has just produced the company’s 100,000th Panamera, a model line-up that even Porsche didn’t expect to be as successful as it’s been. Meanwhile, the updated model introduces a new, long-wheelbase Executive variant of the Turbo aimed at a market where cashed-up buyers can afford a chauffeur, too. It’s the preferences of the People’s Republic, not ours, that drive the design of the Panamera.
Even so, in Australia, Stuttgart’s grand tourer outsells rivals such as the Audi A8 and the Maserati Quattroporte, and generates similar sales to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class – about 100 cars a year.
Pricing of the new, improved Panamera is unchanged with one exception. The range kicks off with the $196,700 Diesel and $201,400 petrol V6s, and works its way up to the $318,300 GTS and $382,400 Turbo via the $213,400 Panamera 4, $287,100 Panamera S, and $299,300 4S. The only price change is a reduction for the Hybrid. The new S E-Hybrid drops $3600 from the outgoing model to $296,900, thanks to the luxury car tax implications of its combined cycle fuel consumption figure, which has been slashed from 7.1 to 3.1L/100km.
But despite the attention to extreme economy, and rear cabin space, there’s still plenty for both lovers of automotive technology, and those who like to do the steering themselves.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid is the pick for tech-heads and wealthy Hypermilers. Now a plug-in, the niche variant (Porsche sold 10 of the previous Hybrid in Oz) swaps NiMH for Li-ion battery power to offer 9.4kWh – more than five times the charge capacity. It sends electrons to a motor that offers double the power of the old one. With the petrol V6, combined outputs are 306kW and 590Nm (from a low 1250rpm). The S E-hybrid is quick enough in sport mode – Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 5.5sec. Then, in E-power mode, it can be driven as a quiet, refined electric car for up to 36km. When the battery is depleted, E-charge mode will have it brimmed at a rate of 2 percent per km, or between 45 and 60 kays.
The Panamera S and all-wheel drive 4S kick-off the performance line-up, and deliver economy improvement, too. A twin-turbo petrol V6 replaces the atmo V8, cutting consumption from 10.5 to 8.7L/100km for the S. The new engine is cultured and quick – 0-100km/h in 4.8sec (S)/5.1sec (4S) – and proves the perfect fit for the Panamera.
The V8 lives on in the GTS. If the thumping bent-eight tune and crackling overrun don’t suck you in, the sharp steering, sweet balance and mega grip of the driver’s Panamera will. It’s the thirstiest (10.7L/100km), loudest, and most sports car-like in the line-up, and by far the most fun.
The 382kW, 700Nm Turbo is the bahnstormer. At 4.1sec 0-100km/h, it’s 0.3sec quicker than the GTS, and an astonishing 3.7sec quicker 0-200km/h. The flagship Panamera isn’t as characterful as the GTS but little can match its flexibility and outright acceleration.
The Panamera Diesel, S, 4S and Turbo arrive in Oz later this month, and the Panamera petrol V6, 4 and S E-Hybrid hit showrooms in September. But we’d wait until November for the GTS. It’s our pick of the range, and you can read the full report in issue two of evo Australia, on sale on August 5.
– James Whitbourn