Saturday, 2 July 2016

Porsche Panamera - An Ugly Duckling Story

Porsche has recently unveiled a new Panamera  and this one has addressed the most criticised part of the car - it's humpback rear-end.

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo

The first generation Porsche Panamera was a brilliant car in all aspects unfortunately it had a rear-end only it's designer could love.  The Porsche badge usually brings street cred, but the Panamera lacked this.  It was often judged by it's looks and frequently overlooked when on the road.
2014 Porsche Panamera Turbo with that signature "Humpback rear-end"

Dynamically the previous Panamera was sublime for a large sedan.  It oozed superb performance and responsive handling.  It proved this by bettering many so called sports cars' 0-100km/h sprint times and 0-400m times.   

It also lapped the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife as fast and in some cases faster than many supercars offered at the time.  Further cementing it's driving dynamic credentials.  And doing all this while surrounded by comfortable luxurious interior appointments.

All is going swimmingly for the Panamera until it drives past and see that rear-end.  Then admiration and respect, turns to laughter and ridicule.

OK, perhaps I'm over dramatising it a little, but c'mon you have to admit that humpback rear-end could have been done a whole lot better.  The Panamera looks like a bloated and stretched 911, than a svelte sports sedan.  It's like the designer ran out of talent when it came to doing the rear-end.  Designer's block maybe?

On the other hand the Maserati Quattroporte, and Aston Martin Rapide - the Panamera's logical competitors in the market - have both nailed the exterior styling.  Seen in the flesh, both cars have a commanding presence and on the road you can't help but stare at them.  Something totally lacking from the Panamera.

Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati Quattroporte
The Maserati has the typical Italian car style and flair.  Using the same engine found in the Ferrari 458 Italia, it's practically a four door Ferrari.  It has the Ferrari V8 growl and grabs your attention whenever it's near.  The ladies particularly like it's look.  Shame about it's reliability however.

The Rapide is an example of how to turn a gorgeous two door supercar into a four door performance saloon [from the outside at least].  The saloon is equally as beautiful as its two door sibling.  From dead on front or rear view, if unfamiliar with the brand, it is difficult to distinguish the saloon from the coupe.

Aston Martin Rapide S
Aston Martin Rapide S
But that gorgeous exterior comes at the expense of its rear passenger space.  The two rear passenger seats offer the least room out of the three.  Anyone taller than the average height adult (170-180cm) will find the accommodation uncomfortable on longer journeys.  A huge sacrifice by Aston Martin to let design follow function.  As pretty as it looks, the Rapide is not as an ideal sports saloon to transport four full size adults in total comfort as the Panamera or Quattroporte are.  Friends don't let friends ride at the back seat of a Rapide.
Maserati Quattroporte

Aston Martin Rapide S
Porsche's attempt on the first gen Panamera was a mixed bag result.  Either too much Heineken was consumed during it's design phase, or the design team was trying too hard to incorporate the Porsche DNA into the design.  It's a pity as the German nailed the driving dynamics and performance capabilities.  It's certainly superior than its two competitors in this area.  Plus being a Porsche, I'm sure it also surpassed both the Italian and Brit in the build quality and reliability departments.

Now with Porsche having just unveiled the second generation Panamera.  The future is looking good.  The skies are bluer, the flowers more fragrant, and food taste better.

2017 Porsche Panamera 4S
From the outset, it is a hellava lot better looking saloon than the first gen.  Porsche knows how to design a four door 911 after all.

The svelte new rear-end
Reviewing all the launch videos, photos and subsequent articles about it, the new Panamera is a whole new level saloon compared to the previous model. Gone is the humpback rear-end.  This time replaced by an elegant design from nose to tail with just enough hint of its performance potential incorporated throughout.  And the Porsche DNA is strong.  You can't mistake this car from any angle other than a Porsche.

Full LED headlights of the Panamera Turbo
Although the height level of the trailing end of the boot is still a little too low for my liking [why can't they level it off from the glass base], the roofline [which is lower than the previous model] is more integrated and flows more cohesive than before.  And the new tail lights are the usual Porsche signature lights - sharing some design cues to those found in the 911 - a vast improvements from the first gen's lights.  Add all of this, makes for one pretty saloon.

Along with addressing the humpback, they also managed to reduce the heaviness look of the "C" Pillar of the first gen car.  Another main source of criticism.

A prettier side profile - gone is the humpback rear end and a thinner 'C' pillar.
Let me geek out a little, and let's talk spoilers.  I think the rear spoiler of the Panamera Turbo is ultra cool. This was also on the previous Panamera Turbo, but with its ugly humpback rear-end, no one ever really noticed.

The Turbo's rear spoiler is slightly larger than the 4S.  But where in the 4S, the spoiler simply pops up, in the Turbo, not only does it pop up, it also split open and slide to either side then a centre wing comes up to fill the gap.  Making the Turbo spoiler wider than the 4S.

The Turbo's pop and slide rear wing
Now I won't bore you with the new car's statistics, there are already many articles written about them elsewhere, but one thing I will point out is that Porsche claims this new Panamera is faster around the Nurburgring Nordschleife, than the [997*] Porsche 911 GT3.  WOW!

Porsche [997] GT3
For the unfamiliar, the GT3 is the sportier version of the Porsche 911 supercar.  And I'd hardly call a standard Porsche 911 a slouch.  Meaning this new Panamera is supercar quick.  And it's a saloon weighing nearly two tonnes.  This truly is a remarkable achievement. 

*The numbers 997 is the code that Porsche use to identify this particular series.  The 997 series was replaced by the 991 in 2012 - the current model. 

Not all good news however, don't plan to get any of these super-saloons, as an investment.  Stick to the limited edition supercars for that [see my previous blog - "Car Flipping"].  In Australia, the price of a new Panamera starts from a little over $300k for the Panamera 4S all the way to a little under $390k for the Turbo [plus on-road cost].

You can pick up a used 2011 Panamera with around 40k-100k kilometers on the odometer for a little over $100k. That's around 66% (or $200k+) depreciation in value over 5yrs [or about $40k per year or $109 per day drop].   Older models and/or cars with higher mileage cost even less.

But if you plan to keep it for a long time, then it's a smart and intelligent choice, and definitely the one I'd pick over the Maserati and Aston Martin.

As all reports suggest, the Panamera will continue to provide trouble-free motoring for years to come.  Something [past and current] owners of the Quattroporte or Rapide could never say.

Panamera Turbo
So just as the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan from the popular children story, the new Panamera has turned into an elegant and beautiful saloon, and deserving the Porsche badge.

Now if only my Lotto numbers will come in.

The new Panamera's interior - this includes the Chrono* package

Plenty of room for two full size adults

Rear passenger infotainment screen


  1. "Either too much Heineken was consumed during it's design phase..."

    You won't find any self-respecting Hun indulging in a dutch beer! Whatever they were imbibing, though, the Panamera MkI looked like it had been squeezed out of a toothpaste tube. Reminds me a bit of a lot of today's Korean designed cars. Lovely looking front ends but when you get to the back the designers' creativity well has most definitely run dry.

    1. Haha. Then you better not look at the rear-end of the new Pajero Sport. :)