The Porsche Panamera: face of a 911, the body of a beluga

Porche-Panamera

I recently found myself out in the Oregon wine country behind the wheel of the 2014 Porsche Panamera. And while I knew the wine would be good – I enjoyed wine in the evening and the car during the day, so don’t send any angry drinking and driving letters – I didn’t know how I’d feel about the Panamera.

The Panamera was first released in 2009. And at that time, as a freshman automotive journalist, I could only dream of driving such a car. Accordingly, I was left to my own imagination when it came to evaluating the Panamera’s driving characteristics.

At that point, I hadn’t driven a Porsche newer than 1980 so I had to derive my opinions of the four-door Porsche from its looks. I quickly concluded that it was no good.

Porsche fans will have to forgive me but I was deadest on the fact that the Panamera was one of the ugliest cars ever to hit the pavement. I thought it had the face of a 911, the body of a sperm whale, and the charms of a sandals-and-socks-wearing German.

Understandably, then, I was trepidatious when I climbed behind the wheel of the 2014 Porsche Panamera.

The 2014 model year marks the second generation of the Panamera. The conservative minds at Porsche have given it a slight restyle, enlarging the lower air intake, ever so slightly reshaping the headlights, and protruding the hood bulge ever so slightly. In the back, the rear hatch is widened and lengthened for golf stick or something.

Porsche has also added a new twin-turbo V6 to the base model and a new plug-in hybrid to the lineup. Those aren’t very manly, though, so we’ll skip those and right to the top: The $195,000 Panamera Turbo.

Yes, my friends, this is the one you want. It packs a 4.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 520 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. This will hurl the 4,700-pound Panamera Turbo to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds. To put that in perspective, the 911 Carrera will only conquer 60 from a dead standstill in 4.2 seconds – and it weighs 3,100 pounds. So to say the Panamera is fast is a vast understatement.

That’s what makes the Panamera so special. It is a four-door, four-seater that you can just as comfortably be driven in as you can drive it. And by drive it, I mean hammer it. Hammer the damn snot out of it. That’s what I did – and I have the speeding ticket to prove it.

What makes it so fast? Here’s a great example. Many modern sporty cars are built with launch control. These systems, though, are often hidden under many buttons, check lists, waivers, and much warning lights. The Panamera’s isn’t. You simply put your left foot into the brake pedal as hard as you can. Then you put your right foot into the throttle as hard as you can. The dash will light up with “Launch Control Activated.” And you can just let your right foot go limp. The Panamera does the rest.

The resulting sensation is like losing your virginity and surviving an atomic blast all at once. It’s incredible.

While the acceleration is intoxicating, the best part is that using the launch control won’t harm the car. Well, it probably does but Porsche doesn’t care. Other automakers give you a finite of launch control uses before you void your warranty. Not Porsche. No, it wants you to launch your car. All the time. Everywhere. And I hope you do – ’cause I did. (Speeding ticket, remember?)

When not going hard off the line, the Panamera can be both elegant and refined, packing much gravitas. Or you can batter it around the bends with all the anger in the world. It’s happy to do both.

I’m still not sure the Panamera is the best looking thing. But it is one of the best driving things I’ve ever encountered. And when you’re behind the wheel, that’s really all that matters.