2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Review
It’s now even more of a blurred streak… thank God
By Shahzad Sheikh
If you take away the bodywork, particularly the bits at the back, and you remove the Porsche badge (ie altering your perceived expectations) then the Panamera is really not a bad car. In fact it’s an absolute marvel of modern engineering with tremendous ability and unimpeachable build integrity.
And in the previously range-topping Turbo guise, with a 0-100kph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 303kph, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the one thing this 500bhp 4.8-litre V8 didn’t need was more power.
Well you’d be wrong. At least that’s what Porsche thinks. So the car gets more 10% more power with 550bhp and torque is also up to 553lb ft from 516lb ft. Oh and it gets an ‘S’ badge to go alongside the ‘Turbo’.
There is also an improved pair of turbos – in fact it’s the turbine wheels within. They’ve been made from a new blend of titanium and aluminium which makes them half as light resulting in a lower moment of inertia. In figures, what this means is that they’ll spin from stop to 170,000rpm in eight-tenths of a second rather than the Turbo’s ‘mediocre’ 1.2 seconds!
All of this equates to a 0-100kph time dropping by four-tenths of a second to 3.8. It will also hit 200kph in just 12.9secs and the top speed is extended by 3kph to 306.
In reality, you’d have to jump straight out of the pretty damn quick Turbo to note that, stupendously, the S is even faster… ever-so-slightly, just a teeny-weeny bit, sort of… Subjectively it feels a tad more urgent and eager.
The fact is that this remains a big, heavy car – 6cm wider than a Mercedes S-Class and weighing just a laptop less than two tonnes – so you’ll never get the blistering, almost overwhelming, spurt of momentum that makes a 911 Turbo S so frightening.
It’s a rather bizarre sensation, sitting in the Panamera. I would compare it to sitting in the previous gen Corvette C5 – it’s like you’re reclining in the corner of a large living room, and in the Porsche’s case, a very plush and futuristic living room.
But you’re low to the ground, so part of your mind is telling you this is a sports car. And yet the cocoon around you is like a thin fortress blocking out the world, including the subtle sensations that would normally penetrate a sports car’s cockpit – what we call feedback.
It has a sports exhaust button, which deepens the sound coming out of those pipes. Normally this is just the sort of thing that turns me – hit the sport button in a Maserati for example and I’m instantly in love – but in this you have to concentrate hard to let your ears register the tone change. Kinda defeats the purpose…
It’s only the dials and readouts and the whoosh of the outside world blurring past your windows that confirms you have violently accelerated and are travelling at breathtaking velocities that will lose you your licence.
Slow down though, and even deliberately get stuck in traffic – because otherwise it’s rare you’ll spend much time in this exquisite cabin since a hard-thrusting car like this, will undoubtedly be piloted by a hard-thrusting driver that doesn’t hang about.
Shame because in complete contrast to the err… challenging exterior design of this bulbous car – rather like a toddler just sat on one end of an elongated mound of jelly – the inside is a modern marvel.
I like the way it looks – like I’m piloting some sort of space pod, I like the tight fit and finish, the superb tactile quality, and the neat displays and controls – although there are perhaps a little too many buttons on that sloping centre panel.
And then there’s the back; you may find this an astonishing statement considering this car’s length and girth, but in comparison to say something like the claustrophobic Aston Martin Rapide, the rear accommodation is surprisingly brilliant in the Panamera, even for a six-footer like me.
It’s a very comfortable, a nice place to be and you’re afforded a great view of that Buck Rogers dashboard. But then the Rapide is beautiful on the outside, and this is err.. not.
Grippy this thing is, in abundance. And yet oversteer is there in Sports Plus, despite the tarmac sucking four-wheel drive – which is clearly rear-biased.
From behind the wheel of this, or indeed the ‘regular’ Turbo, you know that you will dispatch huge distances with ease, whilst taking on all comers, and be just as tremendously quick on the twisties leaning heavily on the superb brakes and relying on the sensationally faithful dynamics, and you’ll still arrive unflustered.
But there’s two things – you’ll find yourself over-cautious on all but the most spacious bits of blacktop, because it becomes impossible to ignore this car’s sheer phatness! Around town it can get nerve-wracking and elsewhere you probably wouldn’t go for the gap that you’d definitely claim in a 911.
And secondly, you won’t be doing track days in this car and you won’t get up on Friday mornings just to go for a thrash. You’ll be delivered at your destination satisfied and impressed but not exactly enthralled, like you would for example in a Quattroporte. And nor would you be in love, like you would with the deeply flawed Rapide. But you’ll be first.
How much? $221,000 (AED813k)
Engine: 4806cc, 8cyl, 550BHP @ 6000rpm, 553lb ft @ 2250-4500rpm
Transmission: Automatic (PDK)
Fuel Economy: 11.5l/100km
Performance: 3.8 sec 0-100kph , 306kph
How heavy? 1995kg
7/10 – Faster than a speeding bullet and hopefully almost as invisible
Pictures by me!