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Auto Corner: Porsche 911 meets BMW M5 in Panamera

14 November 2010   John Dickerson
Porsche’s controversial sedan turns out to be a Porsche after all.

porschepanameraTo have your cake and eat it, too. That is the right and prerogative of the wealthy. Some of us can afford performance. Others can afford luxury. But only the best of the best can have both – in one beautiful package.

BMW’s M5 was for years the only sedan that coupled luxury with Porsche-like performance. In recent years, Maserati, Mercedes and Audi have joined the expensive fray of high-performance luxury four-doors.

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Whether late to the dance, or intentionally delayed for fine-tuning, Porsche made an entrance this year, with its all-new, first ever, four-door sedan, the Panamera. Purists have questioned the racing manufacturer’s foray into civilian vehicles.

So for those wondering, yes, the Panamera is actually a Porsche. And yes, it’s actually awesome. Coming from one who still wonders if Porsche’s Cayenne SUV is worthy of the badge, the Panamera possesses the traits of a Porsche.

The Panamera’s distinctive Porsche styling likely attracts many buyers. To have the clout of a Porsche and also have room for passengers, well, that is to have the cake and eat it, too. Yes, the Panamera does look a bit like someone took a computer image of a 911, and accidentally stretched it lengthwise, but that’s sort of the point. It’s a Porsche.

While it’s undeniably beautiful and masterfully competent, Porsche’s new super-sedan has some tough competitors. For example, the four-door Ferrari, er, Maserati Quattroporte, which is arguably sexier, but slightly less capable in performance.

Lamborghini, the only big performance name to resist the four-door urge, contributes its succulent V-10 engine in Audi’s smooth and neck-snapping S8 sedan. Audi, Mercedes and BMW performance sedans are arguably the most comfortable for continued driving. These Germans have been balancing multiple-passenger luxury and sporting dynamics for years.

For all the controversy, word from Porsche is that the mixed-blood Panamera has already sold more units this year than either the popular Boxter or iconic 911. And at the end of the day, what’s good for sales is good for all Porsche models.

The base $75,400 Panamera, of which very few will ever be made or sold in the U.S., offers a 300-horsepower Porsche V-6, good for a 0-60 time of about 6 seconds. That’s dismal when compared to even $30,000 sport-luxury sedans, like Hyundai’s new Genesis. Indeed, the base Panamera may not be worthy of the Porsche crest.

The real muscle, and the real sales volume, comes in the two larger available engines – a 400 horsepower V-8 and a twin-turbo variant, which boasts 500 horsepower. The Panamera Turbo rockets its four lucky passengers to 60 miles per hour in just four seconds. That’s within blinking distance of the BMW, Mercedes and Audi ultra-sport luxury sedans, and it’s a full one-second faster than a $285,000 Bentley Mulsanne.

While the Panamera may not technically be the fastest of its German competitors, it certainly looks the tastiest. So if you can afford it, go ahead. Have your cake, and eat it, too.

porschecockpit

A driver’s delight, the Porsche Panamera’s cockpit cradles four passengers in a luxury thrill ride.

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