TG.com got a chance to ride along with Porsche’s engineers as they sign-off the all-new Panamera before it reaches showrooms later in the year. We’d rather be in the driving seat of the new Panamera, but with a ride around South Africa in everything from the 4S, S Diesel and range-topping Turbo on offer, who were we to refuse this early uber access to Porsche’s sporting, luxury saloon?
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11 things we learned about the new Porsche Panamera
We've had a ride in Porsche's new luxury saloon. Here's what we learned
It's got an all-new platform
The G2 Panamera rides on an all new platform, which, if you’re interested is designated MSB, and a lot more flexible than the underpinnings of the outgoing G1 Panamera. That means there’s a chance of further models from it, an extended wheelbase is a definite, while the Sport Turismo a virtual certainty too, the concept for it shown at the Paris motor show way back in 2012. Could this platform spin-off a big GT like Porsche’s old 928? Nobody’s ruling it out, but then they’re not admitting to it either…
It's got a new gearbox, too
There’s a new eight-speed PDK automatic in the Panamera, around 30 per cent more efficient than the one it replaces. It’ll feature in all new Panameras, there being no manual offering. Yep, even in the hybrids.
The new hybrid will have a greater range
Talking of hybrids, they weren’t in South Africa with us, presumably because the extension cord wasn’t long enough. The motor for it will fit into the gearbox - for both diesel and petrol engines - and give greater electric-only range and more performance than the hybrid in the existing car.
It's more comfortable than before
While the Panamera has always been at the most sporting end of the luxury saloon spectrum, Dr Gernot Döllner - the Panamera’s model line director - promises that it’ll remain there, though admits it’ll be a bit more comfortable, at the request of customers.
Helping achieve that comfort is an all-new air suspension system. It gains a third chamber in its springs, upping capacity by 30 per cent over the old system, improving control and giving a bit of anti-roll stability, too.
It gets the Bentley Bentayga's optional suspension system
If you want your Panamera to corner completely flatly you’ll need the optional 48V electromechanical suspension system, which Bentley debuted on the Bentayga (it’s a Porsche system, say the Germans). It’ll be an option here, requiring the additional option of that air suspension (air only standard on the Turbo, the rest making do with steel springs and PASM). While you’re at it you might as well bung on the rear-wheel steering system - it shortens the turning circle by about a metre, which is handy if you’re planning on mini-cabbing in it.
It's as fast around the 'Ring as a Carrera GT
Select all the trick suspension and rear-wheel steering bits, as well as the electrically controlled differential with the Turbo and you’ll have a Panamera that’ll lap the Nurburgring as fast as Porsche’s previous super sports car. That’s a Carrera GT in case you’re wondering. Yep, fast as hell then, around the, um, Green Hell.
Bet you weren’t expecting that, eh?
The new petrol 4.0-litre V8 features cylinder deactivation...
If you’re having a green dilemma about buying a Turbo you can salve your conscience with the fact that the new 4.0-litre biturbo engine switches to four cylinders at any opportunity to save fuel. When it’s not doing so it’s got 542bhp, and 567lbft of torque, which should be enough to allow the Turbo to reach 62mph comfortably under four seconds and onto a near 200mph top speed, too.
...but you might just want the V8 diesel instead
Chasing that Turbo hard will be the new V8 turbodiesel. It’s shared with Audi, so it’s got a pair of conventional turbos, as well as, we’re told, an electric compressor helping things along. Numbers for it will be high, think around 435bhp, and a 0-62mph time not too far off that of the Turbo. You’ll still want the petrol Turbo, right? We’re not sure, the new 4.0 V8 turbodiesel, likely to be badged SD, is a monster, and it sounds unlike any turbodiesel we’ve ever heard. In a very, very good way.
It'll feature near autonomous driving
You’ll buy a Panamera because you want to drive it yourself, but Porsche is adding all the segment must-haves to the mix. So there’s near autonomous driving, Porsche claiming that its ‘InnoDrive’ system will allow it to take corners at up to 0.7g on its own. All the clever tech will allow car-to-x communication and all the connectivity you could ever desire, too.
It's bigger inside and features better materials
It’s more spacious inside, thanks to a slight stretch in the wheelbase. The materials too are much improved, as is the operation of all those info and entertainment functions. The boot’s bigger and has a wider access - well, it couldn’t really be any smaller/more awkward, could it?
It looks... better than before
It’s prettier (again, that wouldn’t be hard would it?) but even behind the disguise it’s obviously a far more elegant shape. We’ll see for sure when it’s eventually unveiled properly, probably at the Paris motor show later this year.