2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo

One of the pleasures of Pebble Beach week is the chance to drive new cars. Go early in the morning, and there are the quiet roads to begin to get to grips with them.

This year your writer pottered over to the Quail to see if he could have any seat time in a Porsche, by choice a 718, but anything would do. Hanging out in the jolly nice corporate hospitality and stuffing my face with pastries and salami, I was shortly offered a Panamera Turbo S, however, when outside, it was “only” a Turbo. Installed behind the wheel, the rep in the passenger seat knew what he was talking about – immediately making the point that “the difference between the Turbo and the Turbo S is the 180hp electric motor on the front axle”. Hum, like the Le Mans cars, thinks I, as I peruse the Tesla-esque large screen, already covered with unsightly sticky finger marks after only 1300 miles. The rep acknowledges the Tesla me-too of the interior, and it is nice, although whether it is $157k nice is a moot point for me.

Out on the highway, despite 550hp things are not at all wild. Easy daily driver school run special, although at lower speeds the width is noticeable, more Range Rover than 911. On a well known twisty road the drivers skill – or lack therof!!! – and prudence intervenes long before the potential of the car has been approached. Power delivery is seamless and gargantuan. The rep initially suggested Sport+, just to show me how much the car stiffens up – but then suggested Sport, just as I began to toggle for it, since Sport+ is track brutal, while Sport is civilized while delivering crisp throttle response and easy placement in corners. You can program your own settings – were the car mine, I would have the base Sport, mode, but the Sport+ razor sharp throttle response. Brakes and steering contribute to the feeling of point and squirt, with massive grip levels in turns and powerful, easily modulated brakes.

Stopping at a junction following a testing descent, I glanced into the backseat for the first time, and was stunned to see it not close, like in the Fiesta or the 325, but miles away, more like the back seat of a Tahoe or and Explorer. In extremis, the Panamera had shrunk around me, such that I expected it to be the same size as an E46 BMW.

Therein is the genius of Panamera – sportscar sensations, a Tesla interior and an SUV body to carry the family and luggage, it is all those things. Most Porsches made today have four door. Even the back to basics 4 cylinder Boxster, the 718, will sell 70/30% in favour of PDK versus manual transmission, according to the Porsche rep. He then pointed out something profound to me: “The dealers want autos. Imagine you walk into a dealer, and say you want a manual. He says “Well, I have a PDK, do you want a test drive anyway?” I knew what was coming then – the PDK is simply so excellent that many people just buy that car, right there, which is what dealers want. Contrast that with a manual on the forecourt, and a customer wanting an automatic – i.e. most people. For them, the manual box is a show stopper. If a dealer has three cars, red, white and blue, which one does he want to saddle with the sale-killing manual transmission?

Overall, the experience here is superlative, from corporate hospitality through the rep accompanying me on the drive, to the product itself. The Porsche value add was clearly and seductively communicated. But $157k!!!

A friend in England recently asked my opinion of the Macan. I’ve been driven in a Macan by a retired racing driver along that same road as I drove the Panamera. My response was that I felt both to be excellent cars, but the Panamera to be a hair better. But since we each also drive Fiesta STs, I felt compelled to point out those remain far more fun far more of the time than the German ubertech. $157k.

All photos shamelessly snagged from porsche.com

While I got a Porsche drive in short order, my buddy was left in the corporate hospitality for over an hour, eventually leaving without driving anything apart from the flush of the toilet. The outstanding mystery is around whether that happened because the blonde chick running the test drive bookings fancied me, and slipped me in as a favour, or whether stipulating “no four doors” had stymied him 😉

Some Interior Detailing:

Rising Spoiler: