TEGERNSEE, Germany – One minute we’re rocketing down the Bundesautobahn 8, a 497 kilometre strip of pavement running west from Luxembourg to Austria, at nearly 230 km/h. The next we’re rolling sedately down the Ausfahrt ramp and into the bucolic Bavarian countryside. That such a big car could be so readily hauled back to sensibility is largely thanks to the yellow callipers glimpsed between the spokes of its 20-inch wheels – signifying that this particular Panamera’s blessed with the optional carbon-ceramic brake package. But it’s also the result of a very well balanced chassis and suspension set-up that allowed this nearly-two-ton colossus to go from triple digits to a most-respectable 50 km/h in a matter of seconds, without any upset to its composure.
The Porsche Panamera has been a paradox since its introduction in 2010. On one hand, it’s one of their top-selling vehicles (third-best here in Canada) and helped Porsche to crack the lucrative luxury sedan segment. But not since the Cayenne SUV was unveiled has a new Porsche been the subject of so much vitriol from the brand’s hardcore fans. Not only was it anathema to everything that Porsche stood for – heavy, two too many doors and a wrongly situated power plant – when viewed from certain angles, the Panamera was awkward and ungainly. The original Porsche 989 four-door prototype, on display at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart, somehow managed to retain the streamlined character of the 911. But the final production car, through necessity of competing in a segment that demands copious space and comfort above all, was not so svelte.
For 2017, the Panamera undergoes a complete ground-up do-over. According to Dr. Gernot Döllner, VP of Panamera’s product line, there are only three things that carry over from the old car: “the concept, the Panamera name and the Porsche crest.” And while still instantly recognizable as a Panamera, the reworked sheet metal, which is primarily aluminum, gives the new car a sleeker, sportier appearance. It’s 34 mm longer, slightly wider, yet the roof’s “flyline” has been lowered by 22 mm (nearly an inch). That may not sound like much, but the result is a more continuous, flowing topline that eradicates the previous car’s biggest flaw: the bulbous, hunched hindquarters. Moving the cabin slightly more to the rear lengthens both the hood and the rear windows, further accentuating its similarities to the 911.
Deeper, more dramatic sculpting of the Panamera’s flanks suggest speed and athleticism while visually slenderizing the side profile. While width increases only by 6mm, several design cues exaggerate the car’s wider stance.
Deep Dive: 2017 Porsche Panamera
An LED light bar now connects the four-point, bas-relief taillights, making the haunches appear wider and more powerful. They’re topped with a rear spoiler that’s an interesting display of mechanical origami, automatically deploying at just over 100 km/h.
The reworked face includes an A-shaped air intake and horizontal cross-bar visually widening the grille. The longer, lower hood features a “power dome” with contoured lines continuing through the bumpers.