2010 Porsche Panamera S
2010 Porsche Panamera S. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Haney Louka

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Here we go again.

Porsche faithful get to weep and gnash their teeth at the thought of another new Porsche that isn’t a sports car. We’ve seen this before: remember when the Cayenne was introduced for the 2003 model year? A 2,300-kg sport-ute with Porsche’s crest on the steering wheel was not a welcome sight for Porschephiles. But the numbers couldn’t lie: the Cayenne was (and still is) a market success and provided the German sports car company with the cash it needed to stay independent, at least until late last year.

Porsche rationalizes the necessity for selling vehicles like the Cayenne by saying that many of its customers would defect to other marques if they didn’t start building something more practical. In that vein, the automaker from Zuffenhausen now presents to us the Porsche of the sedan world: the Panamera.

Except this time, it’s different. You see, the Panamera is a low-slung, wide beast that, on paper at least, looks like it will accompany its practicality with some genuine sports car DNA, a welcome departure from the Cayenne with its much higher centre of gravity.

2010 Porsche Panamera 4S
2010 Porsche Panamera 4S; photo by Peter Bleakney. Click image to enlarge

Once one gets past the fact that Porsche is producing a four-door sedan, about the most controversial aspect of this new car is its looks (although a few may also wince at its 1,800-kg curb weight, 400 more than a 911 Carrera). I’m afraid there’s a little bit of history repeating itself here, because as with the first-generation Cayenne, it appears that Porsche’s designers tried a little too hard to make a larger car look like the iconic 911, and in the process ended up with some styling cues that just weren’t quite right. In the case of the Cayenne, the end result had too much first-gen Hyundai Santa Fe in it; for the Panamera we have a bit of a homely hunchback on our hands.

Granted, as styling is the most subjective of subjects when it comes to cars (and most other things, for that matter; especially in the realm of luxury indulgences), there are many folks who find the Panamera to be one of the finest looking sedans on the market, and who am I to argue? But like it or not, the Panamera has an undeniable road presence and I felt like a bit of a celebrity driving one around the streets of Winnipeg for a week.

This kind of fame doesn’t come cheap: starting price for the V8-powered, rear-drive Panamera S is $115,100. There is a more ‘affordable’ V6-powered Panamera scheduled to go on sale this summer for $88,000, but it makes do with a measly 300 horsepower, so why bother?

Plus, you get a plethora of standard features, many of which are extra-cost items on the base model. Standard Panamera S features include 18-inch wheels, 11-speaker audio system, bi-xenon headlights with washers, dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, power liftgate, reverse parking sensors, a navigation system, heated front seats, and a whole bunch more.

2010 Porsche Panamera S
2010 Porsche Panamera S; photo by Michael Clark. Click image to enlarge

As is customary with Porsche’s press cars, ours was loaded with all kinds of pricey good stuff, like the $7,040 espresso natural leather, a heated steering wheel ($290), beautiful 20-inch wheels ($4,250), $2,720 for Alcantara (synthetic suede) on the headliner, a $1,970 upgraded Bose audio system, $1,030 for satellite radio, and $1,360 for the walnut trim that adorns the interior.

But the one option that really surprises me is $950 for Bluetooth connectivity. That’s right. And get this: it isn’t even voice-activated. And don’t forget $210 for floor mats and $600 for a universal audio interface. I know Porsche can get away with charging paycheque-sized sums for minor convenience options, but this is ridiculous. But they tell us that these three items (already standard on many $30K cars) will be standard across virtually the entire Porsche range for 2011, so I guess this is the last time I’ll be able to whine about that.

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