2011 Porsche Panamera V6
2011 Porsche Panamera V6. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Porsche Panamera

When Porsche first announced its plan to produce an SUV, enthusiasts were horrified. Still, the German sports car manufacturer was right, and the Cayenne soared to the top of the company’s sales charts. Fast-forward to 2010, and witness the hue and cry over Porsche’s new Panamera. Four doors on a sports car? Indeed, and Porsche was right again, with the Panamera more than holding its own against its two-door brethren.

Now, for 2011, the Panamera adds a new twist. The 4.8-litre V8 used exclusively for 2010 is now joined by Porsche’s first use of a V6 in a production car, a 3.6-litre six-cylinder that’s available in the Panamera and also in the all-wheel drive Panamera 4. Despite the identical displacement and horsepower, this isn’t the Cayenne’s engine in a new home, but rather, a new powerplant derived from the Panamera V8.

2011 Porsche Panamera V6
2011 Porsche Panamera V6. Click image to enlarge

When I drove my V6 Panamera tester in 2010, it was priced at $88,000, but the company has since announced new pricing for 2011. My car would now be $86,600, along with $16,050 in options, down from the $19,160 that those extras would have cost when the car was in my hands. That included $1,200 for heated front and rear seats, $4,550 for an adaptive air suspension, $1,650 for a Bose surround system and $4,220 for its 20-inch sport wheels. Other Panamera models that dropped in price for 2011 include the all-wheel Panamera 4 at $91,800, the Panamera S at $103,200, and the all-wheel Panamera 4S, at $108,900. The top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo bucked the trend, rising by $1,300 to $156,300 for 2011.

Make no mistake: at 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the V6 is worthy of its badge. It’s mated exclusively to a PDK transmission – Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, if you want to impress your friends – a dual-clutch gearbox that clips up or down its seven speeds with lightning-fast precision. Paddle shifters for manual mode are provided on the three-spoke steering wheel.

2011 Porsche Panamera V6
2011 Porsche Panamera V6
2011 Porsche Panamera V6. Click image to enlarge

Like the Cayenne, the Panamera includes an auto start-stop function, which shuts off the engine at idle such as at a traffic light. It’s similar to the way a hybrid operates, except that a heavy-duty starter gets the pistons moving again, rather than an electric motor as in a hybrid. There’s a jolting rumble when it starts again, but overall the system works well and can be turned off via a switch if you prefer spewing emissions when not needed. What I really like about the system is that when you’re in stop-and-go traffic, the engine will shut off, come on while you crawl forward a few car lengths, and then shut off once you grind to a halt again. When I’ve driven most hybrids in similar conditions I have to reach a set speed before the auto-stop will work again, and if I can’t get going that fast, which often happens, the gasoline engine continues to run while I’m stopped.

Officially, the Panamera is rated at 12.9 L/100 km (22 mpg Imp) in the city and 8.3 (34) on the highway. In combined driving, and taking every opportunity to enjoy the car’s sporty nature, I averaged 12.6 (22). I did note one oddity about the engine, however, in what amounts to an electronic dipstick. A couple of days after receiving the car, its message centre displayed a warning that the oil level was low. After a thorough search of the engine failed to turn up any yellow handles, a trip into the owner’s manual revealed that you must depend on that message centre, since there’s no physical stick for checking the oil. Determining that a litre was enough involved driving the car for a short bit until the message centre gave the all-clear. I realize that many owners will never get their hands dirty, but considering that oil is as essential to an engine as blood is to its driver, there really should be some way to physically see the level and check the oil’s condition, especially for subsequent owners as the engine ages.

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