2017 Porsche Panamera: New look signals even more change

By Jason Allan on August 11, 2016 4:33 PM

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“Some liked it, some didn’t like it.” 

That’s how Porsche executive Detlev von Platen, former head of Porsche Cars North America, summed up the visual appeal of the first-generation Panamera as we talked with him at the recent world premiere of its all-new successor. Ever since its introduction seven years ago, the Panamera’s styling -- its “bulbous,” “heavy,” “hunchback” rear end specifically -- has been its most talked about trait.

Enough, then.

The Panamera has been wholly redesigned for 2017, and now it’s gorgeous from tip to tail. In typical Porsche fashion the overall aesthetic is instantly familiar, but the changes to the rear end are indeed transformative. By lowering the rear roofline, lifting the rear end and adding a rear side window with a familiar curve, Porsche’s designers crafted a Panamera that’s significantly more stylish and -- as clearly evidenced by the taillight design -- unapologetically more 911-like.

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So with the original model's polarizing sheet metal behind us, the world can get an even clearer look at all the new things that promise to make the Panamera an even better Porsche.

440 or 550 Horsepower

The 2017 Porsche Panamera is scheduled to land in the U.S. next January, initially in two forms. The Panamera 4S will start at $99,900, sporting a new twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 with 440 horsepower good for a claimed 0-60 mph time of 4.0 seconds (4.2 without the Sport Chrono Package) and a top speed of 180 mph. If that’s not fast enough for you, you might have issues. But you also have options.

The new Panamera Turbo will start at $146,900, powered by a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 generating 550 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds (3.6 without Sport Chrono). Keep your foot in it and the Turbo will eventually top out at 190 mph says Porsche. The automaker is also calling the Panamera Turbo the fastest luxury sedan in the world, based on its 7-minute, 38-second lap of the 13-mile Nurburgring racetrack.

Worth repeating: 3.4 seconds

8-Speed PDK

The Panamera’s excellent 7-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission gives way to a new 8-speed PDK for 2017. Thanks in part to the extra ratio, Porsche claims fuel efficiency increases up to 16 percent in European cycles. The extra step might also improve responsiveness in some instances, but with the impressive power and torque profiles the advantages are likely minimal. 

One of the main themes repeated at the Panamera’s introduction was that it was both more comfortable and more capable than its predecessor, a claim supported by a long list of sophisticated new suspension technologies. Falling under the central control of a new 4D Chassis Control system are a new 3-chamber air suspension, new rear axle steering, enhanced dynamic chassis control system (with torque vectoring) and active suspension management. It wasn’t long ago that suspension engineers had to pick a spot on the comfort-performance spectrum and lock it in, but today’s dynamic componentry can change a vehicle’s demeanor from sporty to soft in a matter of milliseconds, automatically.

Sadly but understandably, the new Panamera will be the latest Porsche to ditch the familiar feel of hydraulic steering for a more functional electromechanical system.

Digital Interior

A big, centrally mounted analog tachometer remains, but everything else has gone digital in Panamera 2.0. The tach is flanked by two configurable 7-inch LCDs, while the center of the dash is dominated by a giant 12.3-inch touchscreen that serves as home base for the new infotainment system.

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And there’s a whole bunch of new technology behind the screens, too. Apple CarPlay makes its Porsche debut in the new Panamera, while Porsche Connect offers real-time traffic, weather and flight info, for instance, plus two vehicle management smartphone apps.

Set beneath the main screen and surrounding the transmission selector is a mix of traditional buttons and touch-sensitive controls. While the big screens will surely prove a welcome addition, the jury is out on the move to capacitive touch controls in place of the previous Panamera’s distinctively designed hard buttons that provided so much of the interior’s character. To be sure, the new interior feels more modern. But for a brand based so heavily on sensory input, moving away from the positive feel of hard buttons is an atypical evolution.

The interior is otherwise familiar, with a surprisingly accommodating back seat and flexible cargo capacity, thanks in part to 40:20:40 split folding rear seatbacks. Although the Panamera’s roof was lowered by almost an inch at the rear, my 6-foot frame still found abundant headroom.

Looking 1.8 Miles Ahead

“Seeing the engineers every day there is not one single ounce of complacency; these guys are completely mad,” observed Detlev von Platen in response to the notion that Porsche’s utterly unique position in the marketplace might leave it vulnerable to complacency in increasingly important areas like infotainment and driver assistance technologies, areas in which Porsche has never been strong relative to other premium automakers.

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Now Porsche’s Member of the Executive Board for Sales and Marketing, von Platen went on to explain that while Porsche isn’t always interested in being first with something new, it indeed wants to be best in class when it does enter a new segment or offer a new technology. Which brings us to Porsche InnoDrive.

Literally and figuratively a more forward-thinking adaptive cruise control system, Porsche InnoDrive combines navigation data with radar and video sensors to adjust acceleration and deceleration rates to optimize efficiency and comfort, taking into account upcoming corners, approaching hills and changing speed limits. In short, it makes more adjustments more often, with the goal of driving down the highway exactly like you would. Maybe better.

The 2017 Porsche Panamera also offers Night Vision Assist, an infrared camera that detects pedestrians or wildlife beyond the reach of the headlights and flashes a warning to the driver.

New Factory

The morning after the Panamera’s unveiling in Berlin, we drove south via Autobahn and back roads to see some of the first pre-production units being made at Porsche’s impressive and newly upgraded Leipzig factory. While the previous Panamera was assembled in Leipzig, the bodies were actually built and painted at a Volkswagen plant in Hanover. That changes for the new model, where the new, aluminum-intensive Panamera will be assembled entirely in the Leipzig factory alongside Porsche’s other 4-doors, the Cayenne and Macan SUVs. Already a perennial leader in quality, reliability and resale value, our tour of the state-of-the-art Leipzig facility -- recently improved and expanded to the tune of half a billion dollars -- made it clear that Porsche is making big investments to fortify its positions.

Road, Track and Autobahn

While our time in the new Panamera was limited to crawling through the two display vehicles at center stage, our visit to Germany included some track time in a Carrera 4S and hundreds of Autobahn miles in a Cayenne Turbo S. Neither of these drives told us anything specific about the new Panamera, but a mile in any Porsche is a reminder of just how special they all are. And in this case, how good the new Panamera is likely to be.

In addition to the newly enhanced manufacturing facilities, Porsche’s Leipzig location includes one of its six experience centers -- adult playgrounds/training facilities helping to “keep our brand touchable” in the words of von Platen (U.S. locations include Atlanta and soon Los Angeles). Hopping into a powerful, unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar track can make for an interesting first date, but the Carrera 4S inspired confidence in short order, thanks in part to the added balance provided by all-wheel drive -- a standard feature across the 2017 Porsche Panamera launch lineup.

Taking the wheel of a 570-horsepower SUV and merging onto the Autobahn is another cause for caution, but the Cayenne Turbo S is no ordinary SUV. After not too long we were surging to peak speeds topping 150 mph, limited primarily by our love of our loved ones (the published and believable top speed is 176 mph). We eventually settled into a groove at around 120 mph, a speed at which the Cayenne Turbo S delivers a positively relaxing amount of confidence.

The $160,000 Cayenne Turbo S is an impressive machine in America, too, but much more of its appeal is derived by what it costs and what it can do (but doesn’t, very often). On the Autobahn the Cayenne Turbo S morphs from enthusiast-level status symbol into something that feels more like a military-grade machine expertly engineered to deliver not just sheer speed, but also the stability, agility, stopping power, and car-driver connection needed to leverage its velocity capabilities with confidence.

We suspect Autobahn travel in the new Panamera Turbo will generate similar perspectives. 

Looking Ahead

The future of Porsche starts with the next-gen Panamera in January, and looks bright beyond. After getting a first-hand look at the new model, touring the updated Leipzig factory, experiencing two current models in their natural environments, and talking with executives, we’re happy to report the product remains strong and the brand appears in good hands. 

Asked how Porsche remains true to its roots, von Platen answered, “Dr. Porsche.” He explained that just a couple days before our conversation there was a management meeting at which Dr. Wolfgang Porsche -- the youngest son of company founder Ferdinand (Ferry) Porsche, younger brother of 911 designer Ferdinand (Butzi) Porsche and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche AG -- was in attendance. What with his direct connection to history and his name on the cars and such, Dr. Porsche’s presence alone is a guiding force, said von Platen.

Not one to leave anything to chance, apparently, Dr. Porsche also told the assembled caretakers, in von Platen’s words, “I’m watching you.”

Last Question

When asked specifically when the Panamera might get a little brother, a seemingly inevitable family expansion, von Platen replied, “We have thousands of ideas. We are working on thousands of ideas. I won’t tell you.”

Fair enough. We’re still waiting to drive the new Panamera, after all.

 

2017 Porsche Panamera in 19 Pictures

 

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