2017 Porsche Panamera 4S: A graceful redo
By David Miller
August 4th 2017
For more than 80 years, Porsche has embodied the combination of sultry and sporty. The German luxury brand has produced some of the world’s greatest sports cars that have paved the way for recent year-over-year consumer sales records in Canada.
But not all products are instant success stories, and for the full-size Porsche Panamera sedan, it was time to start anew after harsh critiques and declining sales figures. For 2017, the Panamera gets a clean slate, built from the ground up with an increased size but lower stance, more use of aluminum, more efficient engine offerings, and a new interior look.
The Panamera will always differ from the iconic Porsche image, with its larger frame and front-engine mount. But different doesn’t always mean bad, so we checked out the 4S V6 model to see if this large sedan has what it takes to meet the demands of fault-finding Porsche consumers.
Pros & Cons
- + Acceleration
- + Sharp handling
- + Attention-getting styling
- - Price
- - Fuel economy
- - Air conditioning system
This Panamera is slightly longer, taller and wider than its previous iteration, but size isn’t the distinguishing characteristic. The car’s entire construction has changed, and the Panamera is no longer the sum of its parts, or rather its flaws: a massive hood and station-wagon caboose flanking the four-door passenger cockpit.
This new version offers a lower-to-the-ground profile that gets back to its clean, sexy and exciting Porsche roots. The car exhibits a sleek silhouette, with the front wheels pushed forward to increase wheelbase, and a shapely backside that shows off LED rear taillights à la 911, including a light strip to connect the two sides above dual exhausts and optional 21-inch Sport Design wheels.
All of this has been achieved with the use of predominantly lightweight aluminum, adding greater stiffness to the package without an increase in weight despite the larger frame.
Those sweeping exterior changes were essential to Panamera’s revitalization, but the changes to the inside may be the key to securing greater sales. The old Panamera’s interior brought to mind nothing so much as an airplane cockpit. A plethora of buttons ran alongside the gearshift, causing both distraction and confusion. Luckily, Porsche listened to its customers and done away with that concept. The technological offerings remain, but they’re subtly integrated through touch-sensitive buttons situated on a glossy blacked-out console, as well as steering-wheel controls.
Panamera ticks the comfort box with perforated soft leather seats that ride low, but snug. In the rear, seating is equally comforting and spacious, with two bucket seats loaded with leg- and headroom despite the sloping roofline. Unlike most Porsches, backseat passengers also enjoy their own climate control functions and armrests with cupholders, and cargo capacity offers up to 1,340 litres of space behind the two front seats, and 500 litres in just the trunk.
It may look as though the 2017 Panamera offers less gadgetry, but Porsche just found a better way to organize it all, with a crisp next-generation 12.3-inch information touchscreen that modernizes the interior space while blending into the soft leather dash. In navigation mode, the large touchscreen is at its finest with graphics that come to life. The rest of the vehicle data is found in front of the driver on a new thin-film transistor screen that looks sharp and is easy to understand.
A few of the technical offerings can be hit or miss. In the hit category are air vents that can be digitally configured, a nice touch that I’ve never seen before. On the miss side, my test vehicle blasted me with four bars of 22-Celsius air every time the car restarted, rather than holding the previous setting. Naturally, this can be changed in the climate control settings, but it’s an unnecessary extra step that lacks common sense.
Under the hood of the Panamera 4S is a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 that produces 440 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. It’s matched to Porsche’s eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission and standard all-wheel drive. If that’s not enough, there’s a Turbo version that ups the ante with a 550-hp V8.
The 4S option gets an uptick of power from the previous gen (20 more hp and an extra 22 lb-ft of torque), which is more than enough juice to have some fun with. Simply press down on the throttle and an initial boost is instantly provided along with a minor grunt. Seamless gear shifts allow for a smooth ride without the choppiness found in other action-packed cars. That’s not to say the Panamera is a cruiser: it drives with punch, especially in Sport or Sport-plus mode.
Unsurprisingly for a Porsche, handling is this car’s forte. The Panamera is responsive, with tremendous grip of the road and sniper-calibre sharpness on turns—almost as though it can read your mind. Performance, stability and precision are achieved with minimal body roll and vibration, thanks to upgraded suspension and shocks under its optional Adaptive Air Suspension that includes Porsche’s Active Suspension Management (PASM)—an electronic damping control system—for $2,500.
A selling point for the Panamera is its ability to provide exceptional power and comfort along with improved fuel economy. The official combined rating is 10.1 L/100 km, but after a week-long test, I was only able to achieve 11.8 L/100 km over 235 km. I was a bit puzzled by that figure, as I didn’t push the car recklessly throughout the week, but perhaps the predominance of city driving was a factor. (However, the official city rating is 11.4 L/100 km.) In the end, most buyers won’t purchase the Panamera for its fuel economy, but it is nice to see some improvement over the last model.
Is there such thing as value when it comes to brands like Porsche? Not really, with the possible exception of the Macan crossover. If you’re looking to save, there’s no point jumping to the Turbo, which starts at $167,700. The 4S was a blast to drive and starts at a measly $114,300 by comparison. After options, my test vehicle rang in at $133,250 before delivery and handling fees. It’s no bargain, but at this level of car, there really are no great deals out there, especially if you’re looking for a Porsche badge on the nose.
The 2017 Panamera was given a total makeover, and Porsche has done wonders for its looks both inside and out. The second-generation full-size sedan’s sleek and fluid silhouette paints a picture using elements we know and love from the Porsche brand. It just took a little time to get it right.
The 4S starts at a price higher than its Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series competitors, but that comes with the territory. Will those shopping in the four-door luxury sedan market be willing to pay that premium? Based on the smooth and powerful drive the Panamera offers, it might be hard for those longing for that combination to stay away.