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2017 Porsche Panamera 4S First Drive

So there we were, my drive partner and I, somewhere in southern Germany, merrily cruising along in the brand new 2017 Porsche Panamera. Except for the Germany thing, that sounds fairly standard, right?

Standard, perhaps, until you check the speedometer in the all-new digital gauge cluster (the centre-mounted tachometer remains an analogue device; the gauges on either side of it are not) and see that you’re doing over 180 km/h. That’s perfectly fine, because this is Germany, and we were on one of that country’s many derestricted Autobahnen (so marked by a white speed limit sign, with black strikes through the number that you were no longer restricted to), and pretty much everyone else was doing the same thing… or faster. An obviously modified Mk2 Volkswagen Golf ahead of us was shrinking by the second, and that furniture-laden Audi A6 Avant we’d come across later? Forget about it. It was a speck on the horizon before you could say “Autobahn.” 
So, considering the traffic, what we were doing didn’t seem so crazy. Also helping the situation was the fact that the Panamera happened to be in its element here. However, as we’d find out, there’s a lot more to this redesigned sedan than torching the autobahn. 

Ins and outs
While you may not be able to fully tell just by looking at it, the 2017 Porsche Panamera is new from the ground up, not sharing a single part with the old model. Its body and part of its chassis are constructed from aluminum, making for greater stiffness overall. 

Look more closely, and you’ll see a more aggressively sloping roofline (that doesn’t affect rear headroom thanks to lower-mounted rear seats), a more tapered rear end, and a lower stance overall. Said low roof and new derriere with its low-profile taillight lenses do a good job of bringing the Panamera more in line with the styling of the 911 than, say, a beluga whale. It’s true; despite selling in droves, the last generation of the car was not much of a looker, and Porsche has done well to address that this time around. 

Standing 34mm longer and 6mm wider than its predecessor, the new 2017 Porsche Panamera offers more interior room. Meanwhile, in an effort to clean things up inside, the million-button layout of the centre console and stack has been eschewed in favour of a much simpler touch-sensitive interface with a few key buttons left for easier use. After all, when you’re nearing 200 km/h on the autobahn and specks on the horizon can become full-blown lorries in the span of about 10 seconds, you don’t want to be wasting time trying to find the on-screen button required to change your climate temperature. Plus, the buttons used for said controls are just so nicely machined and textured that they are a real joy to operate.

When it does come to the touch stuff, however, Porsche has it figured out. The buttons for your seat heaters/coolers, windshield defoggers, suspension settings, and traction control are responsive and placed so you don’t inadvertently strike them as you reach for the gear lever or what have you.

The real gem of the tech story, though, has to be the 12.3” touchscreen that houses your navigation, audio, and communication controls. It’s fantastically crisp to the point where the GPS map looks like it could be 4K-level quality (it isn’t), and the interface is mostly straightforward. There is a little navigation that has to be done through nested menus, but my drive partner and I got used to it and began to find certain shortcuts that made the process a little less redundant. It feels like you’re operating a full-fledged Apple touch device ― and yes, Apple CarPlay is supported. The powerful, crisp, but optional 20-speaker Burmeister stereo, meanwhile, really needs to be heard to be believed. The new Panamera is nothing short of a mobile concert hall. 

Even the rear-seat passengers get in on the touchscreen action as a centre-mounted display between the two rear seats provides access to their own climate controls.

Does it drive like a real Porsche?
We already touched on the fact that the 2017 Porsche Panamera, even in its least powerful 4S form (440 hp, 405 lb-ft; the Turbo makes 550 hp and 568 lb-ft), had no problem keeping pace at Autobahn speeds. Yet, curiously, I felt like we never even really tested the car to its full potential. 

Surely, the new twin-turbo V6 engine has a lot to do with the Panamera’s highway performance, but we should not discount the effect provided by the equally new 8-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission, which is your only choice. The ratios are well spaced and gear changes are performed so quickly and smoothly that very little thrust is lost in the process. 

If you want a little extra oomph, you can activate one of two available sport modes or make use of the Sport Response button at the centre of the drive mode select wheel, which provides 20 seconds of even more feral acceleration. The paddle shifters on the steering wheel prove nicely responsive, by the way, with each shift being accompanied by a satisfying “blat!” I do wish, however, that the paddles themselves felt a little more robust, their plastic construction leaving a little to be desired. 

The same can’t be said for the stiffened chassis as it surpassed my expectations going in. I mean, I knew it would be good, but the way the 2017 Porsche Panamera changes directions makes it feel like a much smaller car than its 1,870kg curb weight suggests. 

You can also thank the array of electronic systems for that. We’ve seen Porsche’s active dampers before, as well as Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) and active air suspension (standard on Turbo, optional on the 4S), but until now the systems have all worked independently of one another. 

4D Chassis Control adds another layer to the tech, using computers to help the system respond more quickly and in unison to what’s going on under the car. Throw in optional rear-axle steering (new to the Panamera for 2017) and you’ve got an agile grand tourer that can blitz the ‘bahn and then proceed to deftly tackle the twisties once you’re off the main drag. You might want to consider the optional ceramic brakes if you plan to be doing a lot of byroad blasts with heavy braking, however; the Panamera remains a ponderous car and the peace of mind offered by the bigger brakes is worth the cost. 

Back to the ‘bahn
Experiencing the straight-line thrust of the 2017 Porsche Panamera never really gets old. More than having all that power at your disposal, though, the new, sturdier chassis means that you can do it in an almost relaxed fashion. There were many times where we’d be cresting the 160 km/h and wouldn’t even know it, thanks to silenced road and wind noise and effortless delivery of the turbo engine. 

I’ve always thought of the Panamera as somewhat of an outlier in the big-car sweepstakes. Mercedes, Audi, and BMW ― heck, even Lexus ― have been doing it for years and they know what’s what. With the new Panamera, however, Porsche has become a real player, here. 

Pricing starts at $114,300 for the 4S and $167,700 for the Turbo.

 

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2017 Porsche Panamera
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Photos:D.Heyman
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2017 Porsche Panamera 4S