While Porsche owes a lot to the Cayenne from saving it from going under, the Panamera has a lot to do with how far the four-door saloon could transform into a powerful performance car which the whole family can enjoy cohesively.
Porsche introduced its first four-door GT car in April 2009 with a humble target to produce just 20,000 examples a year to serve globally. Little did Porsche realise that the added practicality of four seats and four doors with the performance that attempted and some-what executed to emulate the iconic 911 would appeal to so many. In spite of the fact that the first generation model’s styling was questioned by critics, buyers and the general public, the Porsche has delivered a staggering amount of over 2,35,000 units around the world till date. One didn’t need to look at the Panamera to know what it was capable of, the only way to understand it was to drive it.
The inception of the four-door Porsche
The Panamera was not the first ever Porsche for four. The manufacturer had developed a four-seater based on the 356 in the 1950s. The Type 530 had a longer wheelbase, larger doors and a raised rear roof. Then a prototype was developed based on the 911 in the 80s. An attempt was made with the Type 989, which even had a V8 heart, but remained a prototype and was decommissioned in 1992.
It wasn’t until the new millennium that Porsche decided to have a second go at making a four-door hatchback saloon with the green light from then Chairman of the Executive Board, Wendelin Wiedeking. Three concepts were designed; the “Mirage”, “Meteor” and “Phantom” but the muscular looking Mirage was the one that would be the genesis of the final production car. Although elements of the other two concepts were also used. Once ready, the name ‘Panamera’ was chosen inspired by the Mexican endurance race “Carrera Panamericana”
World Premiere: The Porsche Panamera
The very first Panamera was debuted to the public on April 19, 2009, in Shanghai. The car was packed with innovative technology. The Panamera Turbo was equipped with air suspension and the adjustable, multi-dimensionally extendable rear spoiler. While the competition was strong, coming from of Maserati in the form of the Quattroporte, and the Rapide from Aston Martin both of which looked breathtaking. In addition to the fellow Germans, the Audi RS7, the Mercedes E63 AMG and the ‘boss’ known as the BMW M5, Porsche has to prove itself worthy for the first time in front of them, especially the M5. While Porsche offered a range of engines with power ratings ranging from 250bhp all the way to 550bhp with diesel and petrol offerings, from naturally aspirated and turbo petrol and diesel V6 and V8 engines. What set it apart from the rest was the hybrid models and the slick shifting PDK gearbox. The way the Panamera was set up could only be described as perfection, and that’s Porsche levels of perfection. That above all else made the Panamera a viable contender amongst the four-door performance luxury saloon, albeit, the styling was still under question.
Chapter G2: The second generation Porsche Panamera
With the second generation Panamera, or internally known as the ‘G2’, Porsche engineers were given a chance to fix the little niggles that were found in the previous one. I use the term niggles loosely as I gloss over the diesel engine and their emission claims. By September 2018, the diesel engines were discontinued from their entire line up altogether.
Other ‘niggles’ include the styling and some dynamics of the car. The new generation model allowed Porsche engineers to hone the vehicle even further. The final car address all of them with new styling, which many still question, but in my opinion looks significantly better than G1, especially the Sport Turismo version. While the new model features a new 8-speed PDK, three-chamber air suspension, rear-axle steering and the PDCC Sport electromechanical roll stabilisation system. The updated motor of the Panamera Turbo was able to set a lap time of 7:38 minutes on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.
Hybrid Boost: Development of the Porsche Panamera Hybrid
The hybrid model of the Panamera was introduced in 2011, it was the most economical Porsche to date. But, by dropping the diesel motor allowed Porsche to concentrate on future electrified tech for the Hybrid model of the Panamera G2. Porsche took the tech they developed for their 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar and tailored it for the Panamera. The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid now develops a whopping 462bhp while the top of the line Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the most powerful Panamera on sale with 680bhp.
While the G1 Panamera set new benchmarks for the four-door supercar, the G2 has taken it to another level with its hybrid tech it seems as Porsche now claims that in 2018, 67% of its entire Panamera sales in Europe included the hybrid drive. The competitors are watching and some also trying to use the power of electricity to propel their performance to the next level as well. While all Porsche 911 owners should tip their hat in gratitude to the Cayenne for allowing Porsche to still make the iconic sports car. The idea of practical performance owes its existence most to the Panamera.