Full 2012 Porsche Panamera Review
What's New for 2012
A Turbo S model debuts atop the 2012 Porsche Panamera lineup, along with a hybrid model.
Whoever said, "You can't have it all" has never driven a 2012 Porsche Panamera. With most other cars, luxury and performance are either mutually exclusive or require compromises on each end of the spectrum. Not so with the Panamera, as the wizards at Porsche somehow blended the best of both worlds.
For 2012, the performance end of the scale gets pushed a bit farther with the introduction of a new Panamera Turbo S model that generates an impressive 550 horsepower (compared to the anything-but-standard Turbo's 500 hp). There's also a new Panamera Hybrid that promises V8 performance with V6 fuel economy.
These new models boost the Panamera lineup to seven models. And even if you choose one of the more basic V6 trims, we doubt you'll be disappointed. There's more than enough power for the average driver and plenty of the luxury trappings that continue into the higher reaches of the model line.
Drawbacks are few. The Panamera can only accommodate four passengers, though these passengers can be full-sized adults and will find a high level of comfort in any seat. Options are quite expensive, sending the price skyward in no time, but that's par for the course for cars in this segment, and isn't likely to deter this Porsche's wealthy demographic. The Panamera's unconventional styling will likely be the main issue for many shoppers.
In terms of competition, the BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Maserati Quattroporte and Mercedes-Benz S-Class are all worthy of consideration. Among this lofty group of luxury cars, there really isn't a loser in the bunch. The 2012 Porsche Panamera, however, is our pick for a car that delivers more of everything to everybody.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Porsche Panamera is a four-passenger, four-door sedan (with a hatchback-style trunk) offered in seven trim levels: base, 4, S Hybrid, S, 4S, Turbo and Turbo S.
The base rear-wheel-drive Panamera is powered by a V6 and includes 18-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, a pop-up rear spoiler, adaptive suspension dampers, rear parking sensors, a sunroof, a power rear hatch and auto-dimming mirrors.
Standard features within the cabin include dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, eight-way power front seats, driver memory functions, a cooled glovebox, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a 60/40-split rear seatback and rear bucket seats. Also standard are a hard-drive-based navigation system and an 11-speaker sound system with a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack. The Panamera 4 differs only in that it has all-wheel drive.
The Panamera S Hybrid goes without some of the features listed above, notably the xenon headlights and parking sensors. The automatic climate control is replaced by conventional air-conditioning, but Bluetooth is included.
The V8-powered Panamera S and all-wheel-drive 4S include all of the features found in the non-hybrid V6 models, plus adaptive headlights, additional interior lighting, driver-seat memory and shift paddles.
The Panamera Turbo and Turbo S add a turbocharged V8, 19-inch wheels, additional rear spoiler articulation, an adaptive air suspension with load-leveling and adjustable ride height, front parking sensors, a keyless ignition/entry, 14-way power front seats and adjustable lumbar support, expanded driver memory functions, a power-adjustable steering column, heated rear seats, a full leather interior, a microfiber suede headliner and a 14-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system.
In typical Porsche tradition, a very lengthy and expensive list of options allows buyers to easily customize the cars. For example, other than their engine, all of the Turbo models' extra features are available on the S and 4S.
Other options include ceramic-composite brakes, variable-assist power steering, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (adaptive antiroll bars and a limited-slip rear differential), 20-inch wheels, a rear windshield wiper, ventilated front and rear seats, eight-way power rear seats (switches seat-folding to 40/20/40), adaptive sport front seats that include adjustable side bolsters, "ruffled" leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, four-zone climate control, rear sunshades, rear ambient lighting, a rear-seat refrigerator, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, voice control, a rear-seat entertainment system, satellite radio, a six-disc CD/DVD changer and a 16-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system.
The Sport Chrono Package Plus adds analog and digital stopwatches and adjustable engine and suspension settings. The Sport Design package dresses up the Panamera's exterior with a special front fascia with wider intake grilles and side skirts. There are also countless ways to customize practically every interior surface with different shades of leather, wood, metal, carbon fiber and paint.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Porsche Panamera and Panamera 4 are powered by a front-mounted 3.6-liter V6 that produces 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. In recent testing by Edmunds, the base Panamera V6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
One notable feature on all Panameras is an auto start/stop function (something normally associated only with hybrid vehicles) that reduces fuel consumption by shutting off the engine whenever the car comes to a stop and then restarting it automatically when you're ready to go again. The EPA estimates fuel consumption at 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the base Panamera, while the Panamera 4 makes 18/26/21 mpg.
The Porsche Panamera S and 4S receive a 4.8-liter V8 good for 400 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The V8-powered Panamera 4S impressed us with a 0-60-mph run of 4.6 seconds. The V8-powered Panamera S and 4S are both rated at 16/24/19 mpg.
The Panamera Turbo gets a twin-turbocharged version of the same V8 for a grand total of 500 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Adding the optional Sport Chrono Turbo package temporarily increases torque to 568 lb-ft with a turbo overboost. The new Turbo S dials output up to 550 hp and 553 lb-ft (590 lb-ft with overboost). The Panamera Turbo and Turbo S left us awestruck, turning in identical 3.7-second blasts to 60 mph. These Turbo models achieve only 15/23/18 mpg.
Every gasoline-only Panamera is equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The Panamera and Panamera S offer rear-wheel drive, while the Panamera 4, 4S and Turbo are equipped with all-wheel drive.
The Panamera S Hybrid receives a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that is paired with a 35kW electric motor for a combined maximum output of 380 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The only available transmission is an eight-speed automatic with manual shift control that sends power to the rear wheels. The Panamera S Hybrid accelerated to 60 mph in a very respectable 5.2 seconds. Naturally, the hybrid generates the most favorable fuel economy numbers, at an estimated 22/30/25 mpg.
Every 2012 Porsche Panamera comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Ceramic-composite brakes and a rearview camera are optional. With the standard brakes, both the Panamera 4S and Turbo models stopped from 60 mph in incredibly short distances: 109 feet and 112 feet, respectively. The Hybrid also posts a 112-foot distance.
Interior Design and Special Features
From the driver seat, there's no mistaking the Panamera's interior for anything but a Porsche, because styling cues from the Porsche 911 echo throughout the cabin. The tachometer is centered in the instrument cluster and flanked by the speedometer, a multifunction display and supporting gauges.
The Panamera lacks a centralized control system like BMW's iDrive, and as a result, there are more than 80 buttons and knobs littering the cockpit. Fortunately, these buttons are logically grouped and placed, and after time, operation becomes intuitive. Some might even find the multitude of controls preferable to shuffling through on-screen menus.
All four seats are similar in appearance and comfort. These well-formed seats provide excellent levels of support when cornering as well as plenty of comfort during long-distance touring. The rear quarters afford enough room for even taller adults, and the seats can be fitted with options to make them power-adjustable, heated and cooled. The hatchback-style trunk can hold an impressive 15.7 cubic feet (11.8 with the Hybrid) and 44.6 cubes with the rear seats folded flat (the Hybrid S drops to 40.7 cubes). The hatch opening is a bit narrow, though, and the cargo bed is high, complicating the loading of bulkier items.
The 2012 Porsche Panamera is an accomplished, luxurious grand touring car as well as an engaging, highly capable high-performance car. Drivers can select from several driving modes to fit their preferences. In Normal mode, the Panamera feels as soft and leisurely as any European flagship sedan. Engaging full Sport mode can sharpen nearly every aspect of the driving dynamics, including throttle response, suspension firmness and ride height. From a sporting standpoint, the Hybrid is the least engaging, though it counters with excellent fuel economy and an exceptionally quiet cabin.
The V8-powered Panamera is capable of incredible performance. Steering is precise and handling is comparable to that of much smaller sports cars. Power can be served up with muscle-car wallops or in measured increments. The PDK transmission fires off gearchanges with urgency when pedaling the accelerator hard, or with fluid transitions when cruising down the highway. Yes, the Porsche Panamera truly does deliver the best of both worlds: sports car and sedan.