Blistering performance, adult-size rear seats, opulent interior, luxury-carlike ride, long list of standard and optional features.
Pricey options, button-heavy cockpit, lack of interior storage.
Have you ever been so wrong about someone that you were ashamed to have ever judged them on appearances alone? Admittedly, we had our reservations when it came to the 2010 Porsche Panamera, calling it ugly, or even an abomination. But after spending some quality time with this first Porsche sedan, our opinion has changed 180 degrees. We'd be proud to be seen in public with it, knowing its inner beauty, depth of character and perfection of purpose and execution. Ask us about the Panamera now and we'll answer with an emphatic "beautiful, in every sense of the word."
We'll also admit that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you're fortunate enough to be holding the wheel of a 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo, you'll be singing the same song. This big GT rewrites the performance book for luxury sedans, and often feels exempt from the laws of physics. It has plenty of space for taller adults under a coupelike roof line; a luxury-car ride, yet with the ability to also rail through canyon passes like a sports car; and face-warping acceleration blended with world-class refinement.
The few gripes we had were minor, except for the pricey options that seem to be a Porsche hallmark ($695 for Bluetooth, really?). While there are other luxury sedans with sporting intentions -- the BMW 760Li, Jaguar XJL Supersport, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S and Mercedes S63 AMG are all worthy of consideration -- the 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo is the most driver-focused of all the cars in this segment.
At the heart of the 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo beats a 4.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 generating a stout 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. When equipped with the optional Sport Chrono package, as ours was, torque is upped to 567 lb-ft when launch control is engaged. The only transmission offered is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual that allows for conventional automatic operation or manual control via steering-wheel-mounted switches. Power is routed to all four wheels, with most of it sent to the rear.
The EPA estimates Panamera fuel consumption at 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway, but we averaged only 14.7 mpg in combined driving. Restraint was not terribly important to us, as evidenced by one 9.5 mpg tank as we unleashed the Panamera on our favorite mountain roads, but we also managed a 20.6-mpg highway-heavy stint.
As for the numbers related to performance, the Panamera Turbo had us picking our collective jaws off the tarmac. Zero to 60 mph in a blisteringly quick 3.7 seconds (3.5 with rollout). The quarter-mile passed in a blur at 12.0 seconds at 111.3 mph. Even though our test vehicle lacked the optional ceramic composite brakes, our Panamera came to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 111 feet, with no sign of fade over several runs.
As impressive as the straight-line numbers are, the Panamera Turbo truly left us speechless (unless you count maniacal giggling) during the cornering portion of our tests. At the track, it cleared the slalom at 68.2 mph and pulled 0.92g on the skid pad. But these figures still don't do justice to the Panamera's road-holding abilities. A quick tap of the Sport Plus button lowers the ride height, tightens up the suspension and sharpens the throttle response, allowing the big Porsche to bound between turns like a much smaller sports car.
Driven smoothly, the Panamera tracks through corners with surgical precision. Driven enthusiastically, it delivers muscle car frivolity. It's one of those rare cars that feels at home when driven right to the edge of its envelope. But don't assume that the Panamera Turbo is just a four-door sports car. It's a luxury tourer as well, and a competent one to boot.
The standard adjustable air ride suspension is responsible for much of the car's wide range of personalities, while the transmission's shifts are so quick and smooth, one might think it was a conventional automatic. Steering is light and the Panamera has a surprisingly small turning circle, making close-quarter maneuvering a breeze. Also noteworthy is the engine's buttery-smooth power delivery, with no detectable turbo lag.
There's no doubt the 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo has the performance credentials to challenge its share of exotics, but its athleticism in no way diminishes its luxury leanings. With the sport modes slumbering, the Panamera provides a luxury car experience on par with flagships from Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes. Occupants are shielded from the outside world, bathed in a calm bubble of opulence that allows for quiet conversations. All but the largest of road imperfections are ironed flat by a compliant suspension that has the widest range of comfort and performance settings of any car we've ever driven.
All four seats in the Panamera are nearly identical, and provide a level of touring comfort and enthusiast-grade support that other car companies should use as benchmarks. Highway touring in the Panamera gives every passenger a special feeling, much like flying in a private jet, but quieter and at much lower altitudes. Fatigue from long hours behind the wheel never seemed to set in, and even after clocking more than 400 miles in one evening, we still insisted on taking the long way home to savor the limited time we had with the car.
Also like a private jet, the 2010 Porsche Panamera's button-filled cockpit can be daunting at first. We counted more than 80 individual buttons and knobs within reach of the driver. Initially we thought this was overkill, but after a day behind the wheel we found the control layout logical and intuitive. At the end of our brief affair, we concluded that the multitude of buttons was preferred to shuffling through on-screen menus.
We did wish for a centrally located control dial for the times we needed to operate the navigation and audio systems. We've become comfortable enough with BMW's latest iDrive interface to desire a similar system in the Panamera. In terms of navigation, the Porsche uses the latest-generation technology that simplifies route planning and displays all pertinent information in a legible and attractive manner. We were less impressed by the optional Burmester premium sound system, though. It delivers beautifully clear tones, but lacks impactful bass.
We were also left wanting for a bit more interior storage. With both front seats occupied, we sometimes struggled to find space for phones, sunglasses, snacks and water bottles. The center armrest bin is fairly small and shallow, door pockets are smallish but do expand a bit and the passenger-side retractable cupholders just barely kept beverages from flying about the cabin.
Luggage space is plentiful, however. The 15-cubic-foot cargo area can accommodate two golf bags and luggage for said duffers with ease. Folding the split rear seats opens up a wagonlike space of 44 cubes. The hatch opening is a bit narrow and elevated, though, complicating the loading of bulkier objects. Installing child safety seats couldn't be easier, since the rear buckets cradle front-facing booster seats and the abundance of room can easily fit a rear-facing seat.
Design/Fit and Finish
We weren't fans of the Panamera's styling heading into this test-drive, but we have to admit the car is much more attractive in person. Most pictures (some of these are included) give the rear end a heavy and bulbous look, or an over-stretched abomination of the beloved 911 silhouette. On the street, it has a low-slung, sleek and aggressive stance. We do wonder if the Panamera's exterior would have more appeal if the designers had strayed from the 911 formula.
There are no debates when it comes to the interior, though. The cabin features an intoxicating blend of classic Porsche styling cues, high-end luxury appointments and leading-edge technology. Nearly every surface is covered in premium leather, wood trim or soft-touch plastics. Squeaks and creaks were nonexistent, even as the long car was hustled through serpentine mountain roads.
Who should consider this vehicle
If you are in the market for a high-end luxury sedan, one that provides all the passenger comforts and practicality of a large four-door, but can't stand the thought of giving up performance to earn those qualities, the 2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo is for you. A true four-door sports car, the Panamera defines a whole new portion of the luxury sedan segment, and is quite simply one of most impressive cars we've ever driven.