Test Drive: 2011 Porsche Panamera V6

Porsche introduces two new V6 powered models

When the Porsche Cayenne SUV was first introduced joining the ranks of the legendary German automaker, one who, had up to that point, specialized exclusively in the production of highly revered sports cars, I admit to entertaining no small degree of skepticism as a dyed-in-the-wool ?Porsche-file?. So, you can imagine my initial reaction when I first heard of Porsche?s intent to produce a four-door sedan. Who needs a stretched Porsche 911 I questioned aloud? Initial photos were not particularly flattering either, which tended to bolster my disdain at the idea of producing such a vehicle.

In the case of the Cayenne, which comes in a variety of models and trim content, highly successful sales enabled Porsche to grow ever more popular as a?marque, and to bolster its coffers for future R&D. The Cayenne in its many forms is indeed the Porsche of SUVs ? resulting in a sport ute with sports car tendencies, attributes and capabilities.

The Porsche Panamera displays 911 DNA from both the front and?the rear to some degree, but with a profile that is stretched considerably. It is not however, simply a 2 plus 2 seater, nor is it a stretched 911. The resemblance to the 911 is not coincidental, by the way, as Porsche?s goal was to focus on and to emphasize luxury without sacrificing the marque?s instantly recognizable identity and performance capabilities.

Porsche Panamera was initially available in three specific models: Panamera S; Panamera 4S; and Panamera Turbo — all powered by a 4.8-liter, water-cooled V-8 placed up front. The S and 4S versions are naturally aspirated, featuring Direct Fuel Injection and generating 400 horsepower along with 369 pound feet of torque. The Panamera S is rear-wheel drive, while the 4S is all-wheel drive. The Panamera Turbo adds twin turbocharging to the formula, delivering 500 horses along with 516 pound feet of torque, and is all-wheel drive as well. All three models incorporate Porsche?s innovative seven-speed Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) double-clutch automatic gearbox with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

The Panamera?s lightweight monocoque body is executed in a combination of steel, aluminum and magnesium, with all body panels in aluminum. It represented Porsche?s first true sports car built from the ground up for four. It is, a genuine Porsche sports car, with all the expected performance properties along with being a luxury Grand Turismo all in one, with comfortable accommodations for four full sized adults.

The exterior is totally captivating when viewed in person ? as already mentioned; photos don?t really do the Panamera justice. And, if you aren?t enamored with it at first, it has a definite tendency to grow on you. The Panamera is lower, wider and more aggressive than its competitors thanks to its thoroughbred sports-car heritage. In fact, the relationship of its height and width happens to be even more aggressive than the 911 Carrera.?

The Panamera showcases a classic four-door design in a unique interpretation of classic four-door design and the advantages of its variable space concept, serving up a truly unmistakable appearance that defines a new segment in the premium market. Numerous classic Porsche themes are incorporated and reinterpreted, providing a dynamic and powerful appearance while reflecting a philosophy applied on the Boxster, Cayman and Cayenne, despite the very generous interior accommodations and layout. Up front, a low air intake instead of a traditional grille, powerfully curved front wings that rise above a low hood creating the ?topography? of a sports car and its characteristic headlights, Panamera clearly presents itself as a Porsche.?

Enter the Panamera V6 for 2011, featuring two distinctive V6 powered models. The 3.6-liter V6 is a DOHC, 24-valve 90-degree affair that sits low in the engine bay. Its wider ?V? angle aids in actually lowering the car?s center of gravity. The engine is water-cooled and features electronic Direct Fuel Injection and Variocam Plus variable valve timing and lift, producing 300 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, while generating 296 pound feet of torque at 3,750 rpm. This latest iteration Panamera comes available in either Rear-wheel drive, or All-wheel drive. Pricing for the rear-wheel drive base V6 model begins at $74,400 while the All-wheel drive version starts at $78,900. Add another $950 for Destination and Handling charges.

Appearance-wise initially, the V6 Panamera is barely distinguishable from its V8 counterparts. All Panamera models stand out among others in the segment,?with their proportions so typical of a Porsche, yet there are some visual differences from the V8 models. The chrome side window surrounds found on the V8 models come in matte black on the Panamera and Panamera 4. The dual exhaust features single oval tips in brushed stainless steel rather than the dual?round tips present on the V8 models. Both the V6 Panamera and Panamera 4 come standard with 18-inch light-alloy five-spoke wheels and black brake calipers.?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

The silhouette of the Panamera?s roofline design with its curved contour flowing gently to the tail section truly makes it out to be a Porsche. From the rear, LED lights with individual light chambers taking up the sideline of the car and horizontal graphics emphasize the Porsche?s version of a Gran Turismo?s width at night.

An integrated rear diffuser on all Panamera models is part of their aerodynamic package. A highlight of the Panamera aero package is the adaptive spoiler at the trailing edge of the rear window. It deploys at a speed of 56 mph automatically adjusting to the optimum angle as a function of existing road speed.

The Panamera boasts of a number of technical and design firsts to appear in the luxury performance class ? no less than five ?World-First? innovations.?The new Gran Turismo was the first car in its class with active aerodynamics, provided by the rear spoiler, which moves up and down automatically and is adjustable in its angle. It was the first car in this segment with a double-clutch transmission, the Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK). It was the first car to combine an engine start-stop system with an automatically shifted double-clutch transmission, which now operates more quickly on the V6 models It offered air suspension with additional, on-demand air volume in each spring for a wider range of comfort and performance options, and finally, it came with the first Sport Chrono package in the segment, giving drivers the option of an even more sporty setting for the engine, suspension and transmission, as well as other features like launch control, at the simple touch of a button.

I was afforded the opportunity to evaluate both V6 versions of the 2011 Panamera during a national press introduction held at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park facility just outside Birmingham, Alabama.? The base price of the rear-wheel drive Panamera was set at $74,400 while the Panamera4 began at $78,900. Add another $975 for Destination charges for both. Tax and license fees are not included. I focused on the base Panamera V6 and my test vehicle featured a Platinum Silver metallic exterior with a Black interior. The metallic paint treatment incurred an extra charge, as did the Ski bag, Auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, the 19-inch?Panamera Turbo wheels, Bose surround sound system and XM radio. The final count and amount for my test Panamera came to $82,190.?

SUMMARY: ?There?s actually no better way to experience the true potential of the new Panamera V6 luxury sports car than to pilot it around a legendary race circuit under the tutelage of seasoned professional race drivers. My assigned drivers included Hurley Haywood, David Donahue and David Murray. We began with orientation laps that more closely simulated challenging on-road driving exercises, and then progressed to a more spirited, race-like environment after a familiarization with the course. Passing was allowed under controlled circumstances and safety was always a first concern, though helmets were not required until later hot laps, riding with the pros.?

The Panamera in both of its V6 models performs seemingly as well as 911 Carrera models (at least for non-racer types such as myself), but with a much higher degree of creature comfort and convenience features and equipment, along with the potential to transport four full size adults and their luggage. Okay, I know that purists will protest, given that the 911 Carreras are rear-engined craft with flat horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engines, while this latest Panamera lineup is a horse of a totally different color with a V6 engine mounted up front.

I?m here to testify that the Panamera V6 is a comfortable, most capable vehicle at high speed on a challenging and technical racecourse.? For those wanting a higher level of performance, the Panamera4 offers even more stability.?

I was a Panamera skeptic in the very beginning ? now, I?m a believer. The Panamera in any of its forms serves an elevated purpose over its siblings. It is a true sports car as well as filling the Gran Turismo category, suited for extended road trips in luxurious comfort.




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