Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin -"Steady, steady" ten times around the curve that lasts forever, Hurley Haywood said this as we drove the Porsche Panamera S around Road America. I would said raced, but it was my first time behind the Panamera and my first time around Road America. I also wouldn't say raced because I was with Hurley Haywood, who makes me look like I'm driving Miss Daisy.
Haywood started his career in June of '69 at the Watkins Glenn racetrack. He won the first time out. In the fall of 1969 Haywood was called to serve in Vietnam. He would be gone till 1971. Not missing a beat, the day after Haywood got back from Vietnam he showed up at Watkins Glenn racetrack and won again.
Haywood has raced for Porsche for the last forty years, winning five Daytona 24-hour races, three Leman 24-hour races two Sebrings and many other races.
Haywood took me around the track in each model of the Panamera. The Porsche Panamera comes in three models: the S is a two-wheel drive 4.8-liter V-8 that gets 400 horsepower with 369 lb-ft of torque and starts at $89,800, 4S is an all-wheel drive that gets 400 horsepower with 369 lb.-ft of torque and starts at $93,800. The twin-turbo all-wheel drive gets 500 horsepower with 568 lb.-ft or torque and starts at $132,600.
Porsche enlarged their product portfolio with this new four-door sports car. Porsche has a four-door SUV, the Cayenne, that is the best seller for Porsche. It didn't take Porsche long to see that a new foray lay in wait for them.
True to Porsche's racing heritage they have kept the starter button on the left side of the steering column to give the racer that extra 1/10th of an advantage as they jump into their car and shoot off down the track.
The Panamera is a sports car that will seat four very tall adults. One of my colleagues riding with me is 6'3", and he had another four inches of headroom in the front and rear seats. We liked sitting in the back just as much as the front. I'm sure it's an option, but all four seats have heated seats and the back seats recline.
My girlfriend, Alex, is the quintessential Porschephile. She lives, breathes and loves Porsches. She has two high school children and owns a Porsche Cayenne. Her son will be going to college soon and plans to send him there in her old Porsche Cayenne. You can feel the tingling when she talks about the Panamera, "I bought it (the Cayenne) thinking that would be just about the right time to give it to him and get another Porsche for ME! And with another child at home still.. the Panamera is IT! As long as it handles the way it's reported to."
And, Alex, it does handle the way you love a Porsche to handle. A real gran turismo, a sedan that can fit four people, as tall as 6'8" in every seat. the center console goes through the entire car, adding elegance in the back. There are added touches of brushed aluminum or carbon fiber inside the car.
I know there are people that don't like the exterior shape, but I do. Perhaps because it is shorter than its competitors, or lower to the ground, or perhaps because it is wider than its competitors. Maybe it's just that they don't think a Porsche should be a four-door car.
There were five elements that Porsche utilized to increase fuel efficiency that gave the Panamera the best in class for fuel efficiency, an extra 4.4 more miles per gallon.
Porsche has kept the weight of the vehicle low. Dr.Stefan Utsch, project manager for the Panamera, says that Porsche uses several grades of steel, light alloys such as aluminum, magnesium and plastics. The S weighs in at 3,968 pounds, the 4S at 4,100 pounds, and the twin-turbo at 4,300 pounds.
Porsche gives the Audi A8 the respect of listing them as a clear competitor with the Panamera. They also see the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as competition, all four-door luxury cars that can go like a bat out of.
One element for fuel efficiency is the direct fuel injection. Audi calls it FSI, Ford calls it eco-boost. It is a technology that burns the fuel more efficiently, allowing for more miles per gallon combined with better horsepower. The Panamera S and 4S get 16 city/24 highway/19 combined mpg. The Panamera turbo gets 15 city/23 highway/18 combined mpg. Porsche says the twin turbo mpg numbers are about 20 percent better than the competition's numbers.
Higher fuel efficiency is captured through the seven-gears with the large spread between them. Less revs, means better fuel efficiency. Reduced driving resistance creates a low drag coefficient, which is another fuel savings. The spoiler stays low till you get to 55 mph, then gets higher when you get to 130mph. At some point the spoiler gets downforce on the rear axle. Porsche says this is the only car they know of, in this segment, that gets downforce.
This is the first start/stop used on Porsche, and the first time it was combined with a double clutch transmission. There was some lag on the start/stop, and I asked Utsch if they were already looking at the next iteration of the start/stop. Kindly, he deflected the answer with, "Someone asked me what my favorite Porsche was and I told them, it was the next years model."
This fuel efficiency will increase the green in your pocket as well. Gas Guzzler tax on the comparably priced BMW M6 coupe was $3,000. There is no gas guzzler tax on the Porsche Panamera. But keep your wallet open, Porsche has lots of options to offer you that will easily deplete that wallet. Amazingly, Porschephiles don't complain.
The driving is unmistakably Porsche. The seating is luxury for all four adults. There are different settings for the suspension: sport, offering a drift angle or sport plus. If you go straight down the highway there is very little power that is transferred to the front axle.
There is a sophisticated ventilation system for the cold and hot seats: they suck the air out instead of blowing it out. You'll notice the difference.
Porsche is forecasting sales of 20,000 worldwide with 20-30 percent of those sales in the United States. 70,000 people have expressed interest in the Panamera. 14,400 of those already own a Porsche. I don't know if they will meet the sales numbers, but I was so far off on how the Porsche Cayenne would do that I'm going to leave forecasting up to Porsche.
I would recommend buying the S, unless you need four-wheel drive, then it would be the 4S. I would also recommend buying it from Brumos in Jacksonville, FL. If you buy it there and fly down, on your own dime, you can get a free track day on a Saturday with Hurley Haywood. Check to make sure they still have that deal, and if they do it's worth the trip.