2011 Porsche Panamera
Sometimes this conservation stuff goes too far.
Case in point: the 2011 Porsche Panamera 4, a stylish four-passenger, four-door, all-wheel drive sports/luxury sedan with a price tag well north of $80,000.As with any vehicle from the German sports-car manufacturer, it is oriented toward speed and race-track handling. But unlike the original Panamera, which boasted V8 power, it comes with a V6 engine, which results in lower performance but better fuel economy.
So far, so good. But then Porsche decided to further conserve finite natural resources by equipping the car with a fuel-saving automatic engine stop/start system and a transmission that starts out in second gear.
It resulted in an EPA city/highway fuel consumption rating of 18/26 miles to the gallon (on premium fuel, of course; after all, this is still a high-performance sports/grand touring car). That’s a couple of miles per gallon better than the V8 Panameras, which have 400 or 500 horsepower compared to the new 300-horsepower V6 models.
No doubt it gives the Porsche folks a talking point about their dedication to the green scene, much as it does for Bentley to tout the fact that its expensive high-performance Continental coupes are flex-fuel machines that can run on up to 80% ethanol.
But the effort is not worth the aggravation. It’s doubtful whether buyers in this price category care about a few extra miles to the gallon even if they are environmentally aware. Overall, this is a spit in the ocean given the small number of sales.
Moreover, the annoyances outweigh any benefits. Start with the transmission, Porsche’s wonderful seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual, which itself provides an optimum combination of high performance with fuel economy.But on the Panamera 4 it starts out in second gear, usually with a bit of a hiccup. The only way to get going quickly and smoothly in first gear is to shift to the manual mode where, of course, you have to shift yourself using the shift lever or the steering-wheel paddles.
Then there’s the auto stop/start system, which shuts the engine down at stops to further conserve fuel. It’s a system mainly used on hybrid vehicles, which mostly have small four-cylinder gasoline engines so the re-start is nearly imperceptible and not particularly bothersome.
But on the Panamera 4, with its powerful six, the re-start happens with a pronounced belch and a shudder. Usually this happens when you take your foot off the brake. But if the computer decides it’s necessary it also can surprise you and kick on while you’re still sitting there with your foot solidly planted on the brake pedal. The procedure gets irritating in slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic.
Despite that, the new V6, which powers the base Panamera and the tested Panamera 4, is no slouch. It is the first-ever V6 from Porsche, which until now has concentrated on V8s and horizontally-opposed sixes and fours.
Its introduction expands the Panamera lineup to five, including the three V8 models: Panamera S with rear-drive; the all-wheel drive Panamera 4S, and the 500-horsepower V8 Panamera Turbo.
With the standard automated manual gearbox, the V6 Panamera 4 accelerates to 60 miles an hour in 5.8 seconds with a top speed of 159 miles an hour, according to Porsche’s test figures. Unless you want go racing, that’s way more than enough for the clogged traffic lanes and speed-limited roads of the modern world.
For Porsche purists, the Panamera was the second shock wave. The first was the company’s first sport utility vehicle, the Cayenne, introduced in 2003. Then the Panamera arrived in 2010 as the first four-door Porsche sports car. Until that time, the company had produced only two-door, two-seat sports cars.
Yet the Cayenne and Panamera have become the best-selling models in the Porsche lineup and contributed enormously to the company’s profits—to the point of keeping Porsche viable.Except for the engine, the Panamera 4 exhibits the same virtues as its V8 siblings. The interior is beautifully designed and there’s comfortable seating for four. A full-length console divides both the front and rear seats.
The reduction in power also results in a lower price. At $79,875, the Panamera 4’s price tag is $15,800 less than that of its all-wheel drive V8 sibling, the 4S. Of course, it doesn’t carry the same level of equipment and, typically of Porsche, there is an extensive list of options.
The tested 4, in addition to the basics of full safety equipment and the automated manual gearbox (called PDK for the German Doppelkupplingsgetriebe), had a relatively modest list of options that included 19-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded Bose audio system, heated seats and steering wheel, and a “yachting blue” metallic paint job that brought its suggested price up to $86,690.
Unless you simply must spend the extra money for the V8 or the even more powerful turbo model, the Panamera 4 delivers all the Porsche panache you might want or need. And hooray, you can switch off the annoying auto stop/start system, though you still have to live with the second-gear start.