- New styling
- LWB option
- Updated plug-in hybrid option
- New 420hp 3.0L V6 biturbo motor
- Engine disconnects from transmission when coasting
The suggestion that Porsche designers are somewhat under-utilized wasn't dispelled when we were shown before and after diagrams to highlight the changes made to the exterior of the second-generation Panamera. It amounted to tighter bumper lines, larger air intakes, a larger bulge in the hood and sharper side skirts - minimal updates, to say the least, and yet their purpose was served. The four-door is now more attractive in the flesh, more purposeful. Yet the model is still referred to internally as Type 970 - the same code as the first-gen Panamera - showing it's more of a refresh than an overhaul.
With more than 100,000 Panameras sold worldwide since its 2009 launch, and 30,000 of those coming to the US, it accounts for 52% of Porsche sales, along with the other four-door model, the Cayenne. And with the new Macan unveiled at the LA Auto Show, you have to imagine this percentage will only grow.
So rather than upset the applecart, Porsche decided to address some specific issues to bolster the Panamera range rather than reinvent it. Chief among these updates are an updated plug-in hybrid option to ensure access to cities with emissions controls, as well as a new 3.0L V6 biturbo motor to replace the 4.8L V8 in the Panamera S models, gaining more power, torque and boasting 27mpg highway - a 17% improvement.
The new V6 is based on the outgoing V8 but with two cylinders lopped off. That oversimplifies the engineering that employs the same block architecture but 90% of the components are new, including a shorter stroke to make it rev quicker. The engine is also the first Porsche vee motor with variable intake and exhaust timing, while the turbos develop 17.4psi. The 4.8 V8 remains in the GTS and Turbo models.
Another important change for the 2014 models was the introduction of the long wheelbase "Executive" model that will be particularly popular among owners who choose not to drive, as well as the growing Chinese market.
At 5.9" longer, it gains 4.2" for rear legroom and 1.2" to allow the rear seat to recline, creating first class airline levels of comfort. The rear doors are larger, allowing easier access, while the seats can be heated or cooled, along with four-zone climate control, rear seat entertainment, etc. This finally seems to make sense of the Panamera, although it has become an even bigger machine to maneuver. And yet its proportions shrink to some extent once you're on the road.
During the launch event we had the opportunity to drive all the models but focused on the S and S E-Hybrid since they represented some of the major updates. So all S models (including 4S and 4S Executive) switch to the more economical V6 twin-turbo motor that boasts an extra 20hp (420hp) and 24 lb-ft (384 lb-ft) than the outgoing naturally aspirated 4.8L V8. And apart from a small sacrifice in exhaust note burble, there are no real sacrifices to be made because the downsized motor gains in every other parameter, including a slight weight reduction.
As you'd expect, throttle response from the new biturbo motor is impressive, pulling cleanly to high RPM without hesitation. It's also very flexible, able to lug along at low revs without complaint, exhibiting very little turbo lag when you need everything it's got.
Prices start from $93200 for the Panamera S but the range starts with the $78100 Panamera that keeps the older 310hp 3.6L V6 motor.
For packaging reasons, the $99000 Panamera S E-Hybrid retains its previous supercharged 3.0L V6 rated at 333hp and 325 lb-ft, which is certainly adequate in its own right. But it's teamed with a new 80kW electric motor that can put out 95hp and 229 lb-ft on its own for pure electric driving. It's able to travel for up to 22 miles, depending on usage, and will get you to 83mph silently if you want to significantly curtail the range of the new 9.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Where the E-Hybrid (identified by its lime green badging) comes alive is when both engines combine to deliver 416hp and 435 lb-ft. It's available when Sport mode is selected, accelerating the car from 0-60mph in 5.2sec, which is enormously addictive, although slightly less nimble than the considerably lighter Panamera S.
There are other driving modes that include E-Power for fully electric propulsion. Once the battery power starts to deplete you can switch to Hybrid mode, which preserves electrical power, using it more sparingly to help you save fuel. Then there's the E-Charge mode that uses the gasoline engine to propel the car and recharge the battery while in motion. This has a detrimental effect on performance and fuel consumption, but would be useful for somebody who might live in a city that only allows low emissions vehicles to enter. The ability to recharge the battery during your journey is certainly looking forward to further restrictions from European cities and giving the Panamera driver more flexibility.
With that said, it's possible to introduce the gasoline motor during electric driving simply by pushing the accelerator pedal to the floor. The car understands that you need full power at that moment and will combine the two on demand. This also works in E-Power mode, where the gas engine can be triggered by the same kick-down function.
The E-Hybrid driver no longer relies on a tacho to monitor engine performance. A Power Meter in the dash displays the percentage of power being used and what's left in reserve. You quickly learn to use it like a tacho, knowing that at 50%, for example, you would have plenty left to accelerate out of trouble.
There's also an E-Power Assist meter that indicates how much electric power is available and how long it will last under the current driving conditions. This allows you to either alter your driving style or switch to E-Charge. Once at your destination, the battery can be recharged in 2.5 hours using 240v power, or longer with a 110v domestic outlet.
The Porsche Car Connect smartphone app, that currently allows owners to locate their car, sound the horn, flash the indicators, etc, will be extended with E-Mobility services for the E-Hybrid. This will look at range, charging status and can operate the electric air con, for example.
If hybrid power isn't your thing, we can expect to see diesel Panameras before too long. Right now, diesel sales account for 10% of worldwide company sales and the 240hp Cayenne Diesel is leading the way for US customers. Once EU6 emissions standards come into operation this year, cars meeting that standard will no longer need urea injection for US sales, resolving a packaging issue that Porsche engineers had been wrestling with.
Of course, all Panamera models have their share of energy saving functions, such as the Stop-Start technology that will cut the engine earlier when slowing to a halt. Most models can also disconnect the engine from the transmission while coasting, even at higher speeds, to save fuel. It's rather eerie initially to lose all engine braking, but it soon becomes part of the car's character and you adapt to its function.
So while some Porsche traditionalists continue to wrestle with the merits of this four-door sports car, its sales success makes the Panamera vital to the company's future. And with a broad range of engines, an extended wheelbase option and the improved hybrid model, the vehicle is able to meet the demands of a wide range of customers. It also offers high-speed transport in supreme luxury that might lack the drama of the Aston Martin Rapide, but comes with Porsche's legendary engineering, reliability, residuals and the ability to use it as a daily driver.
We admit to also being sceptics but continued exposure to this highly capable sports car has won us over.
- V6 biturbo motor
- Impressive hybrid option
- Long wheelbase adds more luxury
- Power increase across the board
- Styling updates are very subtle
- It ain't cheap
2014 Porsche Panamera S
Layout front-engine, RWD
Engine 3.0L V6 biturbo with direct fuel injection, variable intake and exhaust timing
Drivetrain seven-speed PDK automatic transmission
Brakes six-piston calipers, 360mm rotors f, four-piston, 330mm r
Suspension aluminum double wishbone f, multi-link r
Wheels & Tires 18x8" f, 18x9" r wheels, 245/50 ZR18 f, 275/45 ZR18 r
Max power 420hp at 6000rpm
Max torque 384 lb-ft at 1750-5000rpm
Top Speed 178mph
Weight 3990 lb
Economy 17/27/21mpg (city/h'way/combined)