The Panamera nudged slightly as we turned into Brünnchen. One of the most noted corner sections of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, it can be described as a bowl of sorts with spectators gathered behind the barriers, having left their enthusiast cars on the gravelly parking lot. Most of the Nürburgring accident videos you see are shot right here, as the rising corner often takes drivers by surprise.
Held in place by the sculpted rear seat, I gripped the grab handle harder, as the famous automotive journalist known as BZR piloted the Porsche through the corners with space to spare, gunning it uphill, treating the spectators to the hungry twin-turbo V8 growl. No, nothing for the videographers this time; the four-seater super saloon negotiated the legendary racetrack without as much as breaking sweat. Of course, my staying cool was in part thanks to the ventilated, cooled rear seats as well. My rear seat companion, a goateed Finn in militia gear was admirably silent.
Awash with gadgetry and built to please a demanding customer, the 520-horsepower, recently face-lifted Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive has a Finnish price tag of 285,900 Euros. In addition, the black Panamera in which we traveled, had been specified with trinkets like rear seat business tables and center consoles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sticker pushed well above 300,000 Euros. The German price for our Stuttgart-registered car would easily be 100,000 Euros less.
Regardless of the price, it’s easily the fastest, most impressive vehicle I’ve had the pleasure to drive.
Every surface inside the Porsche seemed to be either leather or walnut. The sound system was an upgraded Burmester package, which played my ’80s-tastic music collection from my iPhone with gusto. Even Harold Faltermeyer.
My stint behind the wheel came as we left a racing-themed, but still quaint restaurant in Barweiler at nightfall. The navigation guided us through a sharply curved forest road section, with a jittery surface for most of the time. I was amazed to find the almost two-ton Porsche absolutely shrank around my controls, making quick work of the hairpins, still keeping the occupants unfettled.
The steering, albeit clinical in its feel, gave me direct information, granting me the ability to drive the 520-horsepower car briskly despite having little time to get used to it. With a driving position adjusted with millimeter precision, my only qualm seemed to be the steering wheel leather – I would’ve preferred a suede, or at least perforated material for it. When you’re driving a very expensive car rather fast in complete darkness on unfamiliar roads, it does have an effect on your palms’ clamminess.
But the Panamera is not a barge. I do admit I can’t compare it to a 911, since I haven’t driven one in any conditions, but it’ll show a recent 5-series a clean pair of heels – no question. You can gun it from any corner, with any elevation, with complete confidence in the four-wheel-drive system and suspension, and with the car in racey Sport Plus mode it was definitely eager to please every second of our journey. The automatic headlights dipped the beam faster than my thoughts raced, and with the twin-turbo V8’s burble teasing me, I needed little coaxing from the car to give it what it wanted. The PDK trans worked in my favor, not against me – even if I left the paddles untouched.
The 700-Nm, 4.8-litre twin turbo V8 in all its glory. The fan belt must be a real treat to replace.
It probably isn’t much of a surprise that I had disregarded the Panamera for quite some time, before actually driving it. I had lumped it into the same category as the Cayenne and the X-BMWs; something brash and unnecessary for people with expensive watches and more expensive hair transplants. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about the car, even if its computer mouse shape hasn’t been working in its favor.
Having spent some time with the Panamera, getting to know its nuances, I now view it as a precision tool for getting four people from one place to another in complete comfort, but with blistering speed. Those points can just as well be Bridge to Gantry; in less than nine-and-a-half minutes, the Panamera Turbo will have you coasting down on the main straight of the Green Hell, amidst bespoilered M-BMWs.
Adaptive cruise control. Why every car doesn’t come with it, baffles me.
Excellent headlights, and the automatically dipped main beam is another necessary gadget.
Ceramic brakes, the size of which makes many a car wheel look diminutive. The wheels were 20″ in our car. I did find the yellow brake calipers a touch on the brash side.
The logo in the headrests is extra.
While we completed our Nürburgring tourist drive in one piece, the Sunday was expectedly tough on some other cars. A track-prepared, matte grey Jaguar XJ bit the barrier hard, reportedly after unnecessary showboating. It just reminds you, that humbleness is a necessity there, no matter if your car cost 300 or 300,000 Euros. They’ll let you in with either, but also prefer you to come out under your own power.
What would I compare it to? Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake and BMW M6 Gran Coupé come to mind, but it’s somehow easier to see those two as unnecessarily contrived in comparison. In the end, the Panamera is a simple design with a high standard of execution. It’s far from a roomy car, though, if you need actual trunk space in addition to passenger comfort. The trunk is small, and the fact it’s controlled with buttons just masquerades the fact you’ll struggle to fit much in there. Quite often, we were greeted with an error-reporting beep as the trunklid encountered a protruding object corner when closing. But anyone buying a Panamera would probably transport any unnecessarily large cargo with something else.
Monday morning, I was chauffered to the Düsseldorf airport for an early flight. On the autobahn, which was expectedly full of commuters, we met an another Panamera Turbo driver heading in the same direction. He slowed down to look at our face-lifted car, gave us an approving nod, and sped off in the distance. Those in the know, know.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]