Along with lithe handling, Active Ride gives the Panamera a gliding ride quality.
Along with lithe handling, Active Ride gives the Panamera a gliding ride quality.
Image: Supplied

The Panamera is one of Porsche’s heaviest cars, but you wouldn’t say so from the way the large luxury sedan hustled through the winding roads of the Black Forest near Stuttgart in Germany.

The big Porsche handled like a smaller and nimbler machine as it stayed level with the road, displaying no body roll as it was pushed to the limits of tyre adhesion. Under heavy braking and acceleration there was no pitching or squatting, which felt uncanny in a luxurious 2.4-tonne sedan.

It is thanks to the newest trick in Zuffenhausen’s arsenal: Porsche Active Ride suspension which is an option offered in the E-Hybrid models of the new third-generation Panamera. The system uses active shock absorbers and air springs to regulate the forces of each damper individually. Hydraulic pumps control the rebound and compression at each wheel, allowing pistons in the damper to be moved up or down so that each wheel is able to actively extend or compress individually.

Along with the lithe handling, Active Ride gives the Panamera a gliding ride quality as it floats over roads with a waftability that belies the car’s sporting nature. To keep the body level, the wheels are pushed into potholes and lifted going over bumps. It is remarkable technology, and Porsche Active Ride can also be used to lift the vehicle to ease getting in and out, and to prevent it from scraping on steep driveways.

Owners who don’t opt for the optional Active Ride will get their Panamera equipped as standard with an adaptive two-chamber air suspension including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM).

Panamera E-Hybrids are available in three versions: the Panamera 4 with outputs of 346kW and 650Nm, the Panamera 4S with 400kW and 750Nm, and the range-topping Turbo plug-in hybrid which boasts a supercar-like 500kW and 930Nm.

The flagship Panamera Turbo, which pairs a 4.0l turbocharged V8 petrol engine with an electric motor, is a dichotomy of ultra-luxury and rampant pace. A speed demon in a silken glove, it is able to waft comfortably one moment but turns into a roaring blitzkrieg of g-forces the next, with the ability to dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.2 seconds and cruise the autobahn at 315km/h.

Aside from the hi-tech suspension, all-wheel drive traction and stability control, there are distinctive Porsche tropes that make the large sedan drive like a car that shares DNA with the iconic 911, particularly granite-like solidity and the eight-speed PDK transmission which is a thing of quick-shifting adeptness. The steering has the Porsche-typical heft for precision driving, a factor that was no small help on Germany’s often narrow and twisty country lanes.

The Panamera silently whisks like a limousine but owners seeking more sporting charisma can press the Sport or Sport Plus modes which puts it into battle-ready mode with quicker responses, combined with an angrier war cry.

The Turbo E-Hybrid brings 500kW and 930Nm to the party
The Turbo E-Hybrid brings 500kW and 930Nm to the party
Image: Supplied

There are several hybrid driving modes which keep the battery charged to predefined levels, and the car switches seamlessly between electric and petrol power. With a new, higher-output battery it is able to drive in all-electric mode for up to 93km, at up to 140km/h. An 11kW on-board charger shortens the battery’s charging time despite its increased energy content.

For all its performance the Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid test car sipped a remarkably frugal 9.7l /100km in my drive, which included some high-adrenaline stints.

The Panamera 4 E-Hybrid was even more economical, averaging under 8l /100km while not being short of pace with its ability to scoot the0-100km/h sprint in 4.1 seconds and top out at 280km/h.

Both models I drove were all-wheel drives but the Panamera is also available in rear-wheel drive versions. Optional all-wheel steering can be specified for even better handling.

The third-generation Panamera has been restyled, most prominently with front fenders that have been raised so you can see them above the bonnet while driving, like those on a 911. It’s part of a makeover that adopts a sharper look and sportier character, including Matrix LED headlamps that feature the brand’s characteristic four-point daytime running lights. For the first time the Panamera is offered with a wheel that has a centre lock, reminiscent of the classic Turbo Design wheel.

Digital cockpit retains a large rev counter in the centre as per Porsche tradition
Digital cockpit retains a large rev counter in the centre as per Porsche tradition
Image: Denis Droppa

Inside, the new Panamera adopts a fully digital instrument panel which retains a large rev counter in the centre as per Porsche tradition. As per the modern trend, the minimalist cabin has a small handful of physical controls and most functions, including the air vents, are controlled by icons. The high-resolution 12.3-inch central display can be supplemented by an optional 10.9-inch passenger display, and the auto gear lever has shrunk to a stub next to the steering wheel.

The boot has grown to accommodate a pair of golf bags to fit side by side instead of diagonally as before. At over 5m in length, the Panamera’s roomy cabin takes four adults in comfort and lays on executive trimmings befitting the seven-figure prices. Enhanced driver assistance technologies include active lane guidance and automated parking.

The new Panamera is available in SA at the following prices:

Panamera: R2,166,000

Panamera 4: R2,244,000

Panamera 4 E-Hybrid: R2,654,000

Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Executive: R2,845,000

Panamera 4S E-Hybrid: R2,892,000

Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid: R4,115,000


This article originally appeared in Business Day. 

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