Whether you love or hate its unusual proportions and wide-hipped styling, the Porsche Panamera sedan is here to stay. In fact, the 2013 Porsche Panamera continues to be a sales success for the German automaker, as the ability to haul up to four people in comfort and at a high rate of speed has proven to be a compelling argument for Porsche’s customer base.
I recently had the opportunity – courtesy of the Porsche World Roadshow – to see just how much sports car DNA was actually latent within the curves of the brand’s sole sedan by way of a morning at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The former F1 circuit provided ample opportunity to wring out an answer to this question from the four-door’s XL chassis, and revealed a few surprises along the way.
Several different Panamera models were on hand for my driving pleasure at the Roadshow, including the Panamera 4 (3.6-liter V-6 good for 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque), the Panamera GTS (430 horsepower 4.8-liter V-8 that also produces 384 lb-ft of torque), and the Panamera Turbo (twin-turbo version of the GTS engine that delivers 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque). The shifting duties for each car were handled by the vehicle’s standard PDK dual-clutch automated manual transmission, a unit that offers seven forward speeds, and each model boasted standard all-wheel drive.
It goes without saying that to expect a heavy four-door sedan to offer the same type of handling dynamics as a two-door coupe that has been celebrated the degree enjoyed by the Porsche 911 would be unreasonable. Nonetheless, the Porsche Panamera acquitted itself admirably when asked to go above and beyond what 90 percent of owners will ever attempt to accomplish with the car. All-wheel drive kept each Panamera model surefooted, with nary a hint of understeer, and the sedan carried its weight well through corners where it remained stable and willing to brake quite late.
The first surprise of the day for me was how well the Panamera 4 drove in comparison to its two V-8 siblings despite being down by over one, and two hundred horses, respectively. Never slow, the Panamera 4 was enjoyable to chuck through CTMP’s sinewy curves and held its own when the track opened up into the long straight that leads up to pit road. The bigger shock came when I realized how much more I preferred the Panamera GTS to the much hairier Turbo model. Aided and abetted by the vehicle’s Sport Plus feature (which sharpens every aspect of the car’s driving experience), the GTS simply felt more capable in almost every situation, especially when accelerating out of a corner where the Turbo’s 500 horsepower bluster tended to overwhelm my delicate sensibilities.
The most enjoyable aspect of the 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS was its Sport Exhaust option. With the touch of a button the sedan's soundtrack went from 'aggressive' to 'front-row-at-Le Mans', with the most incredible aural experience imaginable cascading out of the rear pipes on deceleration. Perhaps more than any other aspect of the car, the Sport Exhaust had me feeling like a world-class hot shoe every time I lifted my foot off of the throttle.
Faster than it should be, extremely comfortable, and stylishly appointed inside (many of the Panamera’s interior trappings have now been exported to the rest of the Porsche line-up), the 2013 Porsche Panamera crushes the dynamics of many of its competitors without sacrificing when it comes to luxury.