Porsche Panamera: the latest news
We're still two years away from seeing the Panamera in showrooms, but you wouldn't think so from the number of times Porsche's first front-engined, four-seater saloon has been scooped. Our spies have caught the car pounding around the Nürburgring, testing in the Arctic snows of Scandinavia and closer to home in Germany. Today CAR's photographers have caught the Panamera again, this time testing in Germany again. Click 'Next' to read on and find out more about Porsche's new foray into the luxury sporting saloon market.
What's underneath all that disguise?
The Panamera is a standalone Zuffenhausen project, codenamed G1; Porsche spoke to VW and Bentley about doing a joint development - a la Cayenne - but neither company took the bait. As you can see, the Panamera is - at just under five metres in length - not a compromised coupe with an excessively low roofline and the compact footprint of a two-plus-two-seater. Quite the contrary: unlike the pretty but stillborn four-door 989 concept conceived in 1988, the G1 is relatively tall for a Porsche so that even the rear seat passengers won't knock their heads when entering or exiting the vehicle. This prototype is still disguised with tape all over, fake bumpers and a fixed rear wing big enough to have been developed by Airbus. But the body structure-cum-greenhouse, the chassis and the drivetrain are already close to production, and we can begin to see the shape of the lights now that the disguise is slowly peeling off these prototypes.
A Porsche saloon... so will the Panamera be as practical as a Cayenne?
Nearly. The size of the cargo deck is in keeping with the GT character of the car. Accessible via a wide and deep tailgate, the boot holds a cavernous 475 litres. Need even more space? Then start folding the split backrests which form a large carpeted luggage area. The Panamera is closely related to the Cayenne SUV. Exactly how much is a secret, but we hear the suspension and brakes, and some of the body structure are related. Trouble is, the Cayenne weighs too much to spawn a true sports car, and this unfortunately also applies to the very heavy 4WD system. As a result, the engineers have been looking at the 911 Turbo's all-wheel drive system.
The Panamera will be Porsche's fifth product range. Must be good for business?
Oh yes. According to chairman Wendelin Wiedeking, the annual sales target for the Panamera is in excess of 20,000 units. This number is, in true Porsche style, a massive understatement. According to an internal document, the goal for the first full year of production is in excess of 27,000 cars, and one year later the demand is expected to peak at more than 30,000 vehicles. As a result, Porsche will soon be building well over 100,000 units per annum. Starting in mid-2009, the Panamera's body in white will be assembled and painted at the VW truck plant in Hanover, home of the T5. The body structure is made of high-strength steel, clad with aluminium doors and lids as well as with plastic bumpers, aprons and spoilers. Thanks to the VW connection, Porsche does not have to invest in its own stamping facility and paint shop. Nonetheless, the total expenditure for project G1 will exceed one billion Euros. In Leipzig, where final assembly takes place, the company intends to create 600 new jobs. In the Stuttgart area, home of R&D and engine production, more than 100 engineers have been hired from Mercedes-Benz, among them the chief project leader Dr Michael Steiner who used to be part of the S-class team.
So what will the Panamera be like to drive?
The Panamera will be launched as a rear-drive model with two V8 engines; both direct-injection versions of Porsche's 4.8, they will come in naturally aspirated 400bhp and turbocharged 500bhp forms. At around 1800kg, this is no lightweight car but it's only 200kg heavier than a 911 Turbo, and muscular engines will ensure electrifying performance. The blown Panamera is claimed to be capable of 190mph and 0-62mph in 4.2sec. Cheaper versions in late 2010 will stretch Panamera prices down to around £50,000, with a 300bhp 3.6-litre V6 sourced from VW, while the range-topping hybrid version comes in 2011. It'll blast to 175mph and be as quick as a 911 Carrera with the fuel economy of the cheapest Boxster. Other technical highlights include four-wheel drive versions (coming in 2010), seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions supplied by ZF, composite brakes (PCCB) and active dampers (PASM). What about a V10, you ask? Too expensive, and strategically too precious to be wasted on a high-volume Porsche. What about a diesel? Out of sync with the emphatically sporty brand image, and deemed unnecessary now that the hybrid approach has been given the nod.