two trails, one star
The all-new Panamera is unmistakably a Porsche, and with its four doors has a significantly greater audience to please. While the first generation was a divisive vehicle to the eye, it silenced critics with its exemplary performance yet surprising on-road civility. Now however, its successor seems to have sorted the former issue — a subjective matter to be fair. The only thing left to do is to turn the wheel and find out for certain whether the package really is complete.
In Taiwan, Porsche prepared the base Panamera carrying a 3.0-litre single turbo V6 and the all-wheel drive Panamera 4S, sporting a new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 churning out 440hp and 550Nm of torque. Century sprints were noted as 5.7 seconds and 4.4 seconds respectively, so there is clear distinction between the variants despite the smaller displacement of the latter.
On the expressways of Nantou County where our drive began, I revelled in the plush, ergonomic layout of the interior. The ascending centre console that rises to meet the dashboard in the first Panamera had been reinterpreted here for a cleaner aesthetic and, more importantly, improved functionality. Most classical hard switchgear have been replaced with touch-sensitive buttons, although necessarily tactile controls such as air-conditioning speed and temperature, alongside media volume, have been left alone.
Of the digital replacing the analogue, the traditional Porsche quintet of circles within the instrument cluster is now just the one central analogue tachometer with screens on either side. A better use of space, as drivers may cycle through various displays including replacing two digital dials with the navigation system map.
The dashboard’s centrepiece is Porsche’s new infotainment system, a 12.3-inch revelation presented in the manner of a tablet with a similar level of individualisation. Apple Car Play is offered, while proximity sensors detect an approaching finger and open up menus for quick access. It was through this Porsche Communication Management unit that I easily selected normal modes for both suspension and powertrain and a medium ride height, appropriate for wallowy and gently damped progress. In the rear of the Panamera, a spacious setting proposes twin seats — the car may appear lower viewed externally but the roofline is in fact higher than the first iteration — separated by a console similar to that in the front.
And then, it was time to take the next exit. Within minutes of cruising down a high-speed freeway in executive hush, my Panamera found itself standing trial on the narrow roads of the mountains embracing the Sun Moon Lake. From the first corner the convoy beat down upon the tarmac, an urgent synchronised routine with Taiwan’s largest body of water on one side and the sheer face of the topography on the other. Steering sharp and suspension planted, the Panamera shrunk around me and displayed an agility much smaller cars could only hope to have. More so in the 4S, with rear axle steering reducing the turning circle at low speeds.
This loop of the lake, nearly a kilometre above sea level and dotted with minor crests and troughs, was no match for the Panamera’s chassis. Active roll stabilisation and three-chamber adaptive air suspension on all four corners keeps the Panamera sure-footed and flat; its weight at bay while gratuitously entertaining this driver. A feeling augmented of course by the fact that a car this sizeable shouldn’t behave like this, especially not with such ease.
At the end of the drive, the Panamera had made it stand clear. Business-class accommodation in a brisk package, worthy of the family name printed across its shapely rump. In the luxury automobile market of today, the sedan is no longer the alluring proposition it once was. As such, this essentially elongated Carrera must perform as close as possible to its sportier brethren to make a solid case. And it had; two trails, zero compromise.