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2019 Porsche Panamera 4S Road Test Review

This four-door super car keeps getting better and better

To those considering a premium-branded sport sedan, or something from the even sportier four-door coupe category, the Porsche Panamera needs no introduction. It’s easily the sportiest four-door around, plus its beautifully sweptback liftgate makes it one of the most practical offerings in its category as well.

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Porsche introduced its totally redesigned second-generation Panamera for the 2017 model year, complete with gorgeous new styling formed from lightweight aluminum and plenty of high-strength steel, a wholly improved cabin, and a bevy of new and upgraded engines including a 330 horsepower 3.0-litre V6 with rear- or all-wheel drive in base trim, a 440 horsepower twin-turbo V6 with standard all-wheel drive in 4S trim, the same albeit slightly detuned 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 with a battery and electric motor for a combined 462 net horsepower in 4 E-Hybrid trim, this car also featuring all-wheel drive and plug-in capability that provides 50 kilometres of zero emissions range, and finally a top-line Turbo model with a 550 horsepower 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel drive. All but the base trim were available in an extended-wheelbase Executive body style as well, the Panamera appearing as if it offered something for every luxury car buyer.

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Porsche recently added Turbo S E-Hybrid, Sport Turismo and GTS models

Porsche obviously didn’t think so, because they expanded the Panamera range with the outrageously fast 680 net horsepower 4.0-litre V8-powered Turbo S E-Hybrid last year, while also adding the entirely new wagon-like Sport Turismo body style in all trims except base, which ups cargo capacity and, arguably, style.

I tested some of the early 2017 models and a whole host of 2018 Panameras, including regular wheelbase versions of the impressive Panamera 4 and unbelievably quick Turbo S E-Hybrid, while I spent some quality time with a Sport Turismo 4S as well. So far this year I haven’t been able to get into this year’s new addition, the 453 horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8-powered GTS, but another stint with a 2019 Panamera 4S was nevertheless good compensation.

Incidentally, the regular wheelbase 4S starts at $119,600, just $20,300 more than the base Panamera, while the 4 E-Hybrid starts at $117,800, a new GTS can be had for $147,400, the Turbo from $174,200, and a top-line Turbo S E-Hybrid for $214,600, while if you fully load up a long-wheelbase Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive it’ll crest the $300k threshold, but you’ll be getting something that rivals a Bentley for performance and quality of finishings.

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Sensational performance comes standard

While the Panamera 4S only sits second in power output and third in pricing, don’t think for a moment that it comes up short on performance. Opt for Sport mode and its gurgling exhaust note is intoxicating, crackling and popping at liftoff, although be assured Hyde turns back into Jekyll with a switch to its default drive mode, at which point serene luxury takes over.

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The Panamera ideally balances states of hushed opulence and seemingly wild abandon; no competitive four-door is capable of delivering its incredible level of road-hugging sports car-like performance while still pampering to such highbrow levels. Truly, it cuts through fast-paced corners like nothing so large has ever been able to before, yet its ride quality is pleasantly smooth. Whether enduring Vancouver’s often ill-kempt inner-city laneways, dealing with uneven railroad crossings and age-old bridge expansion joints, or tackling a serpentine mountainside road layered with broken pavement, the Panamera incorporates ample suspension travel to soak up the most vicious bumps and ruts without becoming unsettled. Of course, its compliance or firmness depends on the trim and wheel/tire option chosen, but I’ve tested every grade other than the new GTS, and all have combined track-ready performance with high levels of comfort I’d be more than willing to live with day in and day out.

My test car’s optional Satin Platinum finished 21-inch alloy wheels on 275/35 front and 315/30 rear Pirelli Cinturato P7 performance tires are the largest available, so it wasn’t as if I was being eased down the road on the base 4S model’s most comfortable 19s, these being identical to the 265/45 front and 295/40 rear ZR-rated rubber found on the most entry-level of Panameras, by the way, a model that starts at only $99,300.

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All trims provide strong straight-line acceleration

That more luxury-focused Panamera may not be the fastest in a straight line, but it’s still plenty quick thanks to an energetic 5.7-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h, or 5.5 seconds with its available Sport Chrono Package, whereas my test model manages the same feat in just 4.4 or 4.2 seconds respectively. Likewise, the 4S continues on to 160 km/h in only 10.3 seconds, slicing 3.3 seconds off of the base model’s zero to 160 km/h time, all ahead of a 289 km/h terminal velocity, this a shocking 25 km/h faster than the base Panamera.

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As blisteringly quick as the Panamera 4S is, Porsche still offers much faster variants of this four-door coupe. The new GTS, for instance, can charge from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds, while the Turbo flies past in a mere 3.8 seconds. And what about the new Turbo S E-Hybrid? It only needs 3.4 seconds to do the deed, while top speeds increase accordingly, the most potent model on this list capable of reaching 310 km/h on the track.

To clarify once again, all Panameras are superb driving cars, particularly this Panamera 4S that performs better than the majority of sport sedans. Its new eight-speed dual-clutch PDK gearbox provides quick, smooth shifts that benefit from steering wheel paddles if you so choose, while its torque-vectoring all-wheel drive maintains jaw-dropping grip no matter the weather condition. That it looks as fabulous as it does when blasting past at high speeds is just a bonus.

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Exterior and interior detailing is second to none

My tester’s optional gloss-black trim contrasted the white paint brilliantly. Satin silver and/or bright metal accents come standard, or alternatively you could add yet more inky black trim to the mirror caps, door handles, badges, etcetera. What's more, the various colour and décor trim possibilities inside are almost endless, but the Panamera’s wonderfully fine attention to high-quality details, including best-of-the-best composite surfaces and leathers, hardwoods, aluminum or carbon fibre, plus digital interfaces that are so fine in resolution that it almost looks as if your hand will slip right past the touchscreen into the depths of its beautifully deep, rich, high-contrast graphical artistry.

Yes, Porsche’s digitization is as good as it gets these days, whether eyeing up the brand's classic five-dial instrument cluster, its inner circle being the sole analogue component in an otherwise colourful array of displays, the leftmost screen kept mostly for driving related info, with the one on the rightmost side comprised of a comprehensive multi-information display. Alternatively you can let your fingers do the walking on the wide centre touchscreen, this infotainment system almost appearing three-dimensional when viewing the navigation system’s map. Tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls make it as simple to use as your smartphone or tablet, and your personal device in mind, it will now sync up to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while the infotainment unit provides all functions expected in this ultra-premium category including an as-tested 360-degree surround camera that, when combined with audible and visual front and rear sonar, makes parking a great deal easier.

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The majority of controls on the sloping centre console are touch-sensitive, needing only a slight press and click to engage. It all feels very well made too, using the highest quality of materials available for any price. Despite being black, the centre stack’s surrounding surface is fairly easy to keep clean due to its smartphone/tablet-style black glass treatment.

Directly in front of the driver is one of the nicest leather-clad sport steering wheels in the business. I love its narrow spokes, each of which is hollowed out for an even lighter, sportier look, while the integrated scrolling knurled metal knobs and composite buttons are superbly crafted with tight fitment and near perfect damping. As usual the heatable steering wheel button resides within the base of the third spoke, an efficient design for sure, plus it turns on automatically when starting up the car, or likewise stays off depending on your personal choice.

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No shortage of standard and optional features allows for plenty of personalization

My test car featured three-way heated and cooled front seats, plus a sensational 710-watt 15-speaker Bose Centerpoint 14-channel surround audio system that can only be upstaged by the 1,455-watt 22-speaker Burmester 3D High-End Surround system; I’ve tested that last one before and it’s otherworldly. Just the same my tester didn’t include the previously noted Sport Chrono Package, so it didn’t benefit from a 0.2-second quicker sprint time and its centre dash-mounted clock only featured an attractive looking black face with white numerals and indices, instead of the fancier chronometer variant with digital displays.

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Nevertheless, thanks to the addition of a full rear centre console with a large high-resolution touchscreen of its own, plus three-way heatable seat switches, two rear auto climate controls resulting in four-way auto HVAC front to back, powered-side and rear window sunshades, as well as a sizeable dual-pane panoramic sunroof overhead, not to mention the model’s ensconcing rear bucket seats that are easily as comfortable as those up front, I can’t say whether I would’ve been happier being chauffeured while relaxing in back or piloting from the wheel, but even if you choose the latter you’ll never hear complaints from behind.

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The new Panamera is as good as sport-luxury cars get

Truly, the Panamera is now near impossible to find fault with. Of course, rear seating isn’t as spacious as a full-size long-wheelbase luxury sedan, but don’t forget that Porsche provides its longer-wheelbase Executive upgrade for those needing to transport adult family members or friends. On that note I’ve tested nearly every Panamera body style and trim and have never had one problem fitting in back comfortably, which means there's absolutely no reason to give up sensational design and ultimate performance to maintain a practical, active lifestyle.

This last point does a good job of summing up the Porsche Panamera, and with such a varied list of trims, packages and options it offers something special for every sport-luxury car buyer. To learn more about the 2019 Panamera, or take one for a test drive, contact Porsche Centre Vancouver at (604) 736-7911 or visit our showroom at 688 Terminal Ave, Vancouver.

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credit: Karen Tuggay

Date Posted: August 8, 2019