There are many hidden perks to being an automotive journalist. These include never having to worry about upper tax brackets, free clothing your significant other will only let you wear over their dead body and a really nice press car when you get married. Chalk it up to a combination of professional courtesy and something borrowed. In this case something blue, too. Fittingly, Porsche somehow became convinced that Yours Truly needed something special to take the plunge in: a 2010 Yachting Blue Panamera 4S. After close to 2,000 miles and 12 days of driving, I feel confident in making the assessment that if your wedding involves lots of miles and loads of stuff and just the two of you, there is no better car. And I'm not just saying that as a thank you card to Porsche. Seriously, I'm not. Make the jump to learn why the Panamera 4S is the ultimate wedding machine.
Photos by Jonny Lieberman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
As I mentioned to 141 of my closest friends and family at last week's nuptials, if you have $116,340 to spend on a car, you might want to look Porsche's way. Even if you aren't getting married, you will at some point find the need to take yourself and one other person on a long distance road trip with several hundred pounds of, well, crap. And after getting up close and personal with a couple of 'em, I had a sneaking suspicion that the ability to haul beaucoup stuff was a design directive. It is a hatchback, after all.
Now of course the most controversial aspect of the new four-door Porsche (besides, of course, the four doors) is the not-so-sloping roof line that leads to the hatch. Many people, especially people looking at the Panamera in two-dimensional pictures, think the car looks... how to put this softly... really ugly. As a fellow auto journalist who shall in fact remain nameless put it, "You can spend that much on a lot of cars and not look like a tasteless blind idiot." Ouch. Of course, he's only just seen pictures. But automotive apocrypha has produced a very persistent rumor. Seems that when the Panamera was on the drawing board a certain six-foot, three-inch Porsche CEO decreed that he must be able to fit comfortably in the back seat. As such, the roofline was raised, as well as the cackles of countless thousands of armchair car designers. I'll comment more on the looks in the full review of the Panamera, but I will state that my new wife and I were very thankful for those extra inches regardless of why they're there. As for the rumor, I got a six-foot, four-inch friend of mine to sit in the rear seat. His comment, "I could use one more inch."
We had a 450-mile road trip ahead of us. The plan was to leave Los Angeles, bolt up Interstate 5 and eventually wind up just south of Sonoma County's Russian River wine country on our good friends' farm in Sebastopol where the wedding would take place. As I hinted at, we had a lot of stuff to haul. How much stuff? To quote my new wife on the Wednesday morning that we left, "I can't decide what to bring, so I'm just bringing everything."
Here's an incomplete list of what we managed to stuff into the Panamera's cargo hold in some sort of nuptial Fear and Loathing imitation. Note that the trunk cover was removed and the rear seats were folded flat: Eight days worth of clothing for two, four cases of wine, 35 pairs of yellow flips flops (the dancing would take place on grass so we figured most ladies might want to change into flip flops), a 20-inch dinner plate for people to sign, a computer/camera bag, tripod, two shoe boxes, several jackets, one really cute eleven pound miniature pincher/dachshund and all the accompanying dog paraphernalia. And of course, one very large wedding dress laid out flat on top of everything else.
That was only the first of several oversized loads that we shoved into the Panamera's gullet in the days leading up to the wedding. The following day saw 30 bottles of Korbel champagne plus a 15.5-gallon keg of Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale. A special note on that keg: We were able to stand the half-barrel upright, something you absolutely could not do in Panamera competitors like the Maserati Quattroporte or Aston Martin Rapide. And while the ability and necessity of standing a keg upright might seem as German as pickled schweinebraten, there's no way you could do the same in a Mercedes-Benz CLS. We put non-alcoholic drinks in the Panamera's hatch, too. The car swallowed six 2.5-gallon jugs of water, three gallons of orange juice, a case of two-liter soda bottles, a case of tonic water plus enough fruit juice, mixers, cups, coffee beans, creamer, sugar and last minute decorations to fuel a 140-guest wedding.
The day before the wedding, Amy (my bride), my future mother-in-law and I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to pay a visit to the San Francisco Flower Market where, as you might expect, we filled the car up with flowers. Lots of flowers. Once again, the Panamera's high roofline proved invaluable as some of the bunches of flowers were quite tall. On the morning of the wedding, Amy and I drove out to Bodega Bay and on the way back stopped on the side of Highway 12 to pick an entire Panamera-full of wild mustard plants. You can never have too many flowers, right?
A neighboring farmer was nice enough to plow a half acre of his fallow land for guest parking. My farmer friend and I then took the Panamera all over the joint pounding signs into the ground telling folks where to park. We were even able to squeeze the one large, seven-foot pole diagonally into the Porsche. Problem was we didn't have enough signs. What to do? I figured that as the Panamera had been – much to Amy's chagrin – the hit of the previous night's rehearsal dinner, if I just parked the Porsche in a very visible place slightly above where the guests' cars were supposed to park, confusion would be minimized. Unfortunately, it had rained a few days prior and the unmowed section was pretty soft and muddy. Not really an issue for the 4S, as not only is this Panamera all-wheel drive, but thanks to its air suspension, it has the ability to raise its ride height just like your favorite Citroën. So the wet, sandy mud was no obstacle.
After the wedding, most of the space that previously had been taken up by booze was now filled with gifts. Aside from the copious storage space, I'd be derelict in not mentioning how comfortable we both found the Panamera. First of all, air-conditioned seats for him and heated seats for her is a must. The dual-zone climate also works exceptionally well. Aside from the looks, another aspect of the Panamera that might not come across in photos is its size. Put another way, its enormous size. After all, with the added weight of the AWD components, the 4S version tips the scales at 4,092 pounds. However, rather than feeling overweight, the Panamera instead feels large. And roomy. And comfortable.
We spent four days after our wedding tooling around the Central California coast and the Panamera proved itself to be the perfect wine-tasting, antiquing and Hearst Castle-visiting partner. Luxurious, composed, pleasant and quite capable (you can go over 500 miles per tank at "normal" speeds), the Panamera 4S was totally the right tool for the wedding/mini-honeymoon job. But what about when the trunk and rear seats aren't filled with junk? In other words, how does the Panamera stack up as a sports sedan? Again, friends, that's a different review.
Photos by Jonny Lieberman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.