Engines, Transmission, Platform
The big news is the all-new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 in the Panamera Turbo. It adopts a "hot vee" layout with the turbochargers in the engine's valley. This setup allows for a short run from the exhaust manifold for minimal lag, which is further reduced by the twin-scroll turbos. With 18.8 psi of peak boost, the new V8 pumps out 550 horsepower and 567 pound-feet of torque. As we mentioned, that's just 20 hp behind the outgoing Turbo S. And the Panamera Turbo is quick - good for 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds with the Sport Chrono pack. Yes, launch control looks awesome.
This is also the first Porsche engine to adopt cylinder deactivation - in four-cylinder mode the engine can run up to 3,500 rpm with as much as 123 horsepower. To shut down four cylinders at a time, the camshaft on each bank slides to engage a dummy lobe on cylinders two, three, five, and eight. When running in V4 mode, the valves stay closed on the shut-down cylinders. Another nod to emissions and efficiency is a catalytic converter mounted close up near the vee, right behind the turbos. All that heat requires airflow, so there's a dedicated duct from the radiator that routes fresh air over the turbos and catalytic converter.
There's an all-new twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 as well, made with the same 90-degree angle as the V8 because it's based on modular architecture. The V6 lacks cylinder deactivation but keeps the hot vee and adds two-stage variable lift on the intake valve. It is not lacking for power, with 440 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines (and the European-market twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 diesel) mate up to a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic made by ZF. The new design is 5.6 inches shorter than the seven-speed it replaces and allows for an upcoming hybrid powertrain to be integrated without adding any extra length. The top three gears are overdrive ratios, with the top speed from both engines coming in sixth.
Along with leading the development of the new V8, the Panamera is also the first car on the new MSB platform. That's Modularer Standardantriebs-Baukasten for you AP German students; a near-literal translation is modular standard drive. It will underpin long- and short-wheelbase versions of the Panamera, as well as other Porsche and Bentley variants. Thirty-one percent of the structure is aluminum, a threefold increase, including the roof. High-strength steel is used strategically for crash performance, like in the B-pillar to protect from side impacts, for instance.
The Panamera might be a two-ton behemoth, but it is still a Porsche, which means it gets all kinds of technology aimed at performance and handling. That starts with the tires, which are now 20 millimeters wider front and rear on the Turbo, or 275/40ZR20 and 315/35ZR20 if you're already looking on Tire Rack. The double-wishbone front suspension now has the anti-roll bar mounted to the pivot bearing (the link from the upright to the upper wishbone). This gives the stabilizer bar a better lever arm, and also makes space for monotube dampers, which are lighter.
The rear suspension is a new four-link design and features another Panamera first with rear-axle steering. Like in the 911 models that use a similar system, rear-axle steering moves opposite of the front wheels at low speeds to shorten the turning radius and in phase with the front wheels at high speed for greater stability. Unlike the 911s, the Panamera does this with a single motor.
Yet another first is the electronic active roll stabilization. Previous Porsche systems were hydraulic. This optional feature uses motors mounted in line with the anti-roll bars to control how much twist, and thus body roll, happens. It runs on a 48-volt system, a preview of the near future when cars will run a full architecture with that voltage.
Brakes. Yes, the Panamera has them, and they're a handy way to check model type: 4S models get gray calipers, the Turbo gets red calipers. Carbon-ceramic rotors on either model come with yellow calipers. The front are six-piston monoblocks, the rears have four pistons. There's also a larger master cylinder and larger brake-boost servo for better pedal feel.
The Panamera has an optional air suspension that Porsche engineers say is the biggest leap in comfort from the old model to the new one. There are three chambers, and when all are full it offers 60 percent more volume than the old air springs. Comfort mode uses all three chambers, Sport uses two, and Sport Plus uses just one. The range of spring rates is now wider than before, offering more comfort or more stiffness whenever the driver calls on a particular mode.
Infotainment and Electronics
The Panamera might be a Porsche, but it is also a two-ton behemoth of a luxury sedan, and that means all the latest and greatest driver-assistance technology is available whether you like it not. Less contentious is the new instrument cluster and nav system, known as Porsche Advanced Cockpit. The center tachometer is alive and well, but now flanked by seven-inch digital screens. On the left is speed, assistance graphics, and adaptive cruise control. The rightmost display shows information, like fuel, temperatures, radio, telephone, and navigation data.
The center of the dashboard is capped by a 12.3-inch display with all kinds of controls, including those for the center vents. Yes, you aim the center air conditioning vents with a touchscreen, and it's ridiculous. But it also means fewer buttons, just like on the center console, which is now smooth glass. The downside, versus the outgoing Panamera, is the curse of some capacitive-touch buttons - you can't rest your finger on the ones just below the screen before activating. Those lower on the console require an affirmative press, so no worries of accidental seat heat. Buttons or no, we like the new infotainment system, which breaks up the screen into three zones, all of which are customizable and intuitive. You can keep widgets on the right side, for instance, for quick access to other settings while navigation or the radio takes up the main screen.
So what's it like inside? You'll have to wait for our first drive for detailed impressions. But the new Panamera is comfortable, spacious, luxurious, and really, really fast. We'll leave you with our ride-along at the Lausitzring to demonstrate. Check back soon for our full review.