We drove a $180,000 Porsche Panamera and now we’re convinced it’s the finest sports sedan in the world

Our Porsche Panamera Turbo test car.

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Our Porsche Panamera Turbo test car.
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Hollis Johnson

  • The 2018 Porsche Panamera is Business Insider’s 2017 Car of the Year.
  • The Panamera has always been amazing to drive, but people hated the looks.
  • Porsche restyled the second-generation Panamera, fixing the one thing that prevented the original from reaching greatness.
  • The base Panamera starts at $85,000 while our loaded Turbo test car cost $180,000.

From the beginning, the Porsche Panamera has been one of the best sports sedans on the market. But the Panamera’s odd styling kept it out of the car geek hall of fame.

What I’m referring to is the weird rear hatch that’s too tall to be a fastback or a coupe, but too low-slung to be a wagon.

The Panamera’s ungainly looks can be attributed to the need for all Porsches to look, well, like a Porsche. In plain terms, all cars bearing the company’s brand need to be instantly recognizable. That means they’ve all got to look like a 911. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Instant brand recognition is worth its weight in gold for a car company. However, for Porsche, that need for conformity has resulted in some truly odd looking cars. Another example would be the original Cayenne SUV, which the former hosts of “Top Gear” described as a Porsche that backed into a shed and got stuck.

Looks aside, the first generation Panamera was generally regarded as one of the finest performance sedans money can buy. The last first-gen Panamera GTS Business Insider tested blew us away with its luxurious cabin, pin-point-precise handling, and gutsy V8 engine.

In November 2016, Business Insider became the first journalists to drive the second generation Panamera in North America, after getting behind the wheel of a Panamera Turbo in New York.

Last Fall, Porsche dropped off another Panamera Turbo for us to take an extended look at its new high-performance luxury sedan. Here’s what it’s like to drive.

The new Porsche Panamera Turbo starts at $150,000 while our option-laden test car came out to about $180,000. The base Panamera starts at a more affordable $85,000.


Here it is! The new Porsche Panamera! Even though it’s built on VW Group’s new Porsche-developed MSB platform, you won’t mistake for anything other than a Panamera.

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Hollis Johnson

See the resemblance!

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

And have they changed that controversial rear end?

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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Yes, they have. Porsche increased the rake of the rear windshield, creating a smoother coupe look.

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Hollis Johnson

Smooth and sleek.

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Hollis Johnson

In addition, the rear fascia was redesigned to mimic that of the company’s current generation sports cars.

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But first some, history.

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Porsche

Although the Panamera was the first Porsche sedan to make it into production when it arrived in showrooms for the 2010 model year, the company had actually been mulling over the idea for some time. More than two decades ago, Porsche built the 989 prototype to be a sports car for the whole family. The 989 was powered by a 4.2-liter, 350-horsepower V8 engine, and Porsche claimed it could hit a top speed of 173 mph.


The 989’s DNA is strong.

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Porsche

The car was scheduled to enter production by 1995 but never made it. During the early 90s, Porsche had fallen on hard times and was on the brink financial ruin. As a result, the 989 was axed. Instead, Porsche turned its attention to the Boxster and the 996- the first water-cooled version of its iconic 911 sports car. Not all was lost. As you can see, a lot of the 989’s DNA made it into the 996.


In the marketplace, the Panamera competes directly with other ultra-premium performance sedans like the Aston Martin Rapide S,…

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…Maserati Quattroporte, and…

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…Its corporate cousin, the Bentley Flying Spur.

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Under the hood, the Panamera Turbo packs a serious punch.

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Our Turbo test car came with 550 horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 engine.

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The Panamera is also available with a choice of two V6 engines, at 330 horsepower and 440 horsepower. There are also two performance hybrid powertrains to choose from, one with 462 horsepower and another with 680 ponies.

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All Panamera’s come standard with a new 8-speed twin-clutch PDK transmission while all but the base Panameras come with all-wheel-drive.

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According to Porsche, our Panamera Turbo can hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 190 mph. While we didn’t do any meter performance testing, those number sound on point.

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Hollis Johnson

Step inside its cabin and be prepared to be wowed. The Panamera marks the debut of the all-new Porsche Advanced Cockpit which replaces traditional buttons and knobs with touchscreen and touch-sensitive surfaces.

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Hollis Johnson

The Panamera’s cabin is large and roomy, something to be expected of 16 and a half foot long, 4,400-pound luxury sedan. The interior is covered in fine leather while the metal and carbon fiber accents give a premium luxury feel without compromising its sporting DNA.

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In front of the driver is Porsche’s signature center analog tachometer flanked by a pair of seven-inch digital displays.

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In addition, the Panamera is loaded with a host of driver’s assistance including adaptive cruise control, traction management systems, adjustable driving modes, active aerodynamics, lane change assist, and even night vision.

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The Panamera also features Porsche’s new LED Matrix headlights.

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The center stack is dominated by a massive 12.3-inch high-definition touchscreen. It’s running the latest version of the company’s Porsche Communications Management infotainment system.

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The PCM system is a major leap forward for the German sportscar maker. It marks a major improvement in terms of capability and usability over the company’s previous infotainment system.

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In fact, PCM is really the nerve center for the entire car with controls for everything from the Panamera’s active aerodynamics to…

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… Its climate control at your finger tips.

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You even control the car’s air vent via the touchscreen.

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It features full Apple CarPlay integration and is equipped with connect app capabilities.

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The PCM delivers everything from full weather reports to…

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… Detailed information on local events to…

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… Information on flights at your local airport.

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Overall, the Panamera’s new infotainment system is a success. It’s quick, responsive, and packed with features. However, the system is complicated to use. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of Porsche trying to deliver so much functionality in such a small amount of real estate.

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Hollis Johnson

Another portion of the Porsche Advanced Cockpit is a touch panel center console. In a major departure from the first-gen Panamera’s festival of buttons, the second gen’s center console is virtually devoid of switchgear. Unlike previous applications of touch panels by other car makers, Porsche has managed to make this work. The controls are intuitively laid out and precise enough under most driving conditions.

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Hollis Johnson

There is also a duplicate set of touch screens and touch panels for the rear seat.

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Speaking of the rear seats, they are remarkably comfortable. Due to the center console, there is only room for two, but those two passengers travel in style and comfort. Incredibly, the raked rear roofline offers sufficient legroom for most people not playing in the NBA.

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Outback, the Panamera’s rear hatch opens to expose 17.6 cubic feet of cargo room. With the rear seat folded down, that number increases to 52.6 cubic feet of capacity.

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Shut the rear hatch and you’ll see the Panamera’s new rear fascia including its nifty IKEA-esque expandable folding spoiler.

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So, what’s the Panamera like to drive?

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Hollis Johnson

The new Porsche Panamera has a lot to live up to in terms of driving experience. While its predecessor wasn’t always the best to look at, it offered up driving excellence every time.

For me, the new Panamera delivers. The raging brute of a V8 under the hood and PDK gearbox team up to provide effortless power on demand with no turbo lag to speak of. On the highway on-ramp, 60 mph happens in the blink of an eye and the speedometer will easily glide its way into the triple figures if you don’t pay close attention to your right foot.

In the corners, the big Porsche sedan feels solid, as if it were hewn from a single block of iron. The chassis feels tight and the car feels composed at all times. Only under extreme acceleration does the rear end feel a bit nervy as it hunts for traction. In most daily driving conditions, the Panamera feels like it’s riding on rails.

With that said, my colleague Matt DeBord, who liked the Panamera, felt that the sedan didn’t quite drive like the four-door 911 he was expecting. He opined that you couldn’t drive the Panamera in the same way that you could drive the brand’s iconic sports cars.


Our Verdict.

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Hollis Johnson

The new second-generation Porsche Panamera is an absolute gem of a car. The combination of old-school driving pleasure, state-of-the-art tech, and refined luxury make it a compelling option for anyone looking for a vehicle in this genre.

Even with a brand new chassis and electronics, the new Panamera is more evolutionary than revolutionary. In keeping with the previous car’s exquisite driving dynamics, Porsche was very careful not to throw away the baby with the bathwater when it gave the luxury sedan a much-needed makeover.

However, with the makeover, the Panamera now has the matinee idol looks to go with its world-class ability. And with this, Porsche has created the finest sports sedan in the world. It’s certainly not cheap, but boy is it good. If you are one of the blessed few who can afford a new Porsche Panamera, don’t think, just do it. Your life will be better for it.

Which is why we ended up naming the Panamera the 2017 Business Insider Car of the Year.