A Banker's Hot Rod.
Have you heard this term before?
There are a few ways to define this old Buick advertising tagline from the 1950s:
--- a car for financial gurus at the top of the global banking markets. A commuter special - able to beat many muscle-cars in stoplight drag races, but also able to wow prospective clients on a lunch outing
--- the other definition? a car for successfully robbing banks. A getaway car that is so fast and so adept at outrunning normal machines that it will easily haul four newly-affluent people far and fast from the scene of the crime
The Porsche Panamera has carved off and retained huge chunks of the super-sedan market from all-stars like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. Not to mention upstarts like the Lexus IS-F and Audi RS7.
How has the first-ever Porsche sedan achieved this feat? And will the gains be momentary of lasting as the first of the 2009-launched car's owners are looking for their next ride?
VIDEO REVIEW ONE - 2010 Porsche Panamera S
SECRETS OF PANAMERA SUCCESS
Sure, there is a surge of Porsche momentum surrounding the badge being extended to new SUVs and sedans for the first time. But the core appeal of the Panamera goes far beyond a 'badge special.'
This is a car whose core competencies are so deep, and so distinct from the BMW M5, that in many ways it is almost a throwback to exceptional luxury sports sedans like the second-gen BMW 7 series from 1995 to 2001. There is a real appeal to having authentic mechanical feel wrapped in a super-lux package.
The Porsche is not without bells and whistles to achieve this purity, however. The car is absolutely packed with electronics and chassis adjustability via air suspension, PASM active dampers, and cabin choices that bring new meaning to the word 'Special Order.' (See below for build-out details.)
The clearest and most damning victim of the Panamera's raw appeal is the M5. Despite being smaller and cheaper than the Porsche, the M5 is perhaps no longer the ultimate banker's hot rod that it once was. It just feels too uniform, and too sterilized, to offer raw sports-car thrills in a four-door.
The Panamera, alternaitvely, still brings much of the raw feel of a track car -- but this time at the push of a button.
If the M5 is something like a Sony PSP in changing its moods and modes, the Porsche Panamera feels much like a German U-boat submarine. An object of such mechanical brilliance that daily errands and golf outings are barely scratching the surface of its abilities.
The changes in Panamera character might be operated via buttons instead of giant steel levers in a U-boat -- but the effect on the captain is no less amazing.
It makes him feel utterly invincible, and curious to master the many variations in performance and handling on offer.
VIDEO REVIEW TWO - 2010 Porsche Panamera S
PANAMERA'S NEXT BATTLE GROUP
So how to keep the German U-boat humming and silently stalking its S63 and BMW M5 prey -- with amazing results?
The Porsche plan is subtle updates on the package, plus various new models and engines at the top and bottom of the range.
The base US Panamera is now the simple V6 model, while the Panamera Diesel, Panamera S e-Hybrid and Turbo / Turbo S at the top of the line easily push the price max past $150,000 for the 2014 model year.
Also new this year and available stateside is the new Turbo S Executive, a LWB model that was initially ear-marked for China but is now a global mainstay with pricing deep in S63 waters: $180,000 is the base range for this heavy hitter.
The Panamera phenom is just building steam. Regular engines in the LWB executive model will broaden its appeal further, while a base e-Hybrid might spread the fleet even deeper into new A8 and S400 Hybrid segments.
It turns out that Porsche has tapped into a huge well of pent-up passion for its car -- among buyers who previously could never justify running a two-door sports car as their daily driver.
After all, finance guys and bank robbers share one core need: at least for big seats and four big doors.
PANAMERA S - EXTERIOR GALLERY
PANAMERA S - INTERIOR GALLERY