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2011 Porsche Panamera S Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2011 Porsche Panamera

SEE ALSO: Porsche Buyers Guide

by Bruce Hubbard
Auto Advisor Group

2011 Panamera S rear wheel drive model is superb. Porsche’s wins at the Panamera races gave the great four-door sedan its name Porsche’s Public Relations manager Gary Fong told me. Not only at the Panamera but also in August 2010 at the Superstars event in Mugello, Italy it beat BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. The Panamera holds the current record for the fastest lap ever driven by a four-door car at the legendary Nürburgring test track in Germany.

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In the USA, Porsche’s forth model lineup sold nearly 6,200 in its first year of production. Porsche positioned itself with the sportiest automobile in the high-end and luxury-class market capturing already over 13% of the segment.

After 1600 miles of driving the Porsche Panamera S in the Midwest and Northeast I can say this is one of the finest luxury vehicles I have ever driven.

The handling is amazing thanks to the electronics offering changes on the fly in suspension. Normal settings are for comfort and crusing the highways. The seven-speed transmission changes its algorithms with the touch of a button. For the back roads for Nemacolin Pennsylvania the Sport and Sport plus mode allowed me to traverse the best winding roads one can imagine. The winding roads and the Laurel Mountains steep mountains allow for the Porsche Panamera to show off. The redundant controls on the steering wheel make it a real racecar. While turning through the winding roads I was able to move up or down through the gears easily while traveling at high speeds. Through the winding roads the seats are so well made they held me in place for action on the roads.

Click PLAY to watch the Panamera promo video

In Manhattan I was on 8th street and was behind two other Panamera’s. They are sold out at many dealerships in North America. Five superb models you can pick from. Every one was in Manhattan. From the Panamera and Panamera 4 with the 3.6 liter 300 horsepower six cylinder models to the more powerful eight cylinder models. The Panamera S, the Panamera 4 wheel drive known as the 4S, and the new Turbo Panamera 4 wheel model. The Turbo Panamera has 500 horsepower and only all wheel drive while the Panamera S and Panamera S4 offer 400 horsepower.

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The same transmission is used on all models and is the only one sold in North America. A ZF seven-speed dual clutch known as Porsche's PDK. Capable and this state of the art transmission is wonderful. In the USA we will not get the smooth shifting six-speed manual sold in Europe. But, the PDK is probably one of the best transmissions for a luxury sports car ever made.

The optional Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK), with both manual gearshift and an automatic mode, enables smooth gear changes with no interruption in the flow of power. This results in significantly faster acceleration and lower fuel consumption, without having to sacrifice the ease of automatic transmission.

In total, PDK has seven gears at its disposal. Gears 1 to 6 have a sports ratio and top speed is reached in 6th gear. The 7th gear has a long ratio and helps to reduce fuel consumption even further.

PDK is essentially two half gearboxes in one and thus requires two clutches – designed as a double wet clutch transmission.

This double clutch provides an alternating, non-positive connection between the two half gearboxes and the engine by means of two separate input shafts (input shaft 1 is nested inside the hollowed- out input shaft 2).

The flow of power from the engine is only ever transmitted through one half gearbox and one clutch at a time, while the next gear is preselected in the second half gearbox. During a gear change, therefore, a conventional shift no longer takes place. Instead, one clutch simply opens and the other closes at the same time. Gear changes can therefore take place within milliseconds.

The crankshaft transmits engine torque to the dual-mass flywheel which is then channelled through the clutch housing and onto the multi-plate clutches, or to be more precise, the outer disc carrier.

The advantage over a fully manual transmission is the considerably faster rate of acceleration for the same rate of fuel consumption. The advantage over a fully automatic transmission is the perceptible increase in driving dynamics – with a similar level of comfort, and a distinct reduction in fuel consumption.

The compact dimensions of the gearbox reduce rotational masses which means a more direct engine response, and the system is more lightweight.

This, along with the long-ratio 7th gear, helps to achieve reduced fuel consumption and emission figures comparable with those of a manual gearbox.

With the optional Sport Chrono Package, PDK is enhanced by the ‘Launch Control’ and ‘motorsport-derived gearshift strategy’ functions.

In essence, PDK combines sportiness with efficiency and comfort.

As mentioned I had the model with the optional steering wheel with superb paddle shifters making shifting a breeze. The standard steering wheel has shifters on the wheel but nothing like the optional steering wheels. For real driving experience step up to the optional steering wheel.

Porsche is pleased with the sales of the high-end turbo model. Sales in North America of the four-door powerful Porsche Turbo are much higher than expected. Porsche also decided that they were not going to use a VW engine for the six cylinder models. Instead they used the V8 that they produce in Zuffenhausen, cut away two cylinders and designed the V6 to fit into the Panamera. It is an amazing engine developing 295 foot-pounds of torque and 300 horsepower. The Panamera with the smaller engine many state handles even better than the eight cylinder models thanks to the lighter engine.

The Panamera S I drove for a week was loaded. It was only missing the optional rear view backup camera and lane departure control, plus adaptive cruise control. These can be added. The price tag for the Panamera S was $106,000.00.

Handling the highways was made easier thanks to the large wheels. The wheels had wide and tall tires wrapped over the alloy wheels. In the rear the wheels had the same rubber but one inch taller at 19 inch. From 1980’s to 1995 Porsche had anodized lug nuts. Why today are they so cheap? All four wheels had rust on the lug nuts. When you are spending this type of money get serious….give us anodized lug nut. Porsche probably offers stainless steel or even locking lug nuts that are anodized.

The extensive options include an exhaust system that is music to my ears. Not to the pocket book. At $2950.00 it is expensive but worth it to the Porsche owner.

With the optional exhaust system plus the premium package the price tag even moves further north. The brakes are superb but if you insist on the finest brakes from Porsche powerful Panamera you may purchase at $8100 ceramic brakes. If I had the Turbo Panamera I would definitely go for the extra $8100 ceramic brakes. This car deserves it.

The Panamera features an adjustable suspension, similar to those found on the BMW 7-Series and Audi S8.

The standard Panamera has a steel suspension that works well but if you wish to experience the best handling then the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management system is the best selection even at $1990. Full, load-bearing air-spring struts with integral dampers in front and separate dampers and air springs in the rear. "Sports Plus" mode lowers the vehicle 0.98" and stiffens spring characteristics while the manual lift function raises the chassis 0.78" up to 18 mph for high curbs and steep ramps. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) Including Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) Active anti-roll system comprising of front active anti-roll bars for reduced body movement when cornering, more comfort on uneven surfaces, and enhanced performance.

My tester also had the optional Sport Chrono Package Plus (for Panamera S and Panamera 4S). It is also available for the Turbo model. PDK is enhanced by a Launch Control function, which offers a sportier acceleration and gearshift stategy in automatic mode and the smoothest shifting when using the paddle shifter in manual mode.

In Philadelphia and Gettysburg as well as Pittsburgh I had people using their cell phone cameras to photograph the Panamera S. People were amazed that Porsche made a luxurious four-door sedan with the engine in the front. I spent a lot of time showing off the advantages of the Panamera S.

The sound system on the Panamera S included Satellite Radio, FM, AM, with Bluetooth, MP3 hookups. The Bluetooth connected easily to my new I4 Phone. This made it a great hands free communication system.

To save fuel now the Porsche Auto start/stop function saves fuel without interfering with your driving habits. If you decide to activate the system at a stoplight the engine turns off once you step on the brake. But, when the light turns green just release the brake pedal and the engine starts up. The USA model is turned off and only when the driver wishes to use it is it turned on. It definitely is a fuel saver.

To save fuel the design of the Panamera vehicles is a plus. Using aluminum and light alloys reduced the weight of the Luxury 4 Door Sedan.

In the fall of 2011 expect to see the Panamera Hybrid with a starting price of around $105,000.