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29 Nov 2023

The third time’s the charm

Panamera Register Secretary Randall Flack reflects on the launch of the latest Panamera

New model launches from Porsche are eagerly anticipated events, none more so than the launch of the new third Generation Panamera. Originally launched in 2009 on the 94th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the Panamera was defined as the sports car in the luxury market. It was a bold move but one that made perfect sense. Some years earlier the Cayenne was born. It was what the market wanted, and Porsche had to respond. Likewise demand arose for a smaller SUV hence the Macan. Porsche ownership can now be enjoyed across all sectors.
The third Generation Panamera has some very significant updates in its styling, interior, drivetrains and chassis systems. First impressions from the livestream launch were that it seemed not too different to the current model, but having had the privilege of seeing the new model close up its clear that the small details make all the difference. This is a car that stands proud and is much more assertive than the outgoing model. The front wheel arches are higher and much more characteristic of the sports cars. Sat in the drivers seat they protrude and remind you that you are in Porsche. 
From there they flow into the headlight units, a new design based on that recently introduced on the new Cayenne. The bonnet is now more heavily sculptured leading down towards a revised front air dam. Here for me is the defining styling feature of the car.  Its much more upright and assertive, borrowing styling cues from the 992. Chiselled lines give a greater feeling of presence.  The upright design gives a feeling of dominance. Massive air intakes allow increased cooling. Form follows function. The revised front end just plants the car and in my opinion does so even more successfully than the outgoing model.
Moving along the side of the car the changes are subtle but effective. Its all about proportions and stance provided by the crease lines.  A new interpretation of the front wheel vent is provided, not dissimilar to the Taycan. This has tidied up the side profile. No adornment is necessary. If you look closely you can see the window line on the rear quarter has been given a distinctive downward tuck. On first sight it seemed contrived but when standing back its function becomes clear as part of giving the rear a more downward and planted feel.
As you might expect Porsche have introduced a new range of wheel designs for the new car and for the first time the high-performance models can be fitted with their beautiful centre lock wheels, normally reserved for Porsches GT models. Carbon Ceramic brakes are also an option.
The rear of the car is defined by a full width light bar. This is no surprise but its design is simpler and cleaner than before. With the window line, it adds to gives the rear a slightly less upswing appearance, giving the car much more visual balance. Coupled with a re-sculpted rear bumper and diffuser the car looks better planted with an improved and confident stance. Fans of the turbo’s split rear spoiler are not disappointed. This piece of theatre is retained and for good reason - this is a fast car. Those of you who would prefer the Sport Turismo bodyshell will however be disappointed as there are no plans for a ST version.
In the interior everything feels fresh and modern yet with a familiar and reassuring feel. Quality is superb. This is a driver’s car with all the driving controls falling within easy reach. Taking centre stage is a digital rendition of the classic analogue tachometer, part of a digital driver’s instrument panel not dissimilar to that found on the Taycan and Cayenne. The flexibility to display relevant information in a clear and concise manner is a step forward with context sensitive displays depending on driving mode. I was initially apprehensive about the lack of binnacle above the drivers display but needn’t have worried. The steering wheel acts to perfectly frame the display and you are not aware of its edges. Above the centre console a large display acts as the main interface for all infotainment and climate controls. Presentation is clear and logical and is the heart of the car’s digital connectivity. In my brief association it was responsive and logical. The centre console no longer hosts the gear selector, which has been moved to the dash. 
While this may offend some of the purists, to be fair it’s not a control you need to access often with the PDK box doing all the work. The centre console itself, while including the centre climate vents, includes an air-cooled charging station for your phone. Two cup holders are provided as well as a centre rest storage area. Overall, the centre console has been cleaned up while retaining some lovely knurled analogue controls for the climate control.
That said, the cover for the phone compartment presents slightly too large an area for the use of the piano black finish and I would of preferred something of more importance to take an the area of valuable real estate in place of the vacation of the gear selector. On the passenger side a optional screen can display various car functions and infotainment controls to the passenger.  Apparently it can also display online videos. Seats are very comfortable and the new LED cabin lighting which wrapped around each occupant gave a feeling of opulence and space.
Moving to the rear, I noticed that you can specify a third seating position. This is a welcome option.  There is also increased legroom which made rear entry and exit considerably easier. Finally, Porsche are introducing an enhanced customisation capability where you can work with the factory to customise your car to your individual wishes. This will provide an enhanced level of exclusivity not before seen done at this scale.
Drivetrains and engines have had a through refresh with engines complying with Euro 7 emissions requirements.  As a part of Porsches transition to a net carbon neutral requirements by 2030 an additional hybrid model is being introduced in addition to the existing range.  Each model promises extra power and refinement. A larger capacity battery is fitted with improved performance with range increased in battery mode by 70%. The PDK is all new with the electric motor now oil cooled and integrated into the gearbox.
The biggest change under the skin is the option of the Porsche Active Ride System.  This promises better control of pitch, dive and roll, cornering loads and ride comfort. Dynamic ride height adjusts with the drive mode and the car is able to raise on passenger entry. I’ll look forward to trying these features out when I get a first drive.
Meanwhile, I can confidently predict that Porsche have moved the luxury car agenda on again. This car has stance and presence. Its sharper lines eschew some of the organic lines of its predecessor making it much more dominant. This is not a revolution but a sophisticated evolution. Any debate on whether or not this is a new car or not is irrelevant when you see it. This Panamera stands proud deservedly on merit with Porsche’s new flagship; the definition of sports car luxury in terms of driving dynamics, driving performance, comfort, quality, and individualisation.

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