Review: 2011 Porsche Panamera V6 – The Smart Man’s Luxury Sports Sedan

 

The Porsche Panamera V6 isn’t the 911 of sports sedans, but it is the epitome of sports and luxury in one package. Read on to see what I mean.

This test drive review of the 2011 Porsche Panamera V6 is sponsored by Compare the Market; a website dedicated to helping you find the best insurance quotes appropriate to your needs for car, motorcycle, van, home and life insurance. They search all of the world’s largest insurance providers allowing you to compare the best prices for your wants and needs.

The buzzwords are already starting to hit you, I’m sure. “Poor man’s Porsche”; “The guy who can’t afford the real Panamera”; “A wannabe 4-door 911”. Okay, maybe the last one is semi-correct. Many of my family and friends have mocked the Panamera by saying that it was a pointless Porsche. Something that didn’t need to be created. Why spend that much money on a glorified hatchback. Things of that nature.

But let’s be honest, when Porsche launched the Panamera, they expected good sales. Nothing stellar, but good enough to warrant it to continue being built. Well, in its first three months on sale in Europe and two months on sale here in the states, Porsche sold 10,000 units. 10,000… In under 6 months. By the end of the 2010 production year, it was already on the heels of the Cayenne, Porsche’s best selling vehicle.

So what’s wrong with that? Well many Porsche enthusiasts, especially the ones who can’t afford a Porsche, like to say bad things about the Cayenne and Panamera. They’re deviations from the ethos that hold true to a brand that’s one of the most recognizable and iconic sports car manufacturers. And they’re the most successful in sports car racing, too. We all know, though, that the Cayenne and Panamera make the Boxster, Cayman and 911 so much easier to produce and sell when they don’t have to be the only ones making Porsche money. The Panamera is already outselling itself from the same three months last year.

Now the V8 Panamera has been out for quite some time, so Porsche brought an all-new V6 to our shores late last year, and sales have already been going pretty well. But some people still aren’t sure if a V6 in a high-end luxury sedan is the way to go. I’m here to tell you that it is. And it’s better than you’d expect. In fact, the V6 may just be the better buy in general. Let’s start from the beginning, though.

When you see a Porsche Panamera you’re either filled with hatred or lust. I’m filled with a little of both. Hatred that my writing salary doesn’t permit me to go and buy one myself, and lust because I think it’s actually a very pleasant and unique design. People have argued with me about this, however. So some are filled with hatred for its radical design. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it to be one of the most polarizing vehicles on the road today.

Let’s look at it this way: Audi’s A8 is beautiful. So long as you’re not staring at its Battlestar Gallactica front-end. The BMW 7-Series is rather less drastic, and while attractive in many ways, isn’t the car you buy if you want to be different. Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class is no help, either. It’s rather confused on whether its a supercar first or a luxury executive cruiser before all else.

The Porsche Panamera is always a sports car first with every bit of the same luxury and amenities in a very close second. So it actually does the best job of not being confused on what it is. Unfortunately for me, Porsche gave me a color that doesn’t help my case that the car is attractive. But oh well.

The base MSRP of a Porsche Panamera V6 is a rather svelte $74,400. My car was lightly optioned with Ruby Red Metallic paint: $790; auto-dimming mirrors: $420 (really, not standard? Someone was doing a 4:20 when they priced this option…); heated front seats: $525; heated steering wheel: $250; 19″ Panamera Turbo wheels: $1,950 (seriously worth the cost); Bose surround sound: $1,440; XM radio: $750; ski bag: $405; Porsche crests on the front headrests: $285 (spend that money elsewhere). The total as-tested price of my 2011 Porsche Panamera V6 was a not too shabby $82,190.

Now while that seems like a lot of money for a V6 Panamera, I should start off with a quick story: In 2001, my father purchased a brand-new and beautiful BMW 740iL for a little over $72,000. That car had a 4.4-liter V8 that made 282 hp. Ten years later, Porsche is making a Panamera with a V6 that was more horsepower at 300, far quicker to 60 mph (6.0 seconds standard; 5.8 seconds with Sports Chrono package), and handles far better for $10,000 more. According to an inflation calculator, the Porsche Panamera V6 should cost $90,850.50 today to compare to the cost of the 740iL in 2001. It doesn’t. It’s faster, better driving, far better on gas, a bit prettier to look at, more modern, and will probably hold its value better, too. I’d say we can throw that in the winning column.

Engine:

Upon looking at the Panamera V6, you actually have no real clue that it’s not a V8. Unless you know to look at the exhaust tips and the Panamera badge for an S, you’ll never know, just like the people around you. Once you open the driver’s door and sit in the seat, you’re welcomed with this beautiful array of instrumentation that feeds you every bit of info you need. There are three main dials, one for the analog speedo, the middle being the tach and digital speed readout, and the right gauge showcasing valuable information as either a second navigation screen, vehicle information center, phone connection, radio, etc.

Before we jump into any of that, though, we should explain the V6 in this car. Firstly, it’s a 3.6-liter motor making 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, the same displacement and power output as the V6 in the Cayenne, except it’s a totally different engine. You see, the 6-cylinder motor used in the Cayenne is a joint effort with VW to share some production costs with the Tuareg, and it’s too narrow and tall of a motor to fit in the engine bay of the Panamera. So Porsche took the V8 in the S models, redesigned roughly 60% of it  -40% of the V8 and its functions, such as direct injection, variable valve timing and variable valve lift are shared between both engines. So this V6 is basically a smaller version of the 4.8-liter V8 used in the Panamera S and 4S models.

Styling:

The styling of the Panamera has been controversial since day one. A Gran Turismo style luxury sedan is never looked at as something attractive in this day and age. And in my opinion, I think the looks of the Porsche Panamera are striking and attractive. In the right colors the Panamera is very unique and has some rather excellent lines on it. Very artistic without being too blingy. Instead it’s very poetic when you see one driving down the road.

It’s odd, because I got lots of looks from everyone when driving around in the Panamera. Maybe it was because it’s a Porsche, maybe it was the guy who looked like Jesus behind the wheel (I’m cutting my hair for cancer), but without a doubt, people were pointing, giving the thumbs up, parking near it, and just generally being awe struck by the Panamera. And none of them had any idea it was a V6.

Now I live in an area of North Carolina which sees quite a few Panamera S and Turbo models rolling around. Not a lot, but enough to easily make the car not so surprising to see on the highway. And one day I was driving back from my buddy’s house and had to stop to get a car charger. I have a million and one chargers for my phone, but I forgot to put one in the Panamera that day. Anyway, so I pulled into a local Target on the back side of a medium up-scale mall in the area. And when I walked out of the exit doors, I looked down the aisle of cars in the parking spaces and saw this obvious butt sitting out that was the Porsche Panamera. What’s weird, though, is that I didn’t quite understand until that moment how much we’ve come to accept mediocrity with our car designs. There wasn’t one car in the parking lot that put up a fight against the Panamera for uniqueness or attention grabbing. Granted, this was a Target parking lot. But it was the same when I dropped my mother off at a very fancy, ritzy hotel, restaurant and day spa to have lunch with a friend of hers. Parked up front by the valet were a few newer Jaguar XJs, as well as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but pulling up in a Porsche Panamera V6, you’d think I had just lit a picture of the Pope on fire. The amount of glances and stares I received was rather interesting. Again, this may have been because people saw a young, hippie looking figure behind the wheel of a damn-near six figure car. But I’m going with my original thought: The Porsche Panamera V6 grabs attention no matter what’s under the hood.

Driving:

A Porsche in every sense of the word should always drive exceptionally well, and when they don’t, they get plenty of flack. The Panamera, though, has been getting good praise for its driving dynamics since the start. But when you drop a V6 into a big luxury cruiser, you usually don’t get the best results. Yet Porsche have taken the Panamera V6 and actually made it just as good, if not better, than the Panamera S models simply due to weight advantages. You see, the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder allows the front to be just a bit less nose heavy, so turn-in is a bit more sporty and reactive. But how exactly is the drive on the highway and back roads with this car? Well, since it only weighs around 3,880 lbs (the AWD Panamera 4 weighs 4,012 lbs), it’s quite brilliant. BMW’s 740i and Li sedan weighs about 4,400 lbs with a little extra horsepower but isn’t quite as sporty.

One great thing many won’t comment on is the gas mileage. I was able to easily achieve more than 400 miles to a tank with lots of sporty driving. But turn on the stop-start button (standard across the Panamera board in button form), and you’ll see that rise into 500s without fail. A near 50/50 split of fun and mpg driving yielded me about 540 miles to a tank of gasoline. Unfortunately, though, it only takes premium fuel and the tank is a small private plane at 26.4 gallons. So you’ll definitely be filling up for days and spending SUV money. At the end of the day, however, you get far more mileage than many Hybrid sport utes. And they’re far less fun to drive.

Porsche have made a high-end luxury car that weighs just about 100 lbs more than my E90 M3. Thanks to lighter materials, such as aluminum and magnesium, they’ve been able to make a more appropriate 4-door 911. However, if you want a 911, then go and buy one. The Porsche Panamera is great at carving up roads fast or slow, and while I had a smile on my face driving stupid fast down deserted back roads (closed course. Do not try this at home.), it wasn’t the same thrill as a dedicated sports car. It was still a rush, though, because it’s certainly better around any road or track going fast or hard into corners than anything else of this size and stature. Case in point, my father’s CTS-V will absolutely destroy almost any car that comes its way. With an automatic transmission, it’s akin to a small locomotive. It develops power like a Rolls-Royce powered jet. The Porsche Panamera V6, ironically, felt more planted, more in line and far better put together when it was handling the same hard twisties. Where the V will shake, rattle and make odd interior popping sounds, the Panamera is sound as a pound. And the brakes are rather good, too. They don’t stop you in an urgent way, but they’ll definitely put a damper on any speed you’re carrying as you roll past a hidden cop on the highway. Never had a speeding ticket before? With how easy it is to drive fast in the Panamera, you’ll get one quick if you’re not careful.

And when it comes to the ride quality, you’re not going to go wrong. While I just remarked on its sportier behaviors, the whole time you do anything in the Porsche Panamera, the ride is very supple. The chassis and suspension really handle most bumps of any sort without throwing the car out of whack. You can hit the biggest of holes or rough patches in the road, and of course you’ll feel it, but you won’t be uncomfortable to the point that your body takes any force. The steering wheel allows for a solid feel of the road, but not too much. And the car is easy enough to drive. Keeping one hand on the wheel is easy and allows for almost full control without issue.

There are some issues with the driving pleasure, though. When you need to look behind you for any reason, like, let’s say, backing out of a parking space… you have no idea how far anything is away from your tail. Looking through the rear glass gives no respectable perception of depth, and almost makes you go with the patent pending ‘just keep going until you hear glass’ method of reversing. Unfortunately this car doesn’t come equipped with a back-up camera, unless you option it. So that’s a must for any of you looking at this car. Also, when changing lanes you really have to take a few glances between your side-view mirrors along with looking a few times out the rear passenger windows. The c-pillar makes for some pretty hefty blind spots. I actually lost an 18-wheeler in my blind spots a number of times.

Interior:

When it comes to the interiors of their cars, Porsche haven’t always been a bit less frivolous than most sports cars. You got what you needed and not much else. It’s only been in recent years that they’ve stepped it up with gadgets and modern day electronic gizmos that made the every day shopper happy. The Porsche Panamera is nothing like this, however. Stepping into the cabin and seeing the F-16 fighter jet panel as the center console with a heavily weighted lever controlling the transmission is refreshing. In a day and age where buttons are about as evil as Bin-Laden, the Porsche’s Panamera have gone against this modern day crap and ended up with a button for everything you need to do. You can still control valuable radio and navigation functions from the touchscreen nav system, but it’s the array of pictured buttons to the left and right of the gearstick that makes the drive far more interesting. Most people had trouble figuring out what the hell most of the things did when they first got into the car, complaining that there was too much going on to concentrate on the air conditioning and driving at the same time. These same people also have trouble programming their DVR…

Sitting in any seat of a Porsche Panamera is a luxury; it’s behind the wheel where it’s a privilege and an honor. I drove my buddy around in the back seat for about an hour and didn’t care that I looked like Jeeves to those nearby. The driver’s seat, or the command center, as you could call it, allows you to do it all. To the right of the tachometer there’s a digital screen that you can have show you the current map and heading you’re on, you’re navigation instructions, radio information, trip and tire gauges, as well as your bluetooth phone that’s connected. What’s cool, though, is that if you have your phone connected via bluetooth it can tell you exactly what carrier you’re using. So using the steering wheel for your hands is great. As I previously said, you can drive with one hand, but when you start driving with two, it’s extremely comfortable nice wherever you put your hands.

The whole interior is filled with beautiful leather and some type of nice wood or piano black surface to take its place. Be careful when choosing a surface, though, because the piano black was hard to keep clean and scratched up with only 6,500 miles on it. Granted, auto writers aren’t the best at keeping press cars in nice, tidy order. Most of them could care less since it’s not theirs. Everything you touch is just well placed and in almost the perfect spot, except for the navigation knob. I found myself having to lean a little too far over to use this knob to input addresses, radio settings, etc. The navigation in the Porsche Panamera isn’t my favorite, either. In a day where you need to know where you’re going or re-route your trip around traffic, or see what roads you’re going to be taking, Porsche doesn’t make this very easy. It’s annoying, actually, especially while driving. There was an accident on a main highway that I was warned about, so I quickly took the nearest exit. Now I knew where I was, but i wasn’t sure how to get to my destination using the back roads, so I punched the address into the GPS, and guess what it gave me? That’s right, the highway. I tried to change it and make it re-route around the traffic, and it didn’t work. I eventually just used the roads I thought I remembered -which I did, luckily- while allowing the nav time to see what I was doing and help me out, but no. It just kept trying to dump me back on the highway. This guy wasn’t too happy nor impressed with that highway only feature.

As for the stereo: I’m not typically a big Bose audio man, but the sound system in the Porsche Panamera V6 is definitely crisp and clear. There’s not a lot of mid-range for listening to talk radio, but the clarity of it when listening to a good live album is fantastic. I could go for the sound to be a little louder, but with as clear is it was, I’m okay with it being this way.

Transmission:

A lot of good things have been said about Porsche’s PDK (their double-clutch gearbox). And I’m now one of them. It’s amazing, I must say. When you’re doddling along, it shifts like any normal slow slushbox would. The shifts are comfortable and easy, but not sporty, and you’re shocked that it’s not a pure automatic. But when you start driving the car harder and keeping the RPM up above 4,000, you notice it comes to life. Shifts are now bang, bang, bang; no lag. You push the paddle-lever things and have instantaneous shifts just blasting you through every gear as if you’re in an F1 car. Seven forward gears almost doesn’t seem pleasing enough, because you want to go through more. Up and down it’s just spot on; on point. Keep the Sport button turned on and the automatic will not shift the gears until you use less throttle. It’s weird, because most cars when you take your foot off the gas the car automatically shifts up a gear. Not the Porsche Panamera. It holds that gear until you put your foot back into it lightly, or until you turn off the button. However, the optional paddle shifters would have made this much better and easier. I found myself pushing and pulling the wrong button at a horrible time. Jerkiness ensued at times.

I’ve honestly never felt any transmission so seamless that allows for a maximum level of control by the user. While the Porsche Panamera V6 isn’t the 911 of sports sedans, it sure as hell is way more fun than it should be. So when you want to use the Porsche Panamera as a luxury cruiser, the gearbox allows for it. When you feel like showing off or having some fun on the back roads going home, it’s absolutely at home doing that, too. You won’t find a non-M, AMG or Turbo model four door that drives this perfectly from the transmission. I only wish we could have a manual transmission option like they do in Europe. I’d probably be one of three or four people that would go and buy one, but hey, that’s money you’re losing out on, Porsche…

Luggage Space:

One thing especially that everyone makes fun of is the hatch style rear-end on the Porsche Panamera. It’s not the best looking aesthetically, but once you open the rear hatch, you realize why it’s there. Getting luggage and bags into a conventional luxury barge can sometimes be a pain (that’s typically when you have your children do it. That’s what my parents did to me). With the Panamera it’s much more simple. Open the hatch, slide in whatever you’ve got. Here’s the kicker, though: it’s not quite as much space as a 7-Series BMW, S-Class Mercedes or an A8 Audi. However, one thing the Porsche allows you to do is stand luggage up straight instead of laying them down or putting them on one side (you need to take the cargo privacy thing out first to do this).

Granted, it’s not the most spacious of areas, but it certainly works for a few suitcases. It goes with my rule of thumb of whatever’s left is going on your lap. I didn’t really get a chance to use the luggage capacity of the Porsche Panamera. I really only used it for camera gear, laptop, etc. Folding the rear seats down is very simple, too. While it’s usually an option on most luxury sedans, the Porsche Panamera comes standard with this feature simply for that extra cargo room. Sliding things in is easy peasy, and because the seats fold flat, there’s no wiggling or jiggling to get something to sit properly.

After one week:

After all was said and done, I almost didn’t want to give the car back. I knew if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be that hard to get the car since Porsche knows where I live. Literally. So in the end, I enjoyed my time behind the wheel. You can drive the Porsche Panamera like its a sports car, or you can cruise along collecting good gas mileage. It’s almost perfect. And as one Porsche owner said to me after getting a ride in the car, “Anything more than the V6 is just for your ego.” Well said, good sir. Well said.

Click here to see the full 2011 Porsche Panamera V6 Photo Gallery

The Good: Charming dynamics; you’d never know it wasn’t a V8 from inside or out; performance is better than a V6 should be.
The Bad: Navigation can be a little awkward to figure out and work; not so hot soundtrack from out back; pricey options list; rear visibility not so great; don’t buy the V6 if you really want a four door 911.
The Ugly: People won’t understand why you’re paying $82,000 for a V6 Porsche, especially a Panamera; the styling is interesting to most.
The End: People make fun of those who buy the entry-level P-Car. Here’s one that actually makes sense. Better than the V8 models because of superb gas mileage -relatively speaking- with true Porsche sportiness. Get your Porsche Panamera with a backup camera, though.

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I'm a car, music, and Howard Stern aficionado. I also love planes, trains, anything to do with science and engineering, as well as politics. I'm working on my screenplays, TV shows, and a book or two. Stay tuned to when I'm really famous and even more awesome.

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  • JBsC5

    I know most buyers or those who lease like the v6 model…but have to say….if your going for this huge beast! Go for the V8 twinturbo or go home….JMO