When you're offered a chance to drive one of the rarest Porsches currently on the market; and not just drive it, live with it for a week while the owner was out of the country. Who says no? I certainly don't.
Note: To protect the privacy of the individual who graciously lent me the car, all of these images will be images easily found on Bing Images. I wasn't flown out by a company desperate for my services, no one paid me, no one even gave me a free diet cola. But hey, I did get to drive a $90k car for a week for the price of gas.
People say that the Porsche Panamera is a bastardization of the Porsche brand, that it doesn't belong, that it is an atrocious design. You know what I say? It's gorgeous. If you've never seen one in person you might think that the side profile is ungainly and bulky. But when you see it in person, I don't know how else to say it: it just works. On Jalopnik, people tend to claim they love hatchbacks and station wagons and the like: but the Panamera is an evolution of that design. It has a very large trunk, and with the split folding seats down you can easily fit a Labrador or two...in style.
I used the Panamera to buy furniture, a coffee table to be precise. The seats folded (note this was a 5 seater, not a 4 seater with a center console) and the table slid easily into the rear and I hopped in the driver seat, depressed the clutch and drove home with a huge grin on my face.
Here's the basics: I've driven a Panamera Turbo with the PDK, it's amazing. Faster than I could ever possibly imagine. Stoplight to stoplight I couldn't help myself from pushing sport and flooring it. But when I drove the V6 with the stick, sure the 0-60 wasn't close, but then again there was something that was so brilliant about it. The handling was tight, the steering response was great and the pickup and delivery was more than adequate.
The interior is a sight to behold, all Panameras have an interior that are just drop dead gorgeous. Sure there are a little too many buttons, but the effect overall is simply astounding. Porsche definitely put their styling dollars into the right places. The seats hug you as you go around curves, the audio system engulfs you as you listen to your favorite tracks, and the engine noise is surprisingly nice for an engine that is small considering the size of the car. I'll say this: I'm a believer.
The rear 3/4 view is obviously the most polarizing aspect of the exterior design. But when viewed in person it actually looks quite nice. Sure the C-pillar is a bit wide, but overall the design works. Whenever someone sees the thing on the street or the road, they ask what it's like to drive and want to ask a question or two. Some people tell me that they would rather it be a proper sedan, that the hatch is a bit much, but many people recognize how useful the hatch must be for day to day activities. So sufficed to say, I like it.
So naturally, the most important part: the drive. I drove the thing, a lot. I drove it along Highway 1, through rush hour traffic, through the Napa Valley and through the Santa Monica Pier (and promenade) and I took some back roads around Pasadena and Altedena. The car is extremely responsive, happy to rev match, clutchless shift (don't tell anyone I did this!), and any number of awesome overtake maneuvers. Where it really shines though is in the turns. On my way up to Wine Country, it handled the bends and S-curves like the Mini Cooper S I drove a while back: that is, like a rev happy Go-Kart just waiting for the next bend.
I really wish people would buy these, I know the market for a large luxo-barge with a manual transmission is extremely slim but I'm thankful that at least some of these made it off the assembly line and into the hands of happy enthusiasts. It's uncanny for me to think of another one of these will ever be made again, Porsche has all but announced that they'll be dropping the manual from both the Cayenne and Panamera. My advice? Buy one of these or a Cayenne GTS with a stick and hold on to it for as long as possible, maybe some day Barrett Jackson will label these a classic. Until then, I'm going to drive my car hard. I'm going to do some burnouts. I'm going to do a smokey tribute to Porsche and the crazy individuals who for a while stopped being a car company, and instead became one of us. An enthusiast.
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