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Porsche Panamera beats S-Class, BMW 7 series, Jaguar XJ and Maserati Quattroporte

On the 19th of April 2009 Porsche celebrated the World Premier of the Porsche Panamera together with selected international media representatives by bringing the car up 425 meters to the world's highest event platform on the 94th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center in China standing straight up in the freight elevator.

Later on in June 2009 Porsche invited the international media to get a first impression of the Panamera at the international media launch in Germany, where they had the chance to test-drive the Panamera on both the beautiful German country-roads as well as the famous Autobahn, which in most parts has no speed-limits and therefore is the ideal environment and road for testing such a luxurious sports limousine capable of going up to 303 km/h.

Several months later some motoring media from the Middle East and Egypt, including Auto Arabia, Akhbar El Youm and Al-Ahram, finally had the chance to see the Panamera for the first time and get a first impression on how it drives and performs.

Although it is very annoying for a professional motoring journalists in the Middle East to test-drive a new car several months after the international launch took place, it also has one advantage: You will be able to read what all the other international media wrote about the car before you drive it, and therefore you will be much better prepared then they were.

In my case it was very necessary to be well prepared, as we only had a few hours from 10.00am until 18.00h, during which I had to share the car with my other two Egyptian colleagues from the Akhbar Al Youm and Ahram Newspaper on the route from Dubai to Fujeira and back. That is not much time to get acquainted to the Panamera, especially when taking into consideration that this is a totally new model for Porsche and that it has so many different competitors, meaning the Panamera needs to be evaluated in many different ways.

The list of Panamera-competitors is as long as it is impressive. While the Panamera-designer Michael Mauer and Porsche Middle East Manager Deesch Papke consider the Maserati Quattroporte the closest competitor, the international motoring media consider much more models as the direct competitor to the different Panamera versions, such as the Mercedes E63 AMG, Audi RS 6, Aston Martin Rapide, Mercedes S500, BMW 750i, BMW 750i x-drive, BMW X6 M and the BMW M5 just to name a few.

A big and unexpected surprise to me was the fact that the Panamera did not win all the comparison tests in the renowned European magazines such as Top Gear and ams, especially since most new cars always win the comparison with their competitors who usually have been in the market for a few years.

In Top Gear it was the Maserati Quattroporte which won the comparison and in ams it was the Mercedes S-Class which won the comparison against the BMW 7 series and the Porsche Panamera.

So, how would the situation for the Panamera be in the Middle East where the expectations and automotive �requirements’ are quite different than in Europe and the USA? Well, that is what we will find out now.

We flew into Dubai in order to sit behind the wheel of the long awaited new Porsche Panamera. The regional press launch was hosted by Porsche Middle East & Africa in the UAE, to give the regional media a first hand experience of the Panamera allowing us to draw our own conclusion on Porsche’s new entry into the most exclusive sedan segment.

Deesch Papke, managing director of Porsche Middle East and Africa said: “We know that the media has been keenly awaiting the Panamera with a great deal of anticipation speculation ever since Porsche revealed the first sketches of the car. As when we launched the Cayenne, we were confident that once the media had seen and driven the latest addition to the Porsche family, they would know it couldn’t be more Porsche and that is a perfect addition to our existing product line up with outstanding performance and luxury�.

After a brief press conference with the Panamera-designer Michael Mauer, whom I had met the first time at the Mercedes SLK launch several years ago when he was still working at Mercedes Benz, we left the Jumeirah Towers Hotel with the first Panemera version we tested that day, the Panamera S4.

Throughout the journey it immediately became clear to me how the Panamera was a vehicle that confirmed my personal expectations: A comfortable and classy 4-door sedan with the pedigree, power and handling of the well-known Porsche 911, ready anytime for excellent and breath-taking performance when needed.

The test drive on the highways of Dubai and along Fujairah’s winding mountain roads was surely unique, but surely not the best way to demonstrate what Porsche’s new grand tourer can offer. A car with this superb handling, this impressive engine and a top-speed of up to 303 km/h should be tested and driven either on a German Autobahn or a closed racing circuit such as the Nuerburgring, Hockenheimring or even the Porsche Test Circuit in Leipzig.

Not only would that have allowed us to get acquainted better to the handling and performance of the Panamera, but it would also limit the risk of getting pulled over or having the car impounded by the local Police, as the UAE has a general speed-limit of 120 km/h on its highways.

Testing a Porsche Panamera at 120 km/h in the UAE might be okay for some life-style journalists from Oman or magazine advertising directors from Lebanon. But for a professional motoring journalist this is surely not enough, as the readers of specialized car magazines or dedicated automotive websites want to read how the car performs at top-speed as well as at its limits.

That is why I recommend Porsche Middle East, but also the rest of the automotive companies in the Middle East region, at this point to organize different events for professional motoring journalists on one hand and the other general-interest & lifestyle journalists on the other hand, as they have totally different expectations and approaches to such test-drives.

Porsche stated in its press release that the Panamera is a vehicle that alters beliefs, challenges the conventional and creates new standards. Porsche also says that combining performance with opulence; high-performance lines with supreme interior space and comfort; exceptional power with unparalleled fuel economy, the Panamera is a car of contrasts.

And that is very true. Having all these contrasts working so amazingly well with each other in one car is very rare to find in the automotive market.

Packed with true Porsche DNA and a wide range of innovative technologies including five world firsts in motoring, the Panamera combines the looks of a coup?©, the opulence of a luxury car, four-seater space and Porsche’s distinctive driving dynamics. Moreover, Porsche offers best-in-class performance with maximum fuel efficiency to make the Panamera a uniquely engineered sports car.

The Panamera fits alongside the 911, Cayenne, Boxster and Cayman ranges as Porsche’s fourth nameplate. It is available for delivery in three versions—the S, the 4S and the top-of-the-range Turbo.

Although I drove the Panamera 4 S for approximately one hour from Dubai to Fujairah, the Panamera S for less than one hour from Fujairah to Dubai and the Panamera Turbo for around 20 minutes downtown Dubai somewhere around the Jumairah Towers Hotel, still it was enough to get a first-impression on how these three Panamera versions will be able to withstand their competitors, such as the Mercedes S500, the BMW 750i, the Quattroporte or even the Mercedes E63 AMG.

After my three short drives it was hard not to be impressed by Porsche’s new saloon. The adaptive air suspension had little problems in dealing with heavy loads (remember we were THREE journalists in one car) and was easily smoothing out the few excesses of the Dubai-Fujeirah highway and some speed-bumpers which my colleague Nagi from Al-Ahram did not see in time.

The Panamera can be quite or loud depending on your state of mind, in case you order the optional �exhaust-button’ and you also have the option of tuning up your damping and responses by ordering the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control.

You change the setting of the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control through a collection of buttons on the centre console, which remind you elegantly with the buttons of the extremely exclusive and expensive Vertu mobile phones. I hope Porsche Design will offer a Porsche-edition with Vertu soon as it would fit perfectly with the Panamera.interior.

So, just in brief: the Panamera is much more appealing than the S-Class, handles and performs much better than the BMW 7 series, is much more comfortable than the Quattroporte, is much more elegant than the Jaguar XJ and not as aggressive and much more relaxing than the Mercedes E63 AMG and the Audi RS6.

The PDK transmission kicks down impressively smooth, something which the other passengers will surely appreciate. Talking about passengers and luggage space, the Panamera can only host three more next to the driver but there is enough loadspace for their luggage, especially when you fold down the back seats.

The steering of the Panamera is more accurate than most of its competitors and gives you a very safe feeling, due to the all-wheel drive.

In Sport Plus mode the Panamera provides the most fun for its lucky driver or lucky owner. The transmission locks out the final drives, makes the engine reach its rev-limits and sharpens up the most important parameters such as throttle and engine response.

It does not happen often that an experienced motoring journalists gets so impressed so fast by a car. But it happened with the Panamera on this short day.

Never before in the 61-year history of Porsche has the Stuttgart carmaker boasted a model range as attractive, powerful and competitive as it is today. A carefully conceived variant strategy and a wide range of customisation options combine to fill every customer’s requirements, no matter how unusual.

Through its proportions alone, measuring 1,931 mm in width and 1,418 mm in height, the Panamera is lower and wider than other models in its segment. Still, 1.80m or 1.90m tall passengers in the back will have no problems at all.

The car’s overall length of 4,970 mm gives it an unmistakable GT silhouette, especially with the short, sporting overhangs front and rear. The Panamera follows a Porsche design philosophy that has been refined over the decades on the 911 and successfully implemented on the Boxster, Cayman and Cayenne.

It comes with highly individual, strongly contoured air intakes instead of a conventional radiator grille. Strong wheel arches and the long and sleek bonnet typical of the 911. The strikingly, muscular shoulders over the rear wheels, the dynamic sweep of the coup?©-like roofline and the visible tailpipes continue to bestow the feel of its forebears.

The 4.8-litre Panamera S generates 400 hp through a strong, fuel-efficient, eight-cylinder motor that drives the rear wheels via a the Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK) dual-clutch transmission—featured for the first time ever in a large, four-door model in the premium segment—with seven gears, which improves the fuel consumption to a mere 12.5 l/100 km.

With its 500 Nm of torque from between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm, and an excellent 83.2 hp output per litre, the Panamera S can accelerate to 100 km/h in just 5.6 seconds, and continue to a top speed of 285 km/h.

Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe PDK also comes as standard on the 4.8-litre, 400-hp Panamera 4S, which also features Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and an intelligent all-wheel drive system. Like the S, it is capable of producing 500 Nm of torque between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm, but the 4S can hit 100 km/h in just 5.0 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 282 km/h. Its economy rating is as impressive as its performance, achieving fuel consumption of just 11.1 l/100 km.

The Panamera S will probably make the highest percentage among the Panamera sales numbers in the Middle East region.

With a 500-hp, eight-cylinder engine and bi-turbo technology, the top of the range Panamera Turbo, comes with PDK as standard alongside all-wheel drive. It generates 700 Nm of torque from 2,250 to 4,500 rpm—779 Nm with Overboost in conjunction with optional Sports Chrono Package Turbo in the Sports Plus Mode—and boasts a power output per litre of 104.1 hp. The Turbo produces scintillating performance with a top speed of 303 km/h and a staggering time of only 4.2 seconds form 0 to100 km/h. In spite of the Turbo’s performance potential, it still registers meagre fuel consumption of just 12.2 l/100 km.

The Panamera Turbo is something for absolute power- and speed-lovers. Its performance is just mind-blowing and can only be topped by a few super-sports cars in the market. Surely the best alternative if you want to distinguish yourself from the rest of the sport-sedan owners.

All models feature Direct Fuel Injection (DFI), low-friction drivetrains, and lightweight body technology. Even the Panamera Turbo weighs less than 2,000 kg, despite its wide range of standard equipment.

To reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions even further, all versions of the Panamera equipped with the PDK come with Porsche’s new auto start-stop function that automatically switches off the engine as soon as the car comes to a standstill—for example at traffic lights or in a traffic jam—then automatically starts the engine again as soon as the brake pedal is released. The result is a significant reduction in fuel consumption, particularly in city traffic. But the auto start-stop function will not be offered in the Middle East due to the hot climate and the almost permanent use of the air-condition in our region.

Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) is a standard feature on the Turbo and an option on the Panamera S and 4S. Its three manually adjustable control maps and frequency-specific damping provide a wide range of adjustments, from extra sporting through to extremely comfortable motoring. This is achieved through an adaptive air suspension with additional air volume that is available on demand in each air spring. In the Sport Plus Mode, the Panamera is lowered by 25 mm. I recommend you order this option if you are getting the Panamera S or 4S, as this feature will really make a difference.

Porsche Stability Management (PSM) provides an extremely higher level of supreme active safety, and comes as standard in the Panamera. This system comprises a whole range of functions, from ABS and anti-slip control (ASR) to engine drag-force control (MSR), automatic brake differential (ABD) and Brake Assist with pre-filling of the brake system. It also features a trailer stabilizing system, start-off management and halt management.

PSM is designed to intervene in critical driving situations when close to the limit by applying the brakes selectively in order to stabilise the car, thus offering an extremely high standard of active safety combined with the unique agility typical of a Porsche. The driver however has the option to deactivate the PSM, but I would be vey careful when doing so due to the immense power, especially in the Panamera Turbo.

The Panamera comes on newly developed 18- and 19-inch wheels, with unique, 20-inch, lightweight aluminium wheels available as an option. Each model runs on tyres of different size front and rear, which ensures that the wheels are properly matched to the needs on each axle, offering optimum traction, driving stability and steering qualities combined with supreme comfort at all times.

Available on the Panamera Turbo is an active aerodynamic system that deploys a multi-stage, adjustable rear spoiler. This (Three)four-way set-up raises and lowers based on driving conditions using the efficient management of control angles and surface geometry. This system not only adds to stability and ride comfort, it also helps further improve fuel efficiency, a theme Porsche has developed across the Panamera’s design and engineering.

An enhanced thermal management system controls the coolant temperature and quickly warms up the engine and reduces friction, and contributes to a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

From a design perspective, the Panamera was developed as a four-seater right from the start and boasts a unique interior that fits perfectly within the car’s niche. Despite its unusually low and stretched silhouette, the Panamera’s dimensions give generous room for all four seats.

A centre console extending all the way along the interior from front to rear highlights a personal cocoon for each passenger, a feeling that is continued with the four individually tailored seats. Low seat positions give the driver and passengers a direct feeling of the road that is typical of Porsche.

All models in the Panamera range come standard with sports seats for the driver and front passenger. Electrically adjustable in eight directions, these superior seats give excellent driving comfort in the Panamera S and 4S.

With the Panamera Turbo electrical seat adjustment is combined with a Comfort Memory Package, which also comprises seat-bottom extension, lumbar support, and electrical steering column adjustment.

At the rear, the two single seats on all models offer even tall passengers more than ample leg- and headroom. Further alternatives such as adaptive sports seats and electrically adjustable comfort seats in the rear are available on request. Finally, customers also have the choice of further options ranging from various types of leather upholstery to the keyless Porsche Entry & Drive system—which is standard on the Panamera Turbo.

All versions of the Panamera come with air conditioning that is optimised for energy efficiency, low weight and compact dimensions. The regular air conditioning featured as standard offers two-zone automatic climate control giving the driver and front passenger individual control of temperature, air volume and distribution. They have the option of entering their favourite settings manually via a control unit on the centre console.

Available on request is four-zone, automatic air conditioning with individual adjustment of temperature, blower strength and air distribution for each seat. With this, Porsche engineers have developed a sophisticated system of ducts that distributes the air individually at the right temperature.

According to Porsche, the Panamera sets new standards in its class in terms of audio and communication. The highlight is the seven-inch, colour touch screen fitted with both the CDR-31 audio system and Porsche Communication Management (PCM), including a navigation module.

The Panamera S and 4S come with the CDR-31 as standard, while the Turbo is equipped with PCM, with the navigation module available as an option on the other two models. Based on these sophisticated high-tech systems, the Panamera offers a large number of individual functions ranging from voice control through to Bluetooth mobile phone connections. Features extend all the way to an electronic logbook.

As an option, rear passengers can enjoy their very own personal entertainment in the Panamera, with Porsche Rear Seat Entertainment, incorporating two consoles integrated in the headrests of the front seats with swivelling seven-inch, TFT colour displays that integrate cordless infrared headsets.

Again, all functions are easily operated from a touch screen, with the additional option to transmit films or data from one screen to the other.

A premium Burmeister High-End Surround Sound System—the pinnacle in listening power and quality—is available as an option, while the BOSE Surround Sound System comes as standard in the Panamera Turbo and is optional on all other models.

The Panamera naturally features advanced safety concepts for passengers, with full-size airbags igniting in two stages depending on the severity and type of accident, and offering the driver and front passenger substantial safety and protection.

In the case of a less severe accident the occupants are held back in their seats by the airbags igniting to their first and softer stage, reducing the forces acting on the occupants. Knee airbags featured by Porsche as standard for the first time on the lower part of the instrument panel likewise serve to hold back the lower body of the driver and front passenger in a head-on collision whenever required.

Also featured as standard, the Porsche Side Impact Protection System (POSIP) comes with two-chamber thorax/hip side airbags at the front, integrated in the backrests at the side and is tailored specifically to meet collision requirements around the driver’s and front passengers’ hips and ribs. These side airbags are supplemented by curtain airbags extending along the entire roof frame and the side windows from the A- all the way to the C-pillars, as well as side impact protectors in the doors.

Side airbags at the rear are available as an option, while a roll sensor detects the risk of the car rolling over and automatically activates both the curtain airbags and the safety belt tensioners.

Such passive safety are extremely important in Egypt and many other countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which encounter some of the highest road-deaths and fatality numbers world-wide.

Porsche says that with its focus on safety and the environment combining with excellent performance and absolute comfort, the Porsche Panamera has worth been well worth the wait and that this four-door grand tourismo is a unique offering that sets the standard within its segment.

So, is that true? Well, yes it is!

The Porsche Panamera will unlike in Europe, set the bench-mark for its competitors in the Middle East, even despite the eyebrow-raising option list and the price-list. A lot of our loyal readers will now wonder and ask how that could be, especially since the Panamera did not set the bench-mark in Europe, according to some renowned European car magazines.

Well, the answer is very simple: In the Middle East and North Africa region other things matter when buying a car, such as prestige, reputation, quality and performance.

In the Middle East the main competitors will be the Mercedes S-Class and the BMW 7 series, since the Audi A8, Maserati Quattroporte and Jaguar XJ hardly play any significant role.

I personally would chose the Panamera anytime over the current Mercedes S-Class and the current BMW 7 series.

My personal opinion:
The Porsche Panamera regional launch in Dubai was very well organized and the hospitality of Porsche Middle East was unrivalled. It was probably one of the best, if not THE best launch event we attended recently.

Nevertheless I would have appreciate if Porsche Middle East could in the future try to include the handful of professional automotive media representatives and professional test-driver from the Middle East and Egypt in the international launch events and other events such as the Panamera Ice & Snow event in Finland, rather than inviting them to the regional launch events, simply because professional motoring journalists need to spend more time when testing a car and also need a speed-limit-free Autobahn or closed circuit when going to the limits with such sporty cars.

Life-style journalists and advertising directors are surely happy when they do not need to drive much, but professional motoring journalists are completely different and therefore should be in different groups or events.

I hope we will get another chance to test the Panamera in Europe or Germany where we could assure ourselves that the Panamera is indeed the benchmark-setter against its strong rivals and competitors such as the Audi RS6, the Quattroporte GTS, the E63 AMG and the Aston Martin Rapide.

I also hope that we will also have the chance to test-drive the all-new Cayenne on a German Autobahn or on a closed circuit rather than on speed-limited roads in the Middle East, especially since on-road performance is one of the main advantages of the Cayenne and because some Middle East markets are among largest Cayenne market world-wide.


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