Bucking tradition and the ordinary, the 2012 Porsche Panamera mostly succeeds in being an excellent large fastback sedan.
Porsche's Panamera combines sports-car handling with German engineering, controversial styling and, yes, four doors. It's not entirely new territory to Porsche, but it's the first sedan from the brand, and it has succeeded in expanding the appeal of the marque beyond focused sports cars and its Cayenne SUV.
For the 2012 model year, Porsche adds Turbo S and S Hybrid models to the Panamera range, but styling remains the same. The extended roofline, which is intended to evoke the fastback profile of the 911, jars some as being over-large, but everywhere else, the Panamera offers supersized versions of classic Porsche themes, from the headlights to the fenders to the tail. Inside, the cabin is elegant and sports car-like up front yet limo-like in the rear, with ample room.
Performance ranges from quick to blistering, with the base Panamera rated at 300 horsepower from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, up to a massive 550 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8 in the Turbo S. The new S Hybrid packs quite a punch as well, rated at 380 horsepower and 5.7-seconds to 60 mph while still pulling down 30 mpg on the highway. All models come standard with the excellent seven-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox, which clicks through shifts in automatic mode or with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual mode when equipped with the Sport Chrono package.
Cargo space is impressive with the rear seats laid flat and the hatchback-like rear profile opened up. Porsche claims two fully-assembled bicycles can fit in the space. The cabin itself is plush, with a dual character dividing the sport-centric front from the comfier rear.
Features are packed in as well, though it skips some of the high-tech safety gear found in some rivals, but what is there is commanded by a sea of buttons on the busy center console. Among the available features you'll find cruise control, dual-zone climate control, leather seating, a panoramic sunroof, navigation with customizable maps, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
The NHTSA and IIHS haven't rated the Porsche Panamera's crash safety, but available safety features include Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, which uses individual brakes to control stability and traction; rearview cameras; all-wheel drive; hill-hold assist; and optional rear side airbags. All Panameras come standard with dual front, side, knee, and curtain airbags, and an active pop-up hood to protect pedestrians.