First Look: 2010 Porsche Panamera

For Porsche, the Porsche 911 has been both a blessing, and a curse. A blessing in that it has seems to have transcended the usual automotive evolutionary process; a curse in that the car still, in many ways, defines the entire company. Porsche has attempted to break the mold numerous times over the past three decades -- remember the 928, and the 924/944/968? But until the Boxster -- a clever product development by former R&D chief Horst Marchart that delivered two cars (the 996 edition 911 and the Boxster) -- Porsche remained in the thrall of the 911.

Today, Porsche still fields a line-up of cars that is 75% rear-engined. Which makes the new Panamera -- a front engined, four door sports Porsche -- a bold move, despite the success of the Cayenne SUV. When it hits the market next year, the Panamera will be fighting a two-front battle against the Aston Martin Rapide from the north and more than likely Lamborghini Estoque from the south in a few years' time (though Lambo boss Stefan Winkelmann insists the car has yet to be given the green light). The four door sports car category is brand new, but already the field is getting crowded.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo

You need to understand two important things about the Panamera's development. First, Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking, who's 6ft 2 in., insisted he had to be able to sit comfortably in the back seat. Second, it had to look like a Porsche. Those two facts drove the entire program -- and are the reason why the Panamera looks slightly awkward in profile.

The top-end Panamera-variants will do battle with upper crust four-door coupes like the Aston Martin Rapide
At 195.7 in., the Panamera is longer than a Cayenne by 6.9 inches and almost the exact same width at 76 inches to the Cayenne's 75.9. It's no SUV though, standing only 55.8 inches tall. Porsche hasn't released the Panamera's weight, but despite its dimensions, insiders insist extensive use of materials such as aluminum and magnesium mean the car will be among the lightest large four doors in the business.

Performance will be impressive, thanks to a line up of direct injection engines derived from those used in the Cayenne SUV. Base engine will be a 300hp, 3.6-liter V-6. The volume selling version in the U.S. is expected to be the 400hp, 4.8-liter naturally aspirated V-8. Power junkies will be lining up for the V-8 Turbo, which will boast 500hp. Despite their outputs and performance, all the Panameras will be significantly more fuel efficient than similarly powered S-Class Mercedes or BMW 7 series sedans, insiders claim.


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