Second coming

Everything’s new under the skin for Stuttgart’s next-gen sports-sedan

NATHAN PONCHARD

THERE’S a golden rule in vehicle development: don’t do everything at once. New platform, new body, new powertrain and a new factory – all at the same time – should raise a red flag larger than Uluru due to the potential for production catastrophe, yet that’s exactly what Porsche has done with its secondgeneration Panamera.

Thing is, the new Panamera is hardly a Hillman Imp or Alfa Romeo Alfasud – golden rulebreakers that recruited labour forces unfamiliar with factory work to ‘build’ cars in their greenfield production plants.

Porsche’s new-generation luxury flagship will begin life in a brand new production facility in Leipzig, purpose-designed to construct new high-tech mixed-material bodies before sending them next door for completion in the existing Panamera plant. (Previously, bodies were built in Hanover and transported to Leipzig.)

Porsche is making some grand

claims about the new Panamera’s abilities, too. In adition to “best-inclass comfort”, “best-in-class driverassist” and a “very unique, very precise, very lean” interior design, Porsche says the new Turbo will be the world’s fastest luxury sedan.

Or wagon, when the Sport Turismo version (hinted at Frankfurt 2012) surfaces further down the track.

Here’s a taste of what Porsche thinks a progressive luxury sedan should be. We’ll know for sure when it gets to Oz in early 2017.

Saves weight, not lighter

The original Panamera was already flush with aluminium (bonnet, front guards, doors and tailgate) but the new car’s entire side section and roof are now aluminium (saving 14kg), as well as its front body for optimised weight distribution. Uniquely, the firewall crossmember is ultra-highstrength boron-alloyed steel – the first time something of its size and complexity has been used in a car – while robots roll and glue the aluminium bodysides to the steel safety cage to prevent the materials from reacting against one another.

The body-in-white is 60kg lighter. Mostly aluminium front seat bases with lighter electric motors (all nine of them!) for the 18-way front seats save 8kg apiece. But, because 70kg of stuff has been added, the car weighs roughly the same as the old one (1870kg for the 4S; 1995kg for the Turbo).

Porsche’s all-new MSB platform can potentially accept four different wheelbases and up to seven different “top hats” (bodies), all capable of being built inside the Leipzig plants. The middle section (aluminium floor, steel tunnel) can expand or contract where necessary, while the rear section is a singular structure (aluminium on the surface, steel underneath) so the factory only has to build one type.

Active doors prevent swinging or knocking in strong winds, tight gaps and on gradients up to 30 percent, while an extendable rear spoiler lifts and separates (when in Sport mode or at beyond 205km/h).

Three new engines

Headline donk is a 3996cc direct-injection V8, featuring a pair of twin-scroll turbos mounted inside the vee. Iron-coated cylinder linings and short, flat chain drives reduce friction, while race-capable oil circulation primes the new Panamera Turbo for performance.

Punching out 404kW at 5750rpm (redline is 6800) and a chubby 770Nm at 1960-4500rpm, it nails 0-100km/h in 3.6sec, tops out at 306km/h and has lapped the ’Ring two seconds quicker than a 997 911 GT3!

Arguably even more gobsmacking is the 3956cc V8 diesel. With a pair of sequential turbos – a small one up to 2000rpm segueing to a larger twin-scroll one – this mega-diesel grunts 310kW from 3500-5000rpm and 850Nm from 1000-3250rpm, making Panamera 4S Diesel the world’s fastest oiler. Even at a hefty 2050kg, it will hit 100km/h in 4.3sec.

Base engine is a 324kW/550Nm 2894cc twinturbo V6. Re-engineered by Porsche, it’s from the same family as the 2995cc single-turbo unit in Audi’s S4, and good for 4.2sec to 100.

All Panameras debut a new-gen eight-speed PDK gearbox, which has been future-proofed for battery placement in upcoming Hybrid variants via four wheel sets, not two, making it 142mm more compact.

Suspension bridged

Porsche has grabbed every dynamic trick in the book – and them some – and thrown them at the new Panamera. Besides standard ‘PASM’ adaptive dampers, the Turbo adds three-chamber adaptive air suspension (with 60 percent more volume than a two-chamber set-up) and a heap of optional tech.

These include rear-axle steering (from the new 911 Carrera), Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport, which is an active anti-roll system that works in conjunction with the electronically controlled rear differential lock of PTV Plus.

All this is overseen by Porsche 4D-Chassis Control, which acts like a central “mechatronic” network and interconnects all dynamic systems in the car.

It also gets ‘active steering-wheel return’, which assists in self-centring the wheel, and a steering pulse to signal what the wheel direction should be on a split surface (say dirt and tar).

At its core, Panamera’s suspension consists of a re-engineered aluminium double-wishbone front axle with forged aluminium transverse links. At the rear is a compact multi-link arrangement with forged top aluminium wishbones and hollow lower aluminium wishbones.

Mixed-width tyres also feature, and measure up to 315/30ZR21 at the rear. The Turbo’s standard brakes measure 410mm in diameter up front (with six-piston calipers) and 380mm at the rear. Optional ceramic brakes get 10-piston front calipers.

Hook me up

What sets the interior apart is a stunning combination of warmth and texture with technical slickness, headlined by an enormous 12.3-inch touchscreen dubbed Porsche Communication Management.

Heavily inspired by smartphone functionality, PCM allows you to ‘drag and drop’ functions from a vertically scrolling side display (which will make the switch to right-hand drive, and contains more than 20 apps) to create a customised ‘My Screen’ display.

The screen can also be split (mixing, say, music with nav info) and it allows Google Earth street view when the integrated wi-fi is connected. Siri is also present, but because more than 90 percent of Panamera owners are Apple loyalists, only Apple CarPlay features (which Porsche claims almost no owner will use!).

PCM also allows you to punch in a nav direction (via a Porsche app) on your phone while having brekky, and the car will automatically be preprogrammed when you jump in.

In fact, there’s so much tech in new Panamera (like InnoDrive, which scans the terrain ahead via sat-nav) that it requires 112 electronic control units (up from 70) and 100 million lines of code (up from just two million) to tie it all together.