Meet the Panamera 4S, a Porsche with few compromises

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I have been a Porsche purist since I was 6 years old. I saw a red 1992 Porsche 911 coupe at my kindergarten graduation and instantly fell in love with the perfectly sculpted headlights, the shape of the fenders, and uniquely positioned rear engine. After the graduation ceremony, I asked my great grandmother if she would buy me my first car when I turned 16. She replied “of course” and asked what kind of car I wanted… My response: “a Porsche.” Ten years later, I didn’t get a Porsche for my 16th birthday, but I have been a fan for over two decades.

In 2002, when Porsche introduced the Panamera, I thought it was silly. Porsche is the creator of high performance sports cars (and an SUV called the Cayenne). “The two vehicles could never live up to deserve the Porsche crest.” Boy was I wrong! The Porsche Panamera 4S is all Porsche, but with few compromises. Behind the wheel, your adrenaline kicks in as you hug corners with precision and then aggressively accelerate on the straightaways. But in the backseat, the kids, the family pet and your luggage are safe and sound.

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The Porsche Panamera 4S is almost two feet longer car than the 911, but it doesn’t feel like it. Looking forward you would think you are behind the wheel of a 911. The car is so well balanced, you forget the longer wheelbase and the fact that you are driving a front engine car. The car handles beautifully. The advanced all-wheel drive system delivers most of the power to the rear wheels, while giving just enough to the front wheels to keep you perfectly alined.

When you step on the gas pedal, you are instantly pushed to the back to your seat while 420 horses propel you from 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The model I tested includes Porsche’s PDK (dual-clutch transmission). With it, the Panamera 4S shifts as fast as you can push the paddles on the steering wheel. The feeling is absolutely incredible! The PDK transmission also makes the car three tenths of a second faster on and off the track. If you have the need for speed, the Porsche Panamera 4S is rated for 177.7 mph on the track.

Three drive modes are available: Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus. Each one can be tailored to your driving preferences. In Sport mode, the car opens up the exhaust, stiffens the suspension, and changes the gearbox timing. I drove in this mode 90% of the time during my one-week test. The car was aggressive, but comfortable enough for everyday driving. Sport Plus mode intensifies Sport mode by giving you an even stiffer ride, more direct steering, and harder shifts. It also lowers the height of the car to improve aerodynamics and lower the car’s center of gravity. Sport Plus mode isn’t for everyday driving – The car maintains high RPMs, which causes the car to jerk while shifting at slow speeds and it rides extremely rough. With that said… Sport Plus mode is a must for racing enthusiasts.

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The adjustable quad-exhaust on the Porsche Panamera 4S brings out the car’s true colors: In Sport and Sport Plus modes, you can hear the turbo-charged V6 engine roar as you step on the gas; it also increases airflow to deliver peak performance. In Comfort mode, the engine volume is suppressed to give passengers a quite ride.

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The Porsche Panamera 4S combines luxury and performance into one sleek package. Inside the car, you feel as if you just stepped into the cockpit of a fighter jet – the car is filled with airplane themed toggle switches and buttons. The leather wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, and brushed aluminum trim add to the sporty look.

Comfort is a priority with the Panamera 4S, you will find heated and cooled seats for the front and rear passengers, as well as multiple climate zones. You can easily fit four adults in the car without having to adjust the front seats. If you want a surplus of legroom, an executive version of the car adds an additional five inches to the rear.

The Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system featured a 7-inch touch screen display for controlling the radio, navigation system, and apps. It also comes with a special performance display to view, store and evaluate lap times. Using the system is intuitive, but it will take a while to get use to the controls. To my surprise, I found a handheld phone in the center console. By placing a SIM card into the PCM system, you can activate the car’s built-in cell phone. This was an awesome feature back in the 1990’s because it offered handsfree calling through the car’s sound system and improved cell reception, but its completely unnecessary in an age with Bluetooth technology. Calling friends and family over Bluetooth using my iPhone worked great!

The Porsche Panamera 4S car is ready for a cross country road trip or a day at the track. It is equally suited for both tasks.

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The Perfect Car…

The Porsche Panamera 4S gives you the experience of a 911, but with the practicality of owning a four-door sedan… In essence it is the perfect car. So the question is: For $98,000, should I buy the Panamera 4S or buy the equally priced 911 Carrera 4S? If you are buying a daily driver, get the Panamera. If you are buying a fun weekend car, buy the 911. Both are amazing cars.

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A special thank you to Porsche North America for loaning me the Porsche Panamera 4S for a week.

Photography by Kyle Coburn and myself.