The 2014 Porsche Panamera is all about making a good thing even better. Let's be honest: Since its inception in 2010, the 4-door, 4-seat Panamera hatchback has been one of the very best cars in the world. In other words, Porsche could have stood pat for 2014 and still had a fighting chance against any executive-class car on the market. But that's not how this business works, so the 2014 Panamera boasts a bunch of improvements that make it faster, roomier and generally more appealing.
What's New for 2014
Although it utilizes the same basic platform as before, the Panamera receives significant changes for 2014, including a long-wheelbase Executive model, a plug-in S E-Hybrid that supplants last year's conventional hybrid and a new twin-turbocharged V6 in place of the outgoing S model's 4.8-liter V8.
What We Like
Incredible handling for an executive car; potent acceleration; luxurious accommodations for four; plug-in hybrid with full electric capability; available long-wheelbase model
What We Don't
Styling remains controversial; only seats four
The base 2014 Porsche Panamera (rear-wheel drive) and Panamera 4 (all-wheel drive) feature a 310-horsepower V6, while the Panamera S and 4S receive a new twin-turbocharged 420-hp V6 for 2014. The plug-in Panamera S E-Hybrid is powered by a supercharged V6 and a 95-hp electric motor that produce a total of 416 hp. The GTS has a 440-hp V8, and the Panamera Turbo rocks a 520-hp twin-turbocharged version of that V8.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy estimates were still being calculated at the time this article was written, but we can tell you that the base 2013 Panamera garnered an impressive rating of 18 miles per gallon city/27 mpg highway, with the GTS dropping to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy and the Turbo to 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy. Those numbers shouldn't change much, though the new V6-powered S and 4S should improve on the 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy rating of their V8-powered predecessors.
As for the plug-in S E-Hybrid, it provides a larger lithium-ion battery pack than last year's non-plug-in hybrid model, which enables it to cover roughly 20 miles on battery power alone at up to 84 miles per hour. If you have access to a 240-volt charging station, the S E-Hybrid's depleted battery pack can be recharged in just 2.5 hours.
Note that all Panameras utilize a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as PDK -- except the Hybrid, which employs a conventional 8-speed automatic.
Options & Standard Features
The base Panamera ($79,075) comes with a V6 engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED accent lighting, a power-operated hatchback, auto stop/start, a moon roof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power front seats, Bluetooth, a USB port, a 7-in infotainment display with a hard-drive-based navigation system and an 11-speaker audio system. The Panamera 4 ($83,775) adds all-wheel drive.
The Panamera S ($94,175) and all-wheel-drive Panamera 4S ($99,275) step up to a powerful twin-turbocharged V6, adaptive headlights and driver-adjustable suspension settings.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid ($99,975) boasts the advanced plug-in hybrid system described above, hybrid-specific instrumentation, an air suspension, the Porsche Car Connect interface (including a Hybrid-specific smartphone app) and speed-sensitive power steering that's optional on other models.
The Panamera GTS ($114,375) features a V8 engine, extra LED accent lights, 19-in wheels, upgraded brakes, a sport exhaust system, a power tilt/telescopic SportDesign steering wheel with paddle shifters and 18-way adaptive sport seats.
The Panamera Turbo ($142,275) offers many of the GTS model's performance-oriented features along with a stronger turbocharged V8, keyless ignition/entry, 14-way power front seats, extended leather trim and a 14-speaker Bose audio system. Notably, the Turbo's Sport Chrono package (also available on other Panameras) adds not only a racy acceleration stopwatch but also an extra dollop of torque at full throttle.
The Executive models, meanwhile, boast exclusive features such as a wheelbase that's 5.9 inches longer (for increased rear legroom), self-closing doors, a standard air suspension, thicker glass, heated and cooled front and rear seats, 8-way power rear seats, a rear vanity mirror, power sunshades and 4-zone automatic climate control. Two trims are offered: 4S Executive ($126,575) and Turbo Executive ($162,075).
As we've come to expect from Porsche, there's a never-ending list of options for the Panamera. Highlights include adaptive cruise control, an adaptive performance suspension with a limited-slip rear differential (aka, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), a rear entertainment system, a 360-degree rearview camera and a high-end Burmester audio system.
Cargo capacity in the regular Panamera models measures 15.7 cu ft behind the rear seats and nearly 45 cu ft with the rear seat backs folded down, though the S E-Hybrid manages a bit less: 11.8 and 40.7 cu ft, respectively. Porsche hasn't specified the maximum cargo capacity of Executive models, but there should be slightly more of it due to the longer wheelbase.
The Panamera comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control and 10 airbags (front, front side, front knee, rear side and full-length side curtain). The optional ceramic-composite brakes add a hefty sum to the bottom line but also improve stopping power significantly.
The Panamera had not been crash tested at the time this article was written.
Behind the Wheel
The Panamera's cabin is largely unchanged for 2014, and we're not complaining. Other than the initially overwhelming array of buttons (unlike most rivals, the Panamera does not employ a knob-based infotainment interface), this is a thoroughly enjoyable driving environment. The materials are exceptionally nice, and four adults can ride in supreme comfort for many miles. The new Executive models increase rear legroom, of course, but it's not like the regular Panamera lacked passenger space to begin with. Forget about the Spartan appointments that Porsche's 911 sports car used to be known for, because the Panamera has one of the nicest interiors on the market, bar none.
Once you hit the gas, though, you'll likely forget about all those luxuries, because the Panamera provides a driving experience like no other. Imagine a car the size of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class that handles like a compact sport sedan and you'll start to get the idea. Even the base V6 is respectably quick, but we recommend at least the new turbocharged S and 4S models for full enjoyment. Our favorite remains the GTS with its naturally aspirated V8, though of course the Turbo is a hoot in its own right -- and the seriously fast S E-Hybrid brings unprecedented performance to the plug-in hybrid segment. Are you sensing a theme here? You really can't go wrong with any of the Panameras in Porsche's stable. This is an amazing car.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi A8 -- With standard all-wheel drive and sophisticated style, the A8 is a formidable foe.
BMW 7 Series -- It's not as sporty as it used to be, but the 7 Series has an excellent range of powertrains and an opulent interior to boot.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class -- The stately S-Class is about to be redesigned, so we expect great year-end deals on the outgoing model.
Tesla Model S -- If your lifestyle allows for an electric car, the Model S has all the bases covered, and it's made right here in the USA.
We love the extroverted GTS model's unique combination of sports-car attitude and executive-class luxury. It's one of our favorite cars, period.