Maserati Quattroporte 2016 review
John Carey road tests and reviews the Maserati Quattroporte with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in Europe.
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Stephen Corby road tests and reviews the 2017 Porsche Panamera with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch in Germany.
Porsche's Panamera, a car that never really appealed to Australians but was widely loved globally, despite its droopy design, is back. And this time it's dressed for the ball.
To the purist, the idea of an overly large, hugely heavy car with seating for more than two adults is as far removed from what a Porsche should be as Electric Vehicles are from the Summernats.
But the reality is that the battle for the purity of Porsche was long ago lost to the pursuit of profit and profligate sales numbers. More than two thirds of Porsches sold now come with actual, human-friendly back seats and while the 911 might still be the figurehead of the brand, the small SUV Macan is far more representative of its present, and future.
Despite all that, the Panamera still sticks out like a sore, and possibly broken thumb in the Porsche line-up, even after seven years of existence, and more than 150,000 sales globally (it's done rather less well locally, scraping together an average of 100 a year).
Yes, the main problem is that, as even its own creators have been forced to admit, the original was a bit of a minger, inside and out, with a rear end that looked like a clay model left too close to a fire.
Then there was also the essential mystery of its purpose, in a post-Cayenne world. Surely, if you wanted a big Porsche that could take you and your friends or family from coast to coast you would just buy the SUV with the most (the most power, the most price tag, the most badge cachet).
The goal, overall, was to make the Panamera look more like the 911, an inarguably beautiful car.
Once again, though, this seems strange, because it doesn't offer anywhere near the kind of rear-seat luxury those other Germans do, nor the stylishness of other competitors, like Maserati's Quattroporte.
Or at least it didn't, until the arrival of this all-new, second-generation Panamera, which boasts a redesign so complete that it makes Renee Zellweger's revised facial features look subtle.
Clearly, the car needed a whopping facelift, although most of the design work seems to have focused on the rear - Ferrari took the same approach with its similarly scaled four-seat GTC4 Lusso; giving it a great ass and hoping people would forgive everything else - which now looks more Porsche-like.
The goal, overall, was to make the Panamera look more like the 911, an inarguably beautiful car, but the challenge was that a 911 is not over five metres long and well over 2m wide, nor does it have to sit four adults in comfort, or at all.
Admittedly, the final result is a huge leap forward from the original car, but it still looks, thanks to its dimensions, like a Porsche in an overly large suit (Talking Heads fans should picture singer David Byrne in his heyday).
The real highlights are the three-dimensional Porsche badge on the butt - a family feature these days - and the pop-out rear spoiler, which is supremely cool to watch if you happen to be behind one.
A similar amount of effort has gone into the interior, which is said to mark the debut of the new Porsche Advanced Cockpit, which arrives not so long after the 911 upgraded its whole Operating System and cabin look and feel.
It really is a beautiful thing, with a giant, old-school and non-digital tachometer flanked by slick digital readouts on the dash, and a whopping, lustrous 12.3-inch central touch screen in the centre of the car. Not only is this fabulous for showing satellite navigation and maps, it also offers the kind of interactivity you'd expect from an iPad Pro, with Twitter feeds, flight information, news headlines, fuel prices, and probably a digital kitchen sink.
It's probably best to have a co-pilot to operate it all for you, of course, because keeping your eyes on the road in a car as fast as the new Panamera is highly recommended.
Bells, whistles and new clothes aside, the car has also been comprehensively re-engineered, with three new engines - a twin-turbo V6 petrol and a V8 diesel for the 4S variants and a potent twin-turbo V8 for the Turbo model - and a new, eight-speed PDK, which manages to make the best dual-clutch gearbox in the business even better.
The Panamera's ride quality is excellent.
In pursuit of its more luxury-focused competitors, the sportier Panamera also gets new three-chamber air suspension, and a system called 4D Chassis Control, which incorporates all of the car's chassis-control systems, and its ingenious rear-axle steering (a $4900 option for Aussie buyers, rather outrageously), to provide the best possible combination of ride and handling for any conditions. And for whichever of the Comfort, Sport or Sport Plus modes the driver has selected.
Porsche's chassis experts admit they haven't quite matched the ride of an S Class, but say doing so was impossible because they also wanted their car to be able to lap a race track like a proper sports car. Again, why this was important, and whether anyone on Earth other than the Porsche test driver who set a pointless sub-eight-minute lap of the Nurburgring in one will ever do so, is just one of the many puzzling questions that surround this contradictory car.
All its buyers - and the new look has already been such a hit that 16 Australians have slapped down deposits, without so much as a test drive - will want to know is whether it drives as good as it now looks.
The answer, unsurprisingly is yes, of course; it's a Porsche, dummy.
On to a top speed of 306km/h, is a speed machine of the greatest hilarity. Every solid push of its accelerator makes you laugh, or at least snort in fear.
The Panamera's ride quality is excellent, the back seats comfortable and its ability to swallow huge miles - at huge speeds, if you're in Germany, where it truly belongs - is hugely impressive.
The Turbo in particular, with its 4.0-litre V8 huffing 404kW and 770Nm to push it to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds (0.3 faster than the old Turbo) and on to a top speed of 306km/h, is a speed machine of the greatest hilarity. Every solid push of its accelerator makes you laugh, or at least snort in fear.
A weight of more than two tonnes, and those sizeable dimensions, mean that the Panamera, as clever as its electrical systems no doubt are, is less at home in tight, twisty situations. It's not awful, by any measure, but there's no escaping the feeling of heft and width, and the steering feels appropriately heavy as well.
On a road with long, sweeping bends, however, you would be able to scare several kinds of hell out of your three passengers, should you wish, without ever alarming yourself.
The new Panamera, then, is a hugely capable, highly technological and comparatively beautiful car. It also remains a strange choice, perhaps made by people with a deep desire to make strange choices, so as to stick out from the crowd.
They'll need to be well-funded too, of course, with the range-topping Turbo a sizeable $376,900, the fabulously torquey diesel 4S at $312,400 and the base 4S at $304,200 (plus the rear-axle steering, obviously).
On the plus side, at least it's not an SUV.
|(base)||3.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$115,100 – 145,530||2017 Porsche Panamera 2017 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|4||3.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$122,000 – 154,220||2017 Porsche Panamera 2017 4 Pricing and Specs|
|4 E-Hybrid||2.9L, Hyb/PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$169,400 – 214,170||2017 Porsche Panamera 2017 4 E-Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|4 Edition||3.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$122,000 – 154,220||2017 Porsche Panamera 2017 4 Edition Pricing and Specs|