If there has ever been a car that didn't need an update, it's the 2014 Porsche Panamera. The four-door wunderkind has wowed us for years with its inconceivable blend of top-shelf luxury and sports car dynamics, and there's still nothing for the money that can touch it. But Porsche knows how German engineers operate: If you don't give them something useful to do, they'll end up building the world's most intricate glovebox hinges or something. So they were tasked with making the Panamera meaningfully better for 2014, and early signs suggest that they've done just that.
Perhaps the most significant change is the new Executive body style, a nod to the burgeoning market for long-wheelbase luxury cars, particularly in China. With an additional 5.9 inches between the wheels, the Panamera Executive makes Porsche's luxury liner more competitive against its long-wheelbase German and Japanese peers. Also of note is the new Panamera S E-Hybrid, which does the outgoing S Hybrid one better by providing plug-in functionality with about 20 miles of pure electric driving range. With sales of the electric Tesla Model S picking up steam, the plug-in Porsche's timing is impeccable.
We'd like to observe a moment of silence, however, for the passing of the sublime naturally aspirated V8 that formerly powered the Panamera S and 4S models. Sure, the replacement twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is both more powerful and more efficient, but that high-revving V8 helped solidify the link between the Panamera and Porsche's sports car heritage. Happily, it lives on in the edgy GTS model -- which is up 10 horsepower to 440 -- but we'll miss its effortless, melodic thrust on the other trims.
In any case, the 2014 Porsche Panamera is a very special car. Of course, every flagship luxury sedan in this price range is pretty special, so you'd do well to sample the Audi A8 and S8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz S-Class as well. But whether or not its updates were strictly necessary, the 2014 Panamera is undoubtedly another winner for Porsche, making the company's strongest case yet for executive-class supremacy.
The 2014 Porsche Panamera is a four-door, four-passenger sedan with a hatchback-style trunk. There are no fewer than nine trim levels: base, Panamera 4, S, 4S, S E-Hybrid, GTS, Turbo, and the extended-wheelbase 4S Executive and Turbo Executive.
The base rear-wheel-drive Panamera is powered by a V6 and includes 18-inch wheels, auto-leveling bi-xenon headlights, LED headlight and taillight accents, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, a power rear liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, a chilled glovebox, partial leather upholstery and a 60/40-split rear seatback. Also standard are a 4.8-inch driver information display, a navigation system with a center-mounted 7-inch display, Bluetooth and an 11-speaker sound system with a USB/iPod interface. The Panamera 4 differs only in that it has all-wheel drive.
The Panamera S and all-wheel-drive 4S include all of the features found in the non-hybrid base V6 models and add adaptive headlights, a twin-turbocharged V6 and adaptive suspension dampers.
The plug-in Panamera S E-Hybrid adds an adaptive air suspension (also standard on GTS, Turbo and both Executive models), hybrid-specific gauges, the Porsche Car Connect interface with various remote Hybrid functions via smartphone app, and Servotronic or "Power Steering Plus" speed-sensitive steering assist (optional on other Panameras).
The GTS boasts a naturally aspirated V8 along with many items shared with the Turbo, including LED air-intake and exterior-mirror lights, 19-inch wheels, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and a simulated suede headliner. The GTS is also the only Panamera to receive a sport exhaust system, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, simulated suede/carbon-fiber cabin accents, and 18-way adaptive sport seats with memory functions as standard.
As its name suggests, the Panamera Turbo adds a turbocharged V8 along with keyless ignition/entry, 14-way power front seats with memory functions, expanded driver memory functions, heated front and rear seats, a full leather interior, and a 14-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with satellite and HD radio.
New for 2014, the 4S Executive and Turbo Executive offer all of the features of their smaller equivalents plus a 5.9-inch longer wheelbase, a standard adaptive air suspension (it's optional on the regular 4S), thermally and noise-insulated glass, soft-close doors, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, a rear interior lighting package, eight-way power rear seats, power rear and rear side sunshades, and four-zone automatic climate control (optional on other Panameras).
In typical Porsche fashion, a lengthy and expensive list of options provides buyers with virtually endless customization options, including adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, ceramic-composite brakes, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (adaptive antiroll bars and a limited-slip rear differential), a heated steering wheel, a rear-seat entertainment system, rearview and 360-degree surround-view cameras, voice control, a 16-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system and a refrigerated rear compartment that includes two drinking glasses engraved with the Porsche crest and logo.
The Sport Chrono package -- standard on GTS, optional on the rest -- adds analog and digital stopwatches along with a "Sport Plus" driving mode with launch control. The Sport Design package dresses up the Panamera's exterior with a special front fascia with wider intake grilles and side skirts. You can also customize practically every interior surface with leather, wood, metal, carbon fiber or paint.
From the driver seat, there's no mistaking the Panamera for anything but a Porsche. The tachometer is centered in the brand's trademark five-ring instrument cluster, flanked by the speedometer, a multifunction display and supporting gauges. The snug driver seat and high center console add to the sporting ambience. Notably, the latest 911 and other Porsche products share this console design, but the Panamera came first. Fancy that: a 911 taking cues from a four-door hatchback.
The Panamera lacks a knob-based control system like BMW's iDrive, and as a result, there are more than 80 buttons and knobs littering the cockpit. Fortunately, these buttons are logically grouped and placed, and after a short time, operation becomes intuitive. Some might even find the multitude of controls preferable to shuffling through multilevel on-screen menus, although the standard touchscreen display gives you opportunities to do that, too.
All four seats are similar in appearance and comfort, with integrated headrests and excellent support for both aggressive cornering and long-distance touring. The standard Panamera's rear quarters provide enough room for tall adults, and the seats can be fitted with options to make them power-adjustable, heated and cooled. The stretched-wheelbase Executive models, meanwhile, give rear passengers enough room to cross their legs. Keep in mind, however, that it still feels as if you're sitting in the back of a really large sports car rather than a traditional full-size luxury sedan: Intrusion from driveline components makes for a narrow occupant compartment, and the seats themselves are mounted low, so it's tough for rear passengers to see out the front of the Porsche sedan.
The hatchback-style trunk limits rear visibility, but it does allow standard Panameras to hold up to 15.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 44.6 cubes with the rear seatbacks folded flat. Executive models offers slightly more total cargo capacity, but the S E-Hybrid drops to 11.8 and 40.7 cubes, respectively. No matter the model, the hatch opening is a bit narrow, and the high cargo bed isn't very receptive to bulky items.
The rear-wheel-drive base Porsche Panamera and all-wheel-drive Panamera 4 are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 310 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds testing, an earlier Panamera V6 with 10 fewer hp accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.
Like every non-hybrid Panamera, these entry-level V6 models feature a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission known as PDK. Automatic engine stop-start functionality is standard to help conserve fuel on all models as well, and you'll notice that with Porsche's system, the engine will sometimes shut off before you come to a full stop to maximize efficiency.
The rear-wheel-drive Porsche Panamera S and all-wheel-drive 4S get a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 for 2014. Rated at 420 hp and 384 lb-ft, this motor should be good for 0-60 sprints in the mid-4-second range, according to Porsche, which is comparable to the outgoing V8-powered 4S.
The rear-wheel-drive GTS retains its 4.8-liter V8 and gets a boost to 440 hp this year; the torque rating of 384 lb-ft is unchanged. We ran the previous 430-hp GTS to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds.
The all-wheel-drive Panamera Turbo gets a twin-turbocharged version of the same V8 for a grand total of 520 hp (20 more than last year) and 516 lb-ft of torque. The optional Sport Chrono package temporarily increases maximum torque to 568 lb-ft. Acceleration is supercar-grade, with 60 mph attainable in well under 4 seconds. If you're looking for the Turbo S, it's on vacation this year. Watch for a comeback in 2015.
Finally, the rear-wheel-drive plug-in Panamera S E-Hybrid receives an Audi-sourced supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that's paired with a 95-hp electric motor for a combined maximum output of 416 hp and 435 lb-ft, up from 380/428 in last year's Hybrid. Boasting a much larger lithium-ion battery pack this year, the S E-Hybrid can travel an estimated 20 miles on pure electric power at speeds up to 84 mph, and a full recharge can be achieved in 2.5 hours on 240-volt current. The only available transmission is a conventional eight-speed automatic with manual shift control. Porsche estimates a 0-60 sprint of 5.2 seconds, which is roughly a half-second quicker than the old Hybrid. The plug-in Panamera also has an EV driving mode, but it's intended more for putting along in the city than sustained highway use: It takes more than twice as long to reach 60 mph in all-electric mode.
The 2014 Porsche Panamera is one of the most engaging four-door cars we've ever driven, and that's especially high praise given that the Panamera is as wide as a Mercedes S-Class. So many cars have been said to "shrink around you at speed" over the years that the phrase has become almost meaningless, but seriously, the Panamera could be the dictionary definition of that phrase. We've driven a Panamera Turbo through corners at speeds that should have frightened us, and instead we felt as secure as we would have in a 911 Turbo.
It's the Panamera's dual personality, though, that really sets it apart. This thing isn't just one of the world's most capable performance cars -- it's also one of the most refined and luxurious executive sedans on the market. Depending on the driving mode you select, the Panamera's character ranges from supple highway cruiser ("Normal" mode) to track-day superstar ("Sport Plus" in models with the Sport Chrono package), with numerous options in between. Even the S E-Hybrid is a hero, remaining smooth and nearly silent in electric-mode operation but capable of strong acceleration whenever the mood strikes.
Every 2014 Porsche Panamera comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Ceramic-composite brakes and a rearview camera (with or without surround-view functionality) are available.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Panamera 4S and Turbo models with standard brakes stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet and 112 feet, respectively. A GTS equipped with carbon-ceramic brakes stopped repeatedly in 110 fade-free feet.
Major changes come the Porsche Panamera's way for 2014, as the lineup expands to include a long-wheelbase Executive body style and a plug-in S E-Hybrid variant. A new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 for non-hybrid S trims replaces the previous naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V8, and all models get standard variable-ratio steering. There are also a few subtle styling tweaks, including a new trunk lid. Finally, the Turbo S model takes the year off, but the base, GTS and Turbo models receive slight power bumps.