The 2013 Panamera GTS I drove is a newcomer to the model's lineup. This year, the Panamera is available in five trim levels: the base Panamera, the S, the GTS, the Turbo and the Turbo S. The Panamera and Panamera S come with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, while the GTS and the Turbos are exclusively all-wheel drive. Apart from the new GTS, changes between the 2012 and 2013 versions are few (see them compared here).
In my opinion, the Panamera has no direct competitors, but shoppers are likely to consider it alongside sedans like the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (see them compared). Because the Panamera's trim levels range from $76,825 to $176,275 (including a $975 destination charge), it also overlaps the 2012 Maserati Quattroporte and comes within $10,000 of the 2012 Bentley Continental Flying Spur (compare side by side).
If you like the four-door, performance-luxury, functional-hatchback category, on either end of the Panamera are the 2012 BMW 550 Gran Turismo ($66,895) and the 2012 Aston Martin Rapide ($210,010).
The Panamera's long, lean exterior styling is polarizing, to say the least. At least it evokes some type of response, rather than eliciting nothing more than a blank, bored stare. I happen to appreciate its aggressive-looking low stance, blended with muscular hips and a handsome, masculine nose. I gazed and gawked at my test car as I would a marble sculpture of a naked Roman god.
My husband, on the other hand, couldn't quite see my point of view on this one. (I wonder why?) One day he'd claim that the Panamera's unique back end was growing on him, while the next day he was back to disdainful loathing.
One thing that's not up for debate is the functionality that distinctive shape lends the Panamera. Because it's so long, it can have four full-sized doors so rear passengers can easily climb in and out without incredible feats of acrobatic flexibility.
Also, its larger rear end results in a hatchback cargo space that's big enough for most tasks a family can throw at it. You've got to hand it to the Panamera's designers for figuring out how to take a functional shape and make it look unique and "automotively" fashion-forward.
Considering the Panamera isn't built to haul a huge family, it's surprising how well my family and I adjusted, so long as I left one of my three kiddos out. My oldest daughter just turned 12, so she was quite happy to exercise her independence and stay home while I took the younger two (ages 7 and 9) to the pool for a few hours. The two seats in the back were a good fit for two kids, even in booster seats. The full-size, bolstered seats in the Panamera GTS cradled my girls' Bubble Bum booster seats perfectly. There was enough legroom in the backseat (33.3 inches) not only for my kids, but also for full-sized adults.
The center console between the optionally heated rear seats houses two cupholders and a storage bin. There's also an additional storage area inside the fold-down armrest. The only complaint from the little ones was that the windowsills are quite high, making it tough for them to see out their windows even when lifted up slightly by their booster seats. This might be a problem for kids who are prone to motion sickness.
From the driver's seat, the Panamera GTS looks like a super high-tech jet cockpit. At first glance, all the buttons seem like overkill; however, taking just a couple of minutes to locate the essentials and understand how things were organized clarified things for me.
There is space for only one true built-in cupholder in the center console up front. Two additional (somewhat flimsy) ones pop out of the dash just above the glove box when needed, but they get in the way of the passenger and could very easily break when someone gets in or out and smacks them with a knee. I would have preferred a second cupholder over the antiquated ashtray and cigarette lighter.
The Panamera's cargo space is incredibly impressive. It swallowed everything we threw at it, even when we needed extra space to fit a large box for our puppies' new dog run; the 50/50-split backseat folded nearly flat to increase the cargo space exponentially.
While I generally loved my two weeks in the Panamera GTS, there were a few glaring things missing that I would definitely want in a $135,000 car. The first is keyless access and start. While my test car didn't have it, there is a Porsche Entry and Drive option that lets you leave the remote in your pocket, but it requires a dummy key that you leave in the ignition and have to turn to start the car. Call me crazy, but keyless push-button start just seems more sleek and modern.
I also would have appreciated ventilated seats, and I expected them at this price (although I did appreciate the suede seats that helped keep sweaty legs in shorts comfortable). They're available on all trim levels for an additional $800 for the front seats.
I also missed having steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, preferring not to take my hand off the wheel every few minutes to indulge my compulsive radio-surfing habit.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore):Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore):Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent):Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On):Groove-On
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Acceleration in the Panamera GTS is shockingly smooth, with the average driver unable to detect the quick, discreet automatic gearshifts. Braking was also incredibly smooth and responsive; it even kept me from hitting a rogue neighborhood deer when driving home at dusk one evening.
Despite the Panamera's 115-inch wheelbase, it had a tight 39.2-foot turning diameter, allowing me to pull in and out of the 90-degree turn into my garage every time without having to execute a three-pointer.
The Panamera's pleasurable drivability surprised me. The ability to customize the driving experience was great for my family, as my husband still prefers a "boy racer" feel while I prefer the comfort of a softer ride for my daily mommy duties. We each had the ability to choose our desired feel by switching among Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus modes.
When the perception of an even more aggressive driving experience is desired, you can push a button in any mode to bypass some chambers in the mufflers and make the Panamera roar to life with a low, guttural growl upon acceleration. My kids often urged me to "push the rocket ship button."
And speaking of customization, with the infinitely adjustable driver's seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel, my husband and I were each able to find a comfortable driving position despite nearly a foot of difference in height between us.
I have a confession to make. Up until now, I had yet to meet a Porsche I really liked. I've found all the ones I've driven to be overly harsh for my taste and somewhat primitive from a features standpoint. The Panamera changes that.
Crash tests have not been conducted on the 2013 Porsche Panamera. It has standard dual front airbags, a driver's knee airbag, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the front and rear occupants, and curtain airbags on both sides. As is required of all new models since the 2012 model year, the Panamera GTS has standard antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and traction control.
The Panamera's unique shape and high beltline cause some rear visibility issues. However, my test car came equipped with optional park assist sensors and a backup camera. While the park assist sensors were a great help, the backup camera only turned on when the radio/nav system was on. From a safety perspective, the backup camera should turn on every time you put the car in Reverse, regardless of whether your radio is turned on or not.
My test car also came equipped with an optional blind spot warning system, which illuminates a light in the side mirror if a vehicle is detected in your blind spot. I relied upon this system completely while changing lanes on the highway, as the Panamera's low stance and large, fixed head restraints in every seat made it difficult at best to turn and try to glance at my blind spot myself.
For families installing child-safety seats, the Panamera has a set of Latch connectors for each of the two rear seats. The lower anchors are easily accessible through open slits in each seat's bottom cushion. Kids in booster seats will also benefit from the standard large rear bucket seats that cradle a booster seat and hold it in place snugly. The seat belt buckles are flush with the seat bottom, which may make it difficult for younger children to reach between their booster and the bolster to buckle up independently.
See all the standard safety features listed here.