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.