After countless kilometres driven and many litres of premium fuel consumed, autoTRADER.ca’s jury of more than 20 automotive experts have voted for the Porsche Panamera as the Best Large Luxury Car for 2020. After considering every single car available in this segment and voting to shortlist the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 8 Series and BMW 5 Series to the final round of evaluations, this was not an easy decision to make. And if going by sales figures, the Panamera is not the default choice for this generally conservative demographic.
However, our jury deemed this lower-slung offering from Porsche arguably ticks more boxes than any of its competitors, not just because it expertly blends sportiness with ultimate luxury. The Panamera also covers an astounding bandwidth of capability by virtue of the fact it comes in so many iterations. With three body styles – four-door coupe/hatch, extended wheelbase Executive, Sport Turismo “wagon” – plus numerous trim levels and drivetrains (including two plug-in hybrid systems), we see 21 variants of the Panamera on Porsche’s website, stretching from $99,300 for the base V6 to an eye-watering $226,500 for the Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive. This is before the requisite Porsche option-fest that on average adds 20 percent to the bottom line.
But with all this, you are entering a world defined by exceptional engineering, unique styling and a magical blend of sport and luxury.
Another important factor here is functionality – every Panamera boasts hatchback utility. You want to move a beer fridge or a load of musical equipment? No problem. Try that in any other executive sedan.
The Panamera feels like a Porsche the moment you slide behind the wheel. The driving position is more sports car than luxury sedan, but this is not to say there are any concessions to comfort. Depending upon budget, the cabin can sport the finest leathers, killer audio, and all the sensible luxury kit you could ask for. Sensible, in that Porsche has not entered the game of gizmo one-upmanship currently consuming other German manufacturers that has them offering fragrance dispensers, “mood” programs, on-road exercise regimens and 64 hues of ambient lighting.
So yes, there is a bit of a no-nonsense Porsche aesthetic to this business-like cabin. A 12.3-inch touchscreen dominates the centre console, and in front of the driver we see a gauge cluster with a large analogue tach flanked by a quartet of configurable digital dials. The glossy console has illuminated capacitive switches that respond to the touch with a haptic click. While the screen graphics are crisp and menu system generally intuitive, some basic functions require digging through menus. As with any of these new interface systems, familiarization is key.
Porsche got the styling right with this second-generation Panamera, which was introduced for 2017. The old car’s Quasimodo hump gets ditched for a more graceful roofline, and if the “shooting brake” aesthetic floats your boat, the longer roof Sport Turismo wagon adds a dash of daring along with appreciably more cargo room.
Urge is never an issue, no matter what model Panamera you select. The base rear-drive model runs with a smooth and linear 3.0L turbocharged V6 that generates 330 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. Opt for the Sport Chrono Package and this “entry level” model will whisk you to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. On the other end of the scale sits the Turbo S E-hybrid that pairs a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 with an electric motor. Combined output is 680 horses and 626 lb-ft of torque.
As with all Porsches, there’s a fair amount of fun baked into every Panamera, yet we here at autoTRADER.ca find the GTS variant (starting at $147,400) to hit the sweet spot when it comes to combining sport and luxury. Power? The 453 horsepower, 457 lb-ft 4.0L twin-turbo V8 does quite nicely. All-wheel-drive is standard, as is the excellent PDK twin-clutch transmission. With its buttoned-down underpinnings the GTS feels just that more alert and eager.
There’s also an argument to made for value, as Porsche’s GTS models traditionally layer on a whack of sporting goodies for less than what it would cost to order them a la carte. That said, never do the GTS-badged Panameras punish passengers with overt overtures to sports car harshness. This second generation Panamera always leans toward the luxury side of the equation, no matter what model you choose.
Porsche being Porsche, it has its own ideas on semi-autonomous driving systems, so if you’re looking for something like Tesla’s AutoPilot, Cadillac’s Super Cruise or Benz’s Drive Pilot, it’s not on the menu. However, all other modern safety and connectivity technologies are available.
Yes, becoming a member of the Panamera extended family will cost, but the payoffs are exceptional engineering, obsessive build quality, engaging dynamics and of course, the cachet that comes with the Porsche badge. The Panamera is definitely deserving of its win for Best Large Luxury Car for 2020.