This time of year, things are quiet in the verdant Bavarian mountainside surrounding the old castle of Schloss Elmau. Wander the hilly grounds and you’ll hear cowbells, perhaps the buzz of bees and the distant roar of glacier-fed streams. But for a few days, this past week, hikers were also likely to catch the occasional revving of a big V-8, followed by the chirp of rubber biting into pavement, as a Porsche Panamera’s Launch Control system set the new 4-door sports car into motion.
We had the good fortune to test drive some of the first of the new cars off the line, putting all three versions of the 2010 Porsche Panamera through their paces on a winding and convoluted course that led us out from the urban center of Munich into the open Alpine countryside near the German-Austrian border. In three days of driving on dense city streets, open Autobahns and twisty mountain roads, we got a sense of what buyers will discover when they fire up a Panamera for the first time.
Since Porsche first announced plans to build a “four-door sports car,” mid-decade, it has heard from many a skeptic convinced it would put the German maker on a quick road to ruin. That is, of course, the same sort of thing critics predicted before the debut of the big Cayenne, now Porsche’s best-selling product in its biggest market, the U.S. While the debate over the very concept of a sport-ute/sports car is likely to continue, there’ll be few who’ll be able to denigrate the new Panamera’s pedigree. It is not just a serious sports car but a pure Porsche – just one, as a company executive suggested, in which you now have the opportunity to share the experience with three of your friends. (more…)