– Barcelona, Spain
It takes a lot of driving to develop a new car, even one that's an evolution of a tried-and-true formula, one that's more nuance than new, more refresh than reboot. This is the upcoming 2024 Porsche Panamera, and by the time you read this, it will have been in development for three years and three million miles, tested everywhere from 122 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley to -22 in Finland.
My time in the car, I'm happy to say, was rather more temperate: a sunny day just outside Barcelona, Spain. The nuances of the new Panamera were hidden by featureless paint and no shortage of additional cladding, plus the requisite fake headlight decals, all tricks meant to pull your eyes the wrong way. The car's interiors, though, were fully revealed, as were their driving dynamics.
The biggest change, though, has nothing to do with any of that. Open the door to the new Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid variant and the car literally rises to meet you. I don't mean it eases its way to a slightly higher position to ease ingress, I mean it surges upward 50 millimeters (about 2 inches) in less than a second on a brand-new, single-valve air suspension.
Gallery: 2024 Porsche Panamera First Drive
|Quick Stats||2024 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid|
|Engine||Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-liter V8|
|Eight-Speed Dual Clutch|
|Drive Type||All-Wheel Drive|
|Battery||25.9 Kilowatt-Hour Lithium-Ion|
|On Sale||Late 2023 / Early 2024|
A Family Affair
That capital-T Turbo E-Hybrid will join the current Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, and Panamera 4S E-Hybrid – a flagship Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid will likely return in the near future. That means four options for those who want a little extra electric juice with their sedan. The base, non-electrified model will be available with rear-drive and all-wheel-drive.
Over the course of a morning slicing through the hills to the west of Barcelona, delightful roads littered with more cyclists than I've seen outside of the Veulta a Espana, I had a chance to sample two of those flavors: the entry-level Panamera 4, with its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, and the new Turbo E-Hybrid, offering a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 paired to a new and improved electrification system.
While both those engines have seen revisions, mostly in the name of stricter emissions regulations, Porsche engineers weren't yet willing to detail any power increases other than to say there would be some improvements. On the hybrid side, however, they were much chattier.
All the E-Hybrid cars will feature a new, 140-kilowatt electric motor, up from 100 kW in the outgoing Panameras. That's paired with a new battery, 25.9 kilowatt-hours, up from 17.9 before. That new pack means a roughly 50-pound weight increase, but interestingly no increase in volume. A new battery chemistry is at play, I was told, but no more details than that were divulged. Of note, the Cayenne E-Hybrid has an identically sized battery, which mates with a single-turbo 3.0-liter V6 to make 463 hp in the luxury SUV.
The aforementioned suspension changes, though, are far more significant. Starting with this new Panamera, air suspension will be standard on all cars. Even the base, rear-wheel-drive model will float on dual-chamber air dampers. These active units are revised from the Panamera's current air suspension, able to dynamically modulate both compression and rebound. Porsche says the suspension can now swing farther into the mushy comfort zone and also into the sporty, dynamic side, too.
If you want a car that snaps to attention that I mentioned above, though, you'll need to spec the new, single-chamber air suspension that will only be available on E-Hybrid models. Why limit the better suspension to the heavier hybrids? Because this suspension needs the extra juice offered by those cars' hybrid electrical systems to drive the air pumps.
That suspension, too, dynamically adjusts both compression and rebound, but the trick here is what's being called Porsche Active Ride. This includes the dramatic lift whenever a door is opened, but can also stabilize the car through corners, virtually eliminating body roll, also neutralizing dive under braking and squat under acceleration.
The result is a car that feels curious to say the least. Hard cornering with the system enabled sends you shifting sideways in your seat rather than tipping out of it, which requires a little mental recalibration. However, the system isn't designed for hard cornering. In fact, it's automatically disabled if you drop the car into either Sport or Sport Plus modes.
Why? Unlike other cars that reduce roll with active rollbars, the Panamera's new suspension is effectively increasing the stiffness of the outer corners of the car through the corners. This levels the car but could actually reduce grip, especially on less-than-perfect surfaces. Why do it, then? It's for comfort, not performance – similar to Mercedes-Benz’ Curve function on its flagship air systems.
Tuning For Compliance
Most of the suspension changes here, plus revisions to the rear subframe, bushings, and suspension geometry, were designed to increase ride quality and decrease road noise in the cabin. Indeed, the new Active Ride modes are far more noticeable in the passenger seat. Behind the wheel, you can subconsciously brace yourself before turning into a corner. If you're in the passenger seat and not acutely watching the road ahead, it's easy to get pitched around. With Active Ride enabled, even rather aggressive driving was far less disorienting and, by extension, less nauseating.
Porsche's engineers weren't coy in saying those chassis refinements, plus additional changes to the car to reduce ambient noise, were largely based on feedback from the Chinese market, where comfort and poise being driven is as important as responsiveness when driving yourself. But they were also quick to clarify that those changes were not made at the expense of the Panamera's consistently good handling.
And from my time behind the wheel, I'd say they succeeded. Rolling on Michelin's new Pilot S 5 tires (275/35ZR21 front and 325/30ZR21 rear), outfitted with both the Active Ride suspension and rear steering, the new Panamera has the same physics-defying dynamics of its predecessors. Outright grip is of course impressive, but the turn-in is remarkably sharp, and the expansive dimensions (the current Panamera is just short of 200 inches long) seem to just shrink around you.
But when just cruising through town, summiting speed bumps and bounding over cobblestones, the new sense of isolation from the unwanted stuff really is notable. There's an increased sense of compliance here, none of the crashing sensation you might expect from the suspension trying to manage the surely significant mass of this machine over uneven roads.
And, while that mass surely is increased, Porsche engineers were unwilling to quote any formal weight figures for the third-gen Panamera. That said, the new battery adds roughly 50 pounds, while the new suspension adds another 45.
The added power seems to compensate well. Even in full EV mode, the car accelerates strongly and is perfectly driveable. The upgraded 140-kW motor is now integrated directly into the eight-speed transmission, which is programmed to shift differently when the car is driving without the V8 assistance. You still have all-wheel drive like normal in this mode, and the car happily cruises up to 90 mph before firing up the engine. No official rating on improved range, but with the outgoing Panamera managing 18 miles on a charge and this battery pack offering almost 50 percent more capacity, mid-20s should be safe.
And what about the non-hybrid car? It drives great, too. The suspension here lacks the self-leveling carnival tricks, but is still supple and compliant while also enabling the car to be firm and responsive. And, best of all, you won't have to tick any boxes (or pay any premiums) to get it.
On the outside, the Turbo cars will be differentiated with horizontal signature lights on the more aggressive front fascia. The base cars, meanwhile, will feature vertical signature lights and somewhat more subtle styling up front. The shape and size of the exhaust ports out back will likewise differ, but those details aren't finalized just yet, and we'll all have to wait a little bit longer to see just how the thing looks minus the camouflage.
I can't show you what the interior looks like yet either, but I can say that if you take a peek inside a Taycan you'll get a pretty good idea. The gauge cluster in the new Panamera is the same, beautifully curved shape, but instead of free-standing atop the Taycan's dash, it's inset inside of a more significant housing ahead of a more configurable heads-up display. The infotainment screen is a 10.9-inch unit that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wirelessly, while a second display of the same size can be optionally installed in front of the passenger seat.
Through this far-right display, passengers can access nav and integrated media and even stream movies through some to-be-determined streaming services. (The lone app installed on the prototype car was Screenhits TV, which was sadly not yet functional.) No worries about distracted driving: Privacy tech means that, from the driver's seat, the passenger display appears totally black.
Porsche's nub of a shifter moves from center console to the dashboard, just to the right of the steering wheel, while on the left Porsche is finally getting rid of the integrated twist ignition, replacing it with a pushbutton start. No more dedicated buttons for sport exhaust or suspension either, I'm sorry to say. While the wheel-mounted mode knob is now standard, everything else you'll need to tweak by digging into the touchscreen.
That sadly eliminates the satisfaction of clicking on the sport exhaust when you're feeling a little rowdy, but the net result is a cleaner, far more modern interior.
No word yet on how much any of this is going to cost. The boost in standard features, plus the additional range and performance on the E-Hybrids, will likely mean the Panamera will carry an even greater premium, but time will tell. Time will also tell on whether the wagon-shaped Sport Turismo models survive to the next generation. Conspicuously, of the four prototype Panameras on offer in Spain, none had the more generous rear. When I asked about this, I was told only how few buyers choose to pay extra for extra roof real estate.
Not a good sign.
But everything else is pointing to yet more excellence from Porsche's long, low, now increasingly luxurious sedan.
2024 Porsche Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid