Lake Bell Critiques Porsche Panamera 4

 

You're either a Porschephile or not. It's like people who grew up with pugs. They'll swear that their dog is not ugly and the snoring doesn't keep them up at night. But I didn't grow up with pugs, or Porsches. My dad's favorite child was the antithesis of all things Porsche: a lean and mean Ford GT40, housed next to his best friends, a Shelby Cobra 427 and a KR 500. [Editor's note: Bell's father, Harvey Siegel, owns the New Jersey Motorsports Park.] Perhaps because of my limited exposure to Porsches, the (mostly) rear-engine, curved-backed speed machines have never really done it for me. And for the record, I have a pit bull.

That said, my three-day test drive of a slate-blue Panamera 4 was nothing short of a revelation. Manhattan's cratered streets aren't the sexiest environment for spirited driving, but there were benefits. For one, the city provided a test of the all-wheel-drive car's suspension. It handled the pothole-laden mess surprisingly well, offering superb grip while maintaining a smooth ride. Despite being Porsche's first-ever sedan, the two-ton V6 manages to feel light -- like a sports car. It acts like one, too.

Its effortlessly powerful pickup made weaving through a maze of manic taxis feel like playing life-size Tetris in 3D. I'm most impressed by how damn quiet the Panamera is in relation to the power it packs -- 300 horsepower, which is good for a top speed of 159 mph. The sedan's grace and elegance is punctuated by a somewhat subdued, respectable exhaust note.

This is a modern car that's meant to be driven everywhere (on errands, long distances, to and from work) and by a diverse demographic -- the rich, the well-off and the wealthy (it starts at nearly $80,000). With four butt-hugging bucket seats and a cockpit-like interior, the Panamera is flawless inside. The placement of every knob and button (including the precious "sport" button) is ergonomically seamless.

And for all the Porsche purists who have to go to therapy to cope with the Panamera's bulbous back end, I will say this: Porsche wisely introduced us all to their now-ubiquitous Cayenne SUV first, thus preparing us to deal with this bump issue -- and, of course, four doors on a Porsche. Haters should just drive this car before they comment on its physique, because its impressive performance will shift your opinion of the exterior. (By the way, that's relationship advice, too.) Apart from mediocre windshield wipers and a unsavory blind spot, I think the Panamera has converted me to a Porschephiliac. In other news, I'm still so-so on pugs.            

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