Coming from the company whose backbone is the 911, the Panamera's design was bound to be influenced by Porsche's most recognizable model (like every other vehicle in the lineup). However, instead of drawing inspiration from the 911, the designers butchered one. I mean, these guys really Quasimodo'd the thing.
They took a 911, gave it a hunch, and then threw it on the rack, stretching it to accommodate two extra doors. The only painless detail of the whole exterior is the Transformer-style spoiler on the Turbo. It's a neat, if not purchase-inspiring, feature.
Sadly, a spoiler alone can not prevent the end result: an eye-watering Porsche hatchback. Now that we've established that this beast couldn't possibly get off the lot on its good looks, what are its selling points? For those, people will have to look beneath the surface, because with the Panamera it's what's on the inside that counts.
For starters, there's the variety of power plants. From the upcoming V6 (necessary to make that 20,000 units per year a reality) to the naturally-aspirated and turbo'd V8s, there are enough options to help the Panamera keep pace with anything from the E-Class-in-a-tux CLS to Aston's upcoming Rapide.
Then there's the passenger's quarters. The attractive cockpit looks like it evolved from the 928, while the rear occupants get their own fully-adaptable reclining buckets (divided by a center console, of course). The superb interior, matched with a broad range of great power trains, does the job of locking in the Panamera's status as a grand touring saloon regardless of the deformed shell it resides in. Remember, in the grand touring luxo-fashion segment, beauty is not necessarily always the goal; being controversial is.
Ultimately, we have to ask: Is a fugly Porsche saloon worth the hit to brand image? Unfortunately, yes. From the start, the Panamera was destined to play two roles: range-expander and fashion-saloon fighter. In these cases, it hits home with a bullet. It will bring more people into dealerships, it can run with the competition, and it will be a conversation piece wherever it rears its hunch. It is a low-slung, four-seat Porsche "family car", and it doesn't try to tell anyone differently.
While purists may bitch and moan with their PORSCHE SOLD OUT signs, the fact is that they will never outweigh the swooning nouveau riche enough to justify not expanding. I may not like it, but I get it. It's just good business sense. Besides, if a buyer wants elegant subtlety, they can go grab a BMW 5-Series.
By Phil Alex
Phil Alex was born in Rhode Island in 1985, yet for reasons unbeknownst to him moved to South Carolina. He graduated with degrees in Finance and German from Wofford College in 2007 and has had a strange obsession with cars and travel. When not back in Sparkle City, he resides near Japan's international airport in Narita. He makes no apologies for his articles and welcomes all feedback, as long as it is adamantly worded. Oh, and if for any reason you are inclined to vent some more, check out more of his posts on the Examiner here.