The Porsche Panamera's Trick Suspension Is Unlike Anything We've Driven

It is truly bizarre – in the best way.

Porsche Panamera Prototype First Drive Review Porsche Panamera Prototype First Drive Review

– Leipzig, Germany

When it first debuted, the Panamera was derided for how it looked but praised for how it drove. Porsche's first sedan was simply brilliant, even if it was designed by someone imagining a 911 backed into a shed. The second-generation car wasn’t only great to drive but looked pretty as well. Now, we have this, the G3 generation. It takes the last gen and makes it more aggressive, while also doing some truly innovative developments under the skin.

Set to launch in 2024, the G3 Panamera will hit showrooms with two engine variants. The entry-level car starts at $101,550 and comes with a turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 packing 348 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, which’ll be enough to see off 0-62 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 168 mph.

Quick Specs 2024 Porsche Panamera (Base)
Engine Turbocharged 2.9-Liter V6
Output 348 Horsepower / 368 Pound-Feet
0-62 MPH 4.8 Seconds
Top Speed 168 Miles Per Hour
Base Price $101,550

If you want all-wheel drive, that’ll set you back $108,550. The range-topping Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid is even wilder. There’s no price yet, but the headline figures are eye-widening: turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, 670 hp, 685 pound-feet, 0-62 mph in 3.2 seconds, and a 195 mph top speed.

It comes with a new PDK gearbox that can handle more torque – a good thing considering the Turbo E Hybrid has loads of it – and the electric motor is integrated within. The E-Hybrid’s electric motor, incidentally, is rated at 187 hp and 331 lb-ft, which, in conjunction with a new 25.9-kilowatt-hour battery means it can cruise emissions-free 70% further than before (the G2 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid premises 31 miles of EV range). With an 11-kilowatt charging capability, it’ll top its battery in 2:18, too.

Although the cars we drove were camouflaged, the redesign takes the lovely looking last-generation car and adds an aggressive edge. Its front wings are higher to give a chunkier stance, while simultaneously extending the wheels further out to the corners. There’s a giant nostril front and center to help feed the engine.

Turbo cars get key details in the firm’s new Turbonite (an incredible name) colorway, ‘turbo’ badges in strategic places, and the option of having center lock wheels akin, just what you need on a luxury sedan. Porsche’s already made a big deal about the new car’s interior – at first glance, it doesn’t appear to be a huge leap over the outgoing car, but a clutter-free center console and a slicker 10.9-inch infotainment screen tidy things up.

So, it looks good and has plenty of power, but what’s really new about it? The suspension. Porsche’s engineers were jumping with glee to show off the Porsche Active Ride.

Using a single chamber suspension setup, paired with a two-valve damper and a pump unit, Porsche Active Ride (PAR) is akin to having a psychic at each corner. Depending on what you’re doing with the car, it’s ready to react and smooth out the ride on the fly.

For example, if the road is looking rough, it’ll prime each wheel to react differently to smooth out imperfections. In corners, it’ll keep the car balanced, and when you open the door it’ll raise the ride height by a couple of inches for easier ingress. That, or variations thereof, has been seen before. What hasn’t been seen is how it reacts to acceleration and braking.

Porsche’s theory here is that when you mash the gas, it’ll dip the nose to counteract the effects of physics – usually a car will lift its nose under acceleration as weight shifts rearwards. When you brake, it’ll raise the front. The aim is to eliminate passenger discomfort.

Porsche Active Ride is akin to having a psychic at each corner.

At Porsche’s Leipzig factory, where the new Panamera will be built, we got the chance to take heavily camouflaged Turbo E-Hybrid cars out on the road to see how the system worked, as well as see how the new V8 feels. It was interesting.

The power on offer in the Turbo E-Hybrid is incredibly entertaining. If you’re in the mood to be a hooligan, stabbing the throttle will build numbers on its beautifully clear digital dash at an Autobahn-friendly rate. A powerful car being fast is hardly a shocker though, is it? Porsche’s usual mix of drive modes is out in full force, too.

In its most inert tune, the car’s a smooth, comfy ride that doesn’t feel as though it’s got enough grunt to throw you across counties in mere seconds. Dial it up to Sport and Sport Plus, and you’ll get more urgent power, heavier steering, and a harder ride. You can take the kids to school, then throw a decent lap of the ‘Ring in on the way to work.

Playing with the PAR, we were told to accelerate hard to really feel its effects. I mashed my foot and felt the rear of the car rise when I expected to be tilted backward. It felt truly bizarre, like walking onto a broken escalator – you expect upward movement but don’t get it. I tried again, the rear lifted and I was being pitched gently forward with the acceleration.

Braking is when it got really strange. For 20 years, every time I’ve braked, the car I’m in leaned on its nose as kinetic energy and mass did their thing. It’s what cars do. PAR does not let that happen. Instead, the nose noticeably lifts. It felt, if you’ve ever had the pleasure, like falling off a skateboard – your feet go forward rather more quickly than the rest of you. I tried it a few times to make sure I’d not been drugged, but the results were the same – I was slowing while falling off a skateboard again and again. Of the two, braking felt stranger.

Cornering always felt smooth, and the ride top-notch to the point of being pillowy, but going and stopping left me feeling decidedly strange. As the Panamera is still a way off, perhaps there’s time to make it a touch less extreme.

It felt truly bizarre, like walking onto a broken escalator – you expect upward movement but don’t get it.

For contrast, I had a ride in a car with the standard air suspension. It felt, well, normal, and did what you’d expect it to do. It felt less composed over rough surfaces, though it’s not quite as advanced as its Tony Hawk-aping sibling.

As early impressions go, the new Panamera is a strong package. It looks great, and will surely cut a fine figure against its rivals' more challenging designs. Speed isn’t an issue either. PAR is a true highlight, if a little strange. Perhaps it’ll be something to get used to? We’ll see how it fares when the production car is ready next year.

Competitor Reviews

2024 Porsche Panamera (Base)
Engine Turbocharged 2.9-Liter V6
Output 348 Horsepower / 368 Pound-Feet
Transmission Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch
Speed 0-62 MPH 4.8 Seconds
Maximum speed 168 Miles Per Hour
Seating Capacity 5
Base Price $101,550
On Sale Early 2024
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