Although Porsche has officially become a long-standing SUV manufacturer (today, more than half of its global sales come from high-riding crossovers), it rarely strays from its sports car heritage.
For example, many Macan and Cayenne models can still embarrass a crowd of modern high-performance cars on a race track, while the cockpit of even the most family-friendly models can trace direct lineage back to the original 911.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the new third-generation Panamera abandons all sporting intentions, but this is the most luxurious Porsche I’ve ever driven, and at the heart of it is a new, cutting-edge suspension system. System.
As standard, the long, low, aggressively styled Panamera comes with a dual-chamber, two-valve air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), which is a technical way of saying that the software can directly affect how stiff or supple the ride is. It’s all adjustable via The switches on the steering wheel.
This is nothing new, but the German manufacturer has taken it a step further by introducing the latest Porsche Active Ride system, which will be available as an option for Turbo E-Hybrid models.
To cut a long and very technical story short, the system sees all four two-valve shock absorbers connected to an electrically operated hydraulic pump. The result is extremely fast reactions in any corner of the car at any time.
Although Porsche won’t like this analogy, it’s worth remembering the kind of West Coast lowrider you might see “jumping” along the road in a Snoop Dogg video. In fact, a Porsche engineer demonstrated the technology using a connected smartphone acting as a controller.
With the smartphone in the palm of my hand, every twist and turn had the Panamera mimicking my movements, diving, bouncing and rolling from left to right. Even in the heavy rain that fell in wintery Leipzig, she put on a great show.
But then, a $175,000 / £140,000 / €192,000 / AU$280,000 sedan has to know how to engage with the public.
Leveling the playing field
With Porsche Active Ride equipped, the heavily camouflaged Panamera prototype I approached almost drew attention when I pulled the door handle. The suspension was released from its default low resting position to a more convenient height that allowed me to slide smoothly into the sculpted seats.
Likewise, the entire rear section can drop (similar to a Range Rover) to help load heavy items into the boot, but it comes alive on the road. Under heavy braking, the front of the car gently rises to overcome the typical inertia felt by passengers on board.
At the same time, the front of the car will lower slightly when the accelerator is depressed to negate the whiplash feeling that occurs in very powerful cars like this. Keep in mind that the upcoming Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid will hit 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and have a top speed of 196 mph.
This is thanks to a four-liter V8 turbo engine paired with a 140 kW (190 hp) rear electric motor. Only now will the Panamera happily cruise around on electricity alone for 56 miles, according to the WLTP combined cycle. The new 11 kW AC charger reduces charging time to 2 hours 39 minutes precisely.
To make sure the new suspension can handle the massive amount of performance on tap, Porsche installed an updated electronic control unit dedicated solely to chassis control. The electrical system can react in less than 25 milliseconds, meaning the Active Ride suspension works much faster than actual acceleration.
Having a suspension system like this react to inputs in such an obvious way is a bit disconcerting at first and, in all honesty, doesn’t provide a particularly engaging driving experience. But that’s not the point.
Sure, the system “leans” easily into corners, but those who want a racier drive will want to turn the system off, which is easily done.
However, for passengers (particularly those traveling in the back), Porsche Active Ride blends neatly into the background, keeping the car beautifully level at all times and easily masking your driver’s lack of dexterity when using the throttle.
The cockpit is loaded with technology
Combined with more luxurious massaging seats, increased legroom and an overall cockpit ambiance, Porsche has made the new Panamera more connected than ever. After all, the Taycan (and its plethora of screens) has proven very popular with customers, which means the Panamera now has a competitor in the high-tech space.
Up front, there’s the same highly customizable 12.6-inch curved display that takes care of driving information, like speed, navigation and vehicle settings. This is coupled with a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment panel in the middle, as well as an optional 10.9-inch touchscreen that provides personalized entertainment for the front passenger on the go.
Porsche has also expanded Apple CarPlay functionality, so features such as air conditioning, seat massagers and ambient lighting can be controlled directly via Apple CarPlay or using the Siri voice assistant.
As we mentioned in our sneak peek at the new Porsche Panamera interior, the more luxurious models are reserved for Asian markets, where the long-wheelbase Executive Edition takes luxury to the next level.
Large screens mounted on the backs of the rear seats act as infotainment devices for the rear passengers, capable of streaming online content or mirroring smartphones. Luxurious carpeting and rear seats that can now recline further make it a first-class means of travel.
Of course, Porsche will restore its performance credentials, even going so far as to slap a Turbo on its E-Hybrid model. But extensive improvements, a cutting-edge hydraulic suspension and a high-tech interior make this Panamera feel more like a limousine than ever before.
Stuttgart bigwigs may disagree, but this may be one of the first Porsche models that I’d rather experience from the rear perches, rather than the driver’s seat.