I was leafing through one of the many German car magazines I have lying around the house and came across an article on the Ferrari 458 Italia. Talk about your bella macchina! Picture after picture of muscled Italian mayhem, bulging contours that look like metallic muscle, stupendous lines, aggressive yet endearing looks--and from just about any angle. I really think it's a stupendous and modern design that deals with aerodynamics and beauty in a spoiler-free way. It drips performance and sexiness.
So what does this have to do with the Porsche Panamera?
And then, not two pages later, I saw an add for the Porsche Panamera and I thought: "wow, it's a pooch in pics." OK, that’s unfair. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder--true. But let's be honest, it ain't real pretty. There is little balance to it, little symmetry except from the front. It doesn't scream performance the way the 911 and Cayman do (even the brand new Cayenne is nicer to look at).
Science Is Cruel
And then science reared its head again--that same discipline that’s supposed to be objective and ruthless and black and white. My cousin once reminded me of an article he and I both read about what constitutes "beauty" to us human beings. And in short it was one thing--symmetry. The even, balanced spacing and proportioning of features in a given space. It's why we don't find the dude with one eye twice the size of the other and three warts on the side of his nose all that useful when double-dating. It's why Picasso really upset a lot of people in his day with the advent of Cubism and disproportionate features and shapes painted on canvass. It's why young adolescent males don't rush out and buy posters of the "before" contestants in a bathing suit from America's Biggest Loser.
Ok, so now you're calling me shallow. And indeed I am. Maybe one micron deep, I am. But that's not the point. In many cases, symmetry and beauty are linked in our hard-wired brains, whether it is people or cars (which are way more important than people in my book). But something happened that fateful day.
While driving downtown, I saw two new Porsche Panameras trundle buy at low speed, and I said: "wow, cool car. Really cool car." I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I know it's not pretty, but I also like Picasso and Egon Schiele paintings. It has the one thing that trumps beauty every time--presence. It does look odd from many angles but it has a road presence that cannot be disputed, even more so than the Cayenne, I'd say. It says clearly: "I'm German, expensive and damn fast." I guess it's like the Sarah Jessica Parker of the automotive world, there is something there that pulls you in. It's not the German supermodel, it's the wealthy, offbeat German foreign exchange student who listens to odd music, but you can't help but be attracted.
I won't go into the performance aspect--every car mag and blog has done that. With 4.5 liters of naturally aspirated or turbocharged heavenly thrust, and a Porsche PDK dual clutch transmission and suspension backing you up, it'll be awesome in any guise. And to be honest, I just love the interior (saw it at the car show while breathing heavily on the glass at the stand). That is real inner beauty. Great space, shapes and contours.
So where does that leave us? I guess science isn't as black and white as I thought, and cars and car designs have to appeal to us on so many levels. And the Panamera does that for me. I'll take mine in that dark Porsche blue with the beige two-tone interior please--any V-8 will do.