A facelifted version of the Porsche Panamera was only introduced this year
, but development of a successor is well underway, as evidenced by the sighting of a pair of Panamera test mules stretching their legs on the Nürburgring recently. A number of clues present on the mules confirm their identity but it’s too early to determine many of the changes in store for the next-generation Panamera.
Makeshift fender flares on one of the mules hint at a wider track. Meanwhile, the attached pieces of foam on the underbody and inside the wheel arches are typically used to measure clearance. Finally, the strange wheel coverings are special torque sensors, used for calibration of traction and stability control systems.
The new Panamera isn’t expected on the market until 2016, most likely as a 2017 model, so it’s strange to see engineers developing the mules in public so early. There’s a good reason for this, as underpinning the new car is a brand new platform that will eventually spawn several high-end models from the Volkswagen Group.
The new platform is the Modular Standard Platform, or MSB when derived from its German title “Modularer Standardantrieb-Baukasten”. This platform will be used for Bentley’s next Continental range and in modified form (the engine moved to the rear) is tipped to underpin the next Porsche 911.
Thanks to a mix of materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum and even some composites, the MSB platform will see that the new Panamera is lighter and stiffer than the current model. Weight savings could be as high as 200 pounds, depending on trim.
It’s too early to talk styling, as the mules feature the current model’s body. However, 2012’s Panamera Sport Turismo concept
points the way. The shape won’t change much but the new car should appear sleeker and its surfaces more taut. Though it has its critics, the current model has proven a huge hit in the market, with more than 100,000 examples sold since its 2009 launch, so Porsche isn't likely to rock the boat.
The variety of powertrains on offer for the current model is likely to remain as well, though with revisions to improve efficiency and perhaps boost power on certain models. For the 2014 model year, the Panamera S has downsized to a twin-turbo V-6 from the previous V-8, and we expect this to remain unchanged for the new model. The range-topping Panamera Turbo should keep its V-8, however.
A plug-in hybrid model will once again be offer, but with improved battery technology helping to lower weight and increase capacity. The current Panamera S E-Hybrid
weighs a hefty 4,609 pounds. Interestingly, a previous report suggested that a manual transmission won't be offered
on the new Panamera. We hear that all-wheel drive and the long-wheelbase options will remain, however.
Stay tuned for updates as development of the 2017 Porsche Panamera continues._______________________________________Follow Motor Authority on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.