Time travel is, perhaps unexpectedly, enlightening. Reading of the conditions and actors of the past provides only a dusty image, rendered in grayscale; dunking oneself fully in the scene teaches lessons that cannot otherwise be learned. Thus I recount for you my recent sojourn to the early 21st Century.
The cultures of that time, at least throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, were widely divergent in ways a modern reader might not expect: language, dress, and even laws varied from place to place enough to make life unpredictable at best, and often deadly. If a unifying theme could be found amongst these disparate and combative peoples, however, it would be the use of a means of individual and small-group transport, familiar now only to archaeologists, known then as the car, or, more generically, the automobile.
Though primitive in conception and form, and wholly unlike the conveyances of our home age (aside from the use of seats for the occupants), the vehicle rather unimaginatively described as the 2014 Porsche Panamera nevertheless provided a uniquely satisfying experience, even to a citizen of an age as advanced and refined as ours. I chose my destination year of 2013 A.D. (modern calendar: -8442 NEE) carefully, that I might lay hands on this vehicle at what might be regarded its apogee--four years after its initial creation, and having been only just then re-engineered to include several key improvements.
Accustomed to traveling on a floating on a cushion of air as I am, the Panamera's use of wheels supporting it directly on the surface of the ground provided an unusual, but thrilling, sense of involvement with the journey, despite limiting routes to specific surfaces the temporals call roads. Likewise, having to pilot the machine personally, or at least to have a pilot among the crew (as many as four adults, including the pilot, might find comfort within its metal and glass enclosure) further enhanced this viscerality of travel.
2014 Porsche Panamera first drive
The joy of this sensation can't be understated, for even among the many and varied forms of automobile in this era, the Panamera provided a symphony of sounds, tactile responses, and maneuvering capabilities typically found only in much smaller--and therefore less practical--vehicles.
Propulsion comes not from our familiar static antimatter reactor, but from a variety of reciprocating and revolving mechanical processes, primarily requiring combustion of various distillations of ancient deposits of hydrocarbons long ago consumed to such scarcity as to constitute, practically, depletion from the Earth's crust.
These machines, or engines, positioned in a forward bay and connected such that they might supply motive traction to either the rear pair or all four of the wheels (wheels situated, as they were, near each corner of the car), are among the most interesting components of the ancient vehicle, if only because they are so unlike anything maintained today, relying not upon the (then undiscovered) actions of quantum particles and fundamental principles, but on gross chemical reactions converted to kinetic energy.
Several forms of engine were to be found in the 2014 Panamera, described primarily in the relative arrangement and displacement of their reciprocating parts, and the motive outputs resulting from their operation. In the contemporary notation of the then-dominant automotive culture, the three such systems, or powertrains when incorporated with their gear-based transmissive components, were: a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 310 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque; a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, rated at 420 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque; and a third which will require more in-depth explanation, powered by a combination of an engine and an electric motor. Each could be paired with power transmission systems driving either the rear two or all four wheels; all but the third engine using a dual-clutch transmission to scale torque with speed as appropriate to the limitations of each.
All three variants provided ample forward thrust when commanded, joining and departing the atomic and hectic flow of human-guided and seemingly random vehicular traffic of the roadways with ease.
The third variant, however, is the most likely to interest the modern reader due to its (for the era) advanced drivetrain implementation. Combining a supercharged (engine-driven forced air induction) 3.0-liter V-6 engine with an electric motor, and with the capability to use either or both to drive the wheels, this model, arcanely termed the Panamera S E-Hybrid, might be seen as the ancestral forebear of the modes of transport known and used even by the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of today's citizen.
Bridging the gap between the hydrocarbon-based combustion engine automobile and the earliest of electrically powered cars, this arrangement was known as the plug-in hybrid, owing to its ability to be "plugged in" via a mains-supply cable (electricity was then distributed from a central municipal source, via metal wires) to replenish the onboard electrical storage unit (or battery, itself a chemical repository, based on the also long-extinguished supply of lithium metal).
Disregarding the archaic componentry, however, the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid's ability to drive solely on electric power allowed it to span the gulf of time, in a way perhaps not unfamiliar to the even more ancient poet Walt Whitman, to be relatable to modern travel enthusiasts, or if not to them, their recent ancestors.
For drivers (as the pilots of such vehicles were called) of the time, it was a nearly revolutionary experience. Certain other manufacturers of vehicles had previously constructed cars of similar power supply, and even vehicles dispensing with the combustion engine entirely, but few had done so in a vehicle otherwise so thoroughly competent in the aspects of creature comforts, vehicular dynamics, and, though it appears to have been a highly subjective matter, aesthetics.
2014 Porsche Panamera first drive
Moreover, the Panamera S E-Hybrid's electric-driving ability was enhanced, as it seemed at the time, with the ability to drive solely or partially on the ubiquitous fuel of the day, gasoline. Not only that, but to use the gasoline engine, while traveling, to recharge the battery and thus regain some measure, typically 18-30 miles, of purely electric conduct.
I have previously mentioned the Panamera's general accomplishment in the areas of comfort and equipment; to expound upon such features without the context of 21st Century materials and standards would require more space than I have here, but I will say that, compared with its contemporaries, the Panamera, throughout its range, offered space and comfort not common to the race of the automobile, and in fact rose to a standard not far below what would today be considered appropriate, were such a car to make the opposite of my jaunt backward in time.
Perhaps most importantly, though it was, aside from the addition of the S E-Hybrid drivetrain, largely an iterative improvement over the previous four years' of Panamera production, the result was a car that achieved a harmony of purpose that, too, mirrors our current modes of transport.
Nowhere in the range of Panamera variants was this more evident than in the GTS. Preferred by those most enthusiastic about driving, but those also constrained from ownership of more compact vehicles due to social or familial obligations, this model employed V-8 engine displacing 4.8 liters, and generating 440 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. The resulting urgency of acceleration from a stop, or from moderate speeds to velocities that would outstrip all but the fastest automated transports of today, proved an intoxicating potency for a traveler such as myself.
Similarly, the ability of the Panamera GTS to change direction, even at immoderate speeds, proved addicting. And yet, despite this greater focus on performance, the GTS gave up but little of the comfort and civility found in other variants of its name.
Beyond these models already mentioned, there exists one model of which I had no opportunity of experience: the Panamera Turbo. Yet more powerful than the GTS, its reputation is one of relaxed, rather than immediate, involvement, adopting a certain lassitude befitting coverage of extended distances at high speeds rather than an environment of dynamic change.
To delve into greater detail in my experience of the 2014 Porsche Panamera would strain not only the reader's comprehension, but my ability to communicate the sensations, sentiments, and processes involved. For the academics and enthusiasts among my readership, however, I will relay below a transcript of the handwritten notes of my native companion and guide throughout the experience, himself familiar, through evaluation, with a wide range of 21st Century vehicles, it being his mode of employment.
2014 Porsche Panamera -- General:
- Dynamically very good, especially with the Sport Chrono package, but still a large, relatively heavy car.
- Definitely use the sport mode settings if equipped--especially the exhaust button.
- Seems very wide on narrow Bavarian roads.
- In Executive versions, rear seat space improves significantly, not that it was cramped before. Not as high-tech as S Class or 7-Series, but a fair alternative for the executive sedan shopper without a more than occasional chauffeur.
- AWD variants: adds snowbelt capability. Doesn't significantly change driving dynamics within real-world envelopes. Enough said.
Panamera S E-Hybrid:
- Not as fierce at full throttle as 416 horsepower might indicate, likely due to extra 250 kg (~550 lbs) of battery weight over non-hybrid S.
- Weight gain only about 330 lbs over previous hybrid despite increase in battery capacity from 1.7 kWh to 9.4 kWh.
- All-electric driving range easily reaches 25 miles; with care might exceed 30 miles or more.
- E-Charge mode can fully recharge battery while driving--very cool!
- Transitions between electric-only and mixed (or engine only) driving smooth; use of the 8-speed Tiptronic automatic here makes sense. Engineers indicate dual clutch would require excessive slip to replicate NVH reductions of the torque converter.
- Punchy, fun--more than expected in the power department. The new twin-turbo V-6 is a good move, even if you don't care about gas mileage.
- Doesn't give up much in the way of luxury or available equipment to higher-tier versions; if you don't plan on dominating the Autobahn, this is probably all the car you need--even at 176 mph.
- The driver's car of the bunch. Not the quickest or the fastest, but definitely the best experience behind the wheel.
- Addition of Alcantara/suede elements a nice touch.
- Most glorious sound, though I'm partial to V-8s anyway.
- Not tested.
For the full specs and details on the 2014 Porsche Panamera, see our preview here.