What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve ever had to make? Drip coffee at home instead of a drive-thru latte? The middle seat in back, in coach?
Okay, breathe. The base 2018 Porsche Panamera won’t trigger any gasps like those commonplace horrors.
We’ve driven all kinds of Panameras this year, from the astounding Turbo and S-E Hybrid, to the only slightly more sedate Panamera 4S. A couple hundred miles in the base Panamera V-6, stickered well below $100,000, underlines how expertly today’s Porsche four-doors can mimic its sports cars.
Those sports cars have it so good: after all, Porsche’s SUVs and this Panamera pay the light bill and the house note.
Porsche sells many different Panameras–16 models in all, with 6 powertrains among them. The base 2018 Panamera costs $86,050, which isn’t exactly a Corolla hatchback. It’s still a luxury car even in its most spartan form.
In that form, Porsche grabs a loaner V-6 from the VW empire. It’s a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 fluffed up to 330 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. It’s essentially the single-turbo version of the 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 found in the Panamera 4S (pictured here). No, the turbo V-6 is not as throbby as its 440-hp kin, but it will hustle this base rear-drive Panamera to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, or 5.2 with the optional Sport Chrono package, before dropping off at 164 mph.
Shifts issue from an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission that blinks off gearchanges with fluid precision at moderate to high speeds. At parking-lot range, the dual-clutch judders on occasion, a common trait with this kind of gearbox, one amplified by second-gear starts.
Rotate the Sport Chrono selector through the usual comfort and sport-plus modes, and the shifts and the throttle progression get more insistent. Let it relax, and the Panamera’s drivetrain can post EPA figures of 21 mpg city, 28 highway, and 24 combined, if you’re light on the gas pedal and mindful of throttle inputs. In other words, we don’t know what you’re talking about, EPA.
MORE: Watch our 2018 Porsche Panamera video road test
What makes this base Panamera worth a deep dive, is its lighter rear-drive moves. Shod with excellent Z-rated 20-inch rubber, and also equipped with variable-ratio steering with rear-steer assist that dials in more angle at low speeds, the Panamera loses any languid responses its long body could generate. Rear-wheel steering changes the steering-geometry rules, like Shatner in Starfleet Academy. It weighs more than 4,000 pounds and has a wheelbase nearly as long as Lincoln’s Navigator, but the Panamera never fumbles over its own feet. It’s blessed with what seems like natural steering feel, a nifty party trick for a car with more electronics than a small Amazon warehouse.
Proper credit goes to the Panamera’s aluminum multi-link suspension for a ride that never goes brittle. Adaptive dampers come with every Panamera; ours also had a three-chamber air-spring setup that softens its mood considerably. You wouldn’t choose a Panamera to truck your priceless crystal holiday ornaments from one home to another, but it can be done safely. (Ask us how we know.) You can twist the drive-mode knob until the shocks and air springs nearly eliminate the Panamera’s big hatchback body lean, and that makes its considerable cornering prowess available at shockingly high rates of speed. (Ask us, again, how we know.)
MORE: Read our 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S-E Hybrid first drive review
Hatchback? Did we say hatchback? If you didn’t know, the Panamera’s no sedan. It teases the senses better than the last generation model did, with a lower roofline and more elaborately sculpted rear fenders. All that comes gratis even on the base car: the short overhangs, the LED headlights, the usable rear-seat room, the 46 cubic feet of cargo space. You really, really, don’t need an SUV, in case you’ve never cross-shopped based on interior volume.
This Panamera also comes with a reconceived cabin that puts nearly a hundred buttons and knobs out of work. It’s a consequence of the touchscreen economy: big glass panels will do all the work of those displaced switches, and they’ll do it with swipe-friendly convenience. The cockpit now looks like the avant garde workplace it should be, instead of a jewelry box filled with outdated costume pieces.
For its still-lofty base price, the base 2018 Panamera gets leather upholstery, Apple CarPlay compatibility, satellite and HD radio, a rearview camera, parking sensors, a panoramic roof, an adaptive rear spoiler, and a rear-seat center console. Lightly upgraded with rear-axle steering, air suspension, 20-inch wheels, and Sport Chrono, our test vehicle checked in at $96,230.
A 164-mph Porsche for less than a hundred grand? That’s how you appeal to our baser instincts.