2018 Porsche Panamera

We caught the three Porsche 911s on Mulholland Highway. Up front was a black 930 Turbo, followed by a red 993 S (easily identified by its split rear grille) and then a silver 991 Carrera wearing black aftermarket wheels. We had been following them for about a mile when their pace suddenly quickened. Someone finally looked in the mirror, saw the 2018 Porsche Panamera we were driving, and kicked it up a notch.

Their inability to pull away from our two-ton sedan was an apparent frustration for the chap in the late-model 911. Twice he backed it all the way down to create a gap from his friend in the 993 before running hard in an attempt to pull away from our family-friendly four-door. But we saw the move coming. Sport+ mode engaged. Porsche Stability Management off. PDK in manual. Sorry, buddy, we’re still here.

This year, Porsche has added nine new models to its second-generation Panamera lineup. There are now 16 variations and five distinct powertrains, including a 680-hp plug-in hybrid. Our test vehicle, a base Panamera, is the only rear-wheel-drive version of the sedan and one of four models powered by a single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 (also available are all-wheel-drive versions of the sedan, the long-wheelbase Executive variant of the sedan, and the Sport Turismo wagon). With a base price of $86,050, this is the least expensive Panamera (all-wheel drive adds $4600), and it’s also several grand less expensive than our new friend’s 911 Carrera.

Quicker Than a 993

This new single-turbo V-6 is shared with other models in the Volkswagen Group, for example the Audi S4, and puts out 20 ponies more than the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V-6 that powered the base model of the first-generation Panamera. Its 330 horsepower arrives at 5400 rpm and holds strong through 6400 revs. Torque output has been radically improved as well, from 295 lb-ft at 3750 rpm to 331 lb-ft arriving barely off idle at 1340 rpm. The engine is pleasingly strong in the bottom of the tach but comes alive above 4000 rpm, although it’s not as explosive as the 440-hp twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 in the Panamera 4S, let alone the nearly twice as costly 550-hp stick of dynamite that is the Panamera Turbo. The V-6 pairs with the eight-speed version of the brand’s PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is used in every new Panamera.

Porsche says the base Panamera can get to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 13.9 when equipped with the $2270 Sport Chrono package. But the gang at Weissach must have performed its testing with the hatchback hauling kegs of Stuttgart’s best weissbier, because our test car was much quicker than that. Employing its launch-control system (part of the Sport Chrono pack), which revs and holds the engine to 5000 rpm until the driver steps off the brake pedal, this Panamera hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds at 107 mph. Those times are well over a second slower than today’s 991-generation 911 Carrera but quicker than what we recorded when we tested a manual 993 Carrera 4S back in 1996.

Riding on optional 20-inch wheels from the Panamera Turbo ($1790) and a staggered set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber measuring 275/40ZR-20 in front and a massive 315/35ZR-20 in the rear, the Panamera also generated 0.97 g of grip on our skidpad, a whisker shy of the 0.99 g generated by a new 911 Targa 4 we tested recently.