Earlier this summer Porsche’s board of management has announced that they have taken the decision to build a four-door coupe, called “Panamera” at the Company’s Leipzig Plant. To fourth model line using a front mounted engine and rear/all wheel drive is currently under development and is scheduled to enter the market in 2009. The investments for the production of the new model are estimated at around 150 million $.
Although not yet officially announced, it is rumored that Porsche will use the new Panamera platform to build another new model, a GT Coupe replacing the ‘90s 944/928 models. The two front engined cars will share at least 60 per cent of all parts including the platform, the engines (as the most costly autonomous part), transmissions (the second most costly) and suspension corner modules (the third most costly individual single part of a vehicle), amid others. A specific fine-tuning of the common components, a different electronic mapping and different suspension spring and damping values will ensure that the Panamera and the GT Coupe will be two distinct vehicles with characters appropriated for their destinations. At a broader level, parts will also be shared with the equally front engined Cayenne range. Therefore all three models - Cayenne, Panamera and the GT Coupe – are expected to be offered with a range of normally aspirated and turbocharged V8 (already in use on the Cayenne) and V10 engines (derived from the extreme Carrera GT) ranging between 4 and 6 liters of displacement and producing power values amid 300 and 650 bhp. It is unlikely that the Panamera and the GT Coupe will use Cayenne’s four-wheel drive system. A traditional rear-wheel drive with optimized weight distribution due to transaxle-setup of the gearboxes is expected to provide the desired level of performance and handling.
Wearing the D1 Project Code-name the new four-door coupe will feature a tall roof for easy entry and exit, and enough luggage room in the rear for a vacation. The Panamera is anticipated to carry a price tag ranging between $125,000 and $175,000
Despite the practical proportions and oversized dimensions, the Panamera will be instantly recognizable as a Porsche. Porsche trademark styling elements will include the round headlamps, large front air intakes resembling those from the 911 Turbo, a wide and sporty tailgate, and a four-light boomerang greenhouse to avoid that slouchy fastback look.
It is a sure thing that, Porsche is watching Mercedes-Benz’s CLS sales carefully, as that is the car the new Panamera will be coming after. Although, Porsche’s sales target figures are set for a more modest 20,000 vehicles a year.
Porsche Panamera official sketch
The Panamera is normally well thought-out to be the production version of the Porsche 989 concept from the late 1980s. Others argue that it could also be an appropriate successor to the 2-door GT of the 90s the 928. A certain thing is that it will be marketed as a straight challenger to vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS Class and Maserati Quattroporte and even as a cheaper alternative to automobiles such as the Bentley Continental GT, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and Aston Martin Rapide. The Panamera will be the first V8-engined sports car to be built by Porsche since the 1995, discontinuation of the 928.
The name of the new model is derived, like the Porsche Carrera model, from the Carrera Panamericana race. The first official sketch of the car distributed by Porsche shows a low profile, four-door sports car with thin side windows and fluid lines.
Porsche were previously criticized for launching cars that didn’t fit the company’s ethos. The Boxster was said by many to be underpowered or the Cayenne was told not to be a true high-performance car. The market has contradicted all of those critics as both of those models have become big sellers and loved by enthusiasts all over the world. Ferrari was very successful with the 456GT, the 550 Maranello, and the new Scaglietti. There’s no reason for Porsche no to try to emulate that recipe. People with families can still aim at possessing a sports car, and a Porsche could be more affordable than a Ferrari.
In order to sustain the production of the new Panamera model line, Porsche will be significantly expanding their Leipzig Plant. The plans for the new plant involve the construction of a new 269,000 square feet Production Hall and, at the same time, the extension of the existing Assembly Hall. Subjected to authorities’ approval, the construction is planned to start this September.
The power units of the Panamera are known to be built in Porsche’s main plant in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. The painted bodies will be supplied by Volkswagen’s Hanover Plant. The Hanover Plant has been chosen because it is one of the most modern plants within the entire Volkswagen Group and is in a position to build the body of the car with the premium quality required by Porsche. Another pro is that the Paintshop in Hanover allows a wider range of colours than at other VW plants.
Panamera TS artists rendering
15 per cent of the Panamera will be built in Porsche’s own plants is, six per cent will be covered by VW Hanover Plant and the rest by the usual Porsche suppliers. However, since the Company cooperates mostly with German suppliers, over 70 per cent of the car’s creation value will be German. Like the rest of the Porsche models, the Panamera will be therefore a genuine Porsche product "Made in Germany".
As the Panamera will be a sports car it will have more in common with the 911 and Boxster/Cayman models, but it will share the engine layout with the Cayenne. A front mounted engine has not been seen in a Porsche sports car the since the 924 model that and gradually evolved into the 928.
Porsche is acknowledged one of the most intensely triumphant businesses in the motor industry, and the company likes to underline that the 1 billion EURO cost of bringing the Panamera to market will be supported entirely out of its individual funds.
The success of Porsche’s 928 model during the ’80s encouraged Porsche management to consider adding another big, sporty touring vehicle to the model range, this time a four door that could serve as a more practical but evenly powerful and exciting substitute to the 928. Porsche engineers were given instructions that the vehicle should be both luxurious and comfortable and offer in the same time a sporting nature superior to what could be attained in large sedans from Mercedes Benz and BMW.
They designed a new front-engine, rear-drive platform with an extended wheelbase and power coming from a new water-cooled V8 engine with a power peak of around 300 bhp. The exact engine displacement is not known, but it reported to be between 3.6 and 4.2 liters.
The prototype vehicle was called the 989, was styled by Harm Lagaay and that design has influenced models that followed after. It held many design similarities to the 911 despite the different drive train. Notable design influences to later Porsches are the control-arm suspension and 959 headlamps, which were later used on the 993 as well as the overall shape and taillight design, which were adapted for the 996 generation 911.
After the sales of the 928 have severely dropped, executives had second thoughts about the viability of the idea. Low overall profits during the 1989 to 1991 model years also made the new model a possible risk for the company. In January 1992, the development of the 989 saloon was halted completely. Although Porsche officials have initially stated that the only prototype of the car was destroyed, it is now believed that it still remains in storage.
The Porsche Panamera, due out in 2009, is considered the successor to the 989 project.
One of the main competitors of the new Porsche Panamera is the well-known sports-saloon, the Maserati Quattroporte. The Quattroporte has reached its fifth generation, each generation being separated by a period of about five years.
In the early 60s, Maserati’s status was at a high. In order to expand their business Maserati has created in 1963 their first Quattroporte. The 1963 ’Tipo 107’ Quattroporte (Italian for ’four doors’) was designed by Petro Frua and joined two other prominent grand tourers, the Facel Vega and the Lagonda Rapide, both capable of 150 mph on the new motorways of Europe. However, the Quattroporte is said to have been the first vehicle exclusively designed for this purpose.
In 2004, Maserati started production of the fifth generation of Quattroporte, currently in production. This model was designed by Pininfarina and is equipped with the same 4.2 L engine as the Coupe and Spyder but upgraded to produce 400 bhp. Due to the significant bigger weight than the Coupe and Spyder, the Quattroporte sprints from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The fifth Quattroporte was unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show and made its US debut at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. It continues the long tradition of Maserati Quattroporte luxury sedans.
The Quattroporte displays an unprecedented weight distribution, never achieved in this kind of a vehicle with 47% front and to the rear 53% allowing for very agile handling. This excellent weight distribution by using the Transaxle transmission layout, which sets the gearbox rear-mounted in unit with the differential. The type of architecture is normally reserved for high performance sports cars and is applied to a luxury sedan for the very first time.
Another vehicle the Porsche Panamera will have to “hunt down” is the world’s first dedicated luxury four-door coupe, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. This model uses the Mercedes-Benz W219 designation, and shares the platform of the contemporary E-Class sedan. The CLS was intended to fit between the E-Class and the S-Class, and compete with granturismos such as the BMW 6-series or with sports sedans like the Cadillac STS and Lexus GS.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Class
While still in development, the CLS was nicknamed by Mercedes the "Jag fighter", as it was suppose to be the kind of car that Jaguar customers would be concerned to, although Jaguar never produced such a vehicle themselves.
According to a Mercedes-Benz’s press release, the CLS-class was designed to mix the "strong, emotive charisma" of a coupe with the "comfort and practicality" of a sedan. Due to the fame of the CLS-Class, other German car manufacturers intend to produce such vehicles. Audi has planned to release a 4-door coupe, which might be called the A5 and BMW seems to also be interested in this segment.