The 1988 Porsche 989 is where the Panamera stared taking shapeby Alina Moore, on LISTEN 01:20
Porsche has been romanticizing the idea of a four-door performance saloon for much longer than you may have thought. Although the first-generation Panamera came out in 2009, there was another attempt at a similar car, dating back as early as 1982. The idea of creating the 989 came as a result of strong 928 sales. Porsche engineer Dr. Ulrich Bez was put in charge of the project. The goal was to make a Porsche that would go up against the likes of BMW M5 and Mercedes 500E.
1989 Porsche 989 - the performance sedan Porsche didn’t make
The sedan needed to have plenty of luxury, enough room for four adult people, and superior performance than its competitors. In addition, the car needed to resemble the marque’s pride and joy – the Porsche 911.
At that point, Porsche had already decided to branch out into the luxury market. For a while, their 928 was more of a gran-tourer than a sports car. It was selling well, which prompted the expansion of the brand’s luxury car lineup. The 989’s development was heavily dependent on the 928 success, which was already being produced for a couple of years.
The first working prototype was ready in 1988. It featured a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, with a 111.3-inch (2,826 mm) wheelbase. The car featured a new 4.2-liter normally-aspirated V-8 engine. The engine was similar, but not identical to the one Audi used in its bigger models, at the time. The result was 350 horsepower, which was more than any other road-going Porsche at the time. Moreover, the 989 would have been able to reach 173 mph (278 km/h).
In 1992, the Porsche 928 GTS succeeded in matching the 350 horsepower figure, thanks to a 5.4-liter V-8. The first 911 Turbo to surpass the 350 horsepower figure was the 1993 964 Turbo 3.3 S, with 376 horsepower.
As for the 989’s true rivals, the 1988 BMW M5 E34 was producing 311 horsepower from its 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated inline-six. Later variants had a bigger 3.8-liter unit that still produced less horsepower, at 340. The Mercedes 500E W124 didn’t come out until 1990. Its 5.0-liter V-8 was rated at 322 horsepower.
The Porsche 989 prototype was also lighter, at 3,465 pounds (1,572 kg). For comparison, the BMW M5 tipped the scales at 3,680 – 3,880 pounds (1,669 – 1,760 kg), while the V-8 Mercedes came in at 3,748 – 3,933 pounds (1,700 – 1,784 kg).
It was made clear in the beginning that the 989’s realization would be heavily dependent on the success of the Porsche 928 – the brand’s first car with emphasis on luxury. By 1990, sales of the now-aging 928 had severely decreased. This led to the development being halted, which followed the complete scrapping of the project, in 1992. We would not see a true four-door Porsche for nearly another 20 years.