If you only have a few days with the Porsche Panamera Turbo where do you go? Krugersdorp, of course. I have heard many people talk of the Krugersdorp Hillclimb. I have read reports, heard it discussed in conversation and seen a few pictures. But I had never been to it. For me it was an urban legend, a proper hillclimb road with serious hairpin bends hidden in the back of Johannesburg somewhere.
I found some directions on the web and typed the address in the satellite navigation. This infamous road is not so easy to find, but it did allow me to become acquainted with the new navigation and infotainment system in the second-generation Panamera.
The basic system of the old model has been replaced by something that reflects the modern era of smartphones. The home screen features tiles that can be tapped, swiped, scrolled and even pinched. It is all totally intuitive and you can tailor-make your home screen so only the items you use appear, while everything else is just a few taps or scrolls away.
Much of the information can also be displayed on one of the digital screens in the instrument cluster, including the navigation and directions.
I found myself driving along some scarred back roads through Krugersdorp industrial estates until I got to the top of a road full of switchback hairpins.
What I had not been warned about is the sewage works at the start of the hillclimb road. The smell was terrible. Fortunately, it was simple enough to push the air-recirculation button on the centre console, part of a series of new, elegant and modern haptic buttons that elevate the Panamera to a new level of executive modernity.
As a public road there was no chance to test the hillclimb properly, so no unleashing the full 404kW and 770Nm of the Turbo, no chance truly to test that all-wheel grip or optional active rear-wheel steering.
Instead I headed further afield, to quiet and more open roads where the Panamera could show its potential.
It has grip that can shame many an exotic sports car, all the while providing space for four in a comfortable ambience that while not quite as spacious as an executive sedan such as the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, will suit most execs.
The driving position is excellent and while the ride was slightly on the firm side it was never too much of a compromise between sporty and comfortable luxury.
Leave the settings in normal and there is some turbo lag, while the dual-clutch PDK box also provides a slight amount of vibration in slow-moving traffic. But dial in Sport or Sport+ and the Panamera Turbo switches from an urban cruiser to a true sports car.
Leave it to do its own thing, because only someone with genetically modified long fingers can reach the paddles, and push down on the accelerator. The power comes in with a real surge and keeps going to the point where many are likely to question their own talent long before they question the car’s ability. It is superbly engineered.
The second generation has clearly benefited from the technology revolution.
Suddenly it has jumped into the modern era of elegant interiors and tech-savvy infotainment and systems. The handling has been improved dramatically and there is no shortage of power. The exterior design will create some braai-side debates, but it is a major improvement, looking more dynamic, more Porsche-like.
It might be an executive vehicle, but it is more Porsche than ever before.
Lerato’s notes:The second-generation Panamera has taken a leaf from the Cayenne’s design book to become one of the best-looking executive models. The rear now has proper Porsche genes with those slim taillights and lower roof line.
Cabin appointments have also moved up the corporate premium ladder with one of the slickest infotainment systems. There is more than sufficient space for four occupants and their luggage.
Power delivery is swift, effortless and butter smooth. It is rather deceptive, too, in the manner it gathers up speed, yet it manages to be efficient giving around 14l/100km around town. Handling has been markedly improved and the almost 2-ton vehicle is light-footed in the way it corners and feels considerably lighter than its weight suggests.
The new Panamera is a sight to behold, spacious, capable, technologically laden and, in Turbo guise, decidedly quick. It is one of the best executive saloons on the market. – Mark Smyth
Fast Facts: Porsche Panamera Turbo
Engine: 3996cc twin-turbo V8
Power: 404kW from 5750 to 6000rpm
Torque: 770Nm from 1960 to 4500rpm
Transmission: eight-speed PDK
0-100km/h: 3.8-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 306km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 9.4l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 214g/km (claimed)
Price: From R2 441 000