It was the worst-kept secret in the auto biz, but today Porsche officially announced it will build a "four-door coupe" called the Panamera, debuting as a 2009 model. Generally speaking, this car follows in the footsteps of the old 928--an oval-shaped, opulent grand tourer with a V-8 in the front and drive wheels in the back.
CNET will be inspecting the Panamera up close when a prototype bows at the Frankfurt auto show in September, so I'll hold specific comment until then. But I find two things interesting regardless: First, like the Mercedes CLS500, the Panamera is a "four-door coupe"--previously an oxymoron. And secondly, Porsche is falling all over itself to proclaim that this car will be engineered and built by Porsche, without an outside partner or foreign plant. The premium car brands may lean that way more in the future. The Daimler-Chrysler merger did nothing for Mercedes's image, and building BMWs in South Carolina doesn't exactly advance that company's image. When the price tag exceeds 40 grand, image becomes a big part of the equation. Porsche is smart to make the Panamera truly German. (Never mind that the Boxster is assembled in Finland by the same contractor that builds the Saab 9-3, which is a platform mate to the Chevy Malibu!)