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2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S review:

2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S

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A button on the console changes the suspension settings, irrespective of the Sport and Sport Plus buttons. In Comfort mode, the Panamera Turbo S never becomes a marshmallow, despite the color of our car. Even at its slackest, there is something hard about this car. It won't waft over rough patches in the road, instead communicating each little jolt to the driver, as if it were an instrument designed to measure road surfaces.

Leather, metal, and wood
Porsche aficionados will expect this type of behavior. Despite lush interiors filled with natural materials such as leather and metal, Porsche engineering emphasizes driving capability. And the Panamera Turbo S cabin is nicely loaded with luxury touches. Although a five-door sedan, it only seats four, with a console separating the rear seats. Not only does each seat get its own temperature setting for the climate control system, but all, even the rear seats, can be heated and cooled. A rear-seat entertainment package, with LCDs mounted behind the front seats, is also available.

An LCD, part of the Porsche Communication Management feature, sits in the center stack.

The Panamera Turbo S comes standard with Porsche Communication Management, a module that bundles hard-drive-based navigation, digital audio, and a Bluetooth phone system into one package. This system uses a high-resolution LCD touch screen high in the center stack, with a set of buttons and dials below to access the various functions.

The control setup is clever, relying primarily on two dials, the left one for volume and the right for a variety of tasks, such as scrolling through menus and tuning radio stations. These controls are complemented by a set of buttons on the steering wheel spokes. However, unlike just about every other car with a modicum of cabin electronics, Porsche makes its voice command system optional.

This car may be one of the more expensive Porsche models, but the navigation system is not the best in the world. It is certainly top-tier, showing 2D or 3D map views, the latter with rendered buildings in urban areas. Hard-drive-stored maps ensure quick response times, and the system uses traffic data to dynamically route around bad traffic. But it is not quite at the level of the Google Earth navigation system in the Audi A7.

In fact, the Panamera Turbo S lacks much in the way of connectivity. Although it shows traffic and weather, there are no fuel prices or stock information. Porsche has also not revealed an app strategy, so there is no Pandora or other app integration in the car.

As with other high-end brands, Porsche focuses on the stereo for cabin electronics. The Panamera Turbo S can handle all the modern audio sources. A USB port in the console reads MP3 tracks off a thumbdrive and handles iPod integration. The interface for the iPod library categorizes music by artist, album, genre, and other ID3 tagging fields. The system also parses the ID3 tags for MP3 files on thumbdrives, showing the same interface as the iPod library, a nice touch.

But the most exciting piece of tech in the Panamera Turbo S' cabin is the premium audio system, from German company Burmester. With more than 1,000 watts of amplification and 16 speakers, this system shows impressive specifications. The powerful amp and the quality of the speakers give the system a lot of range, making it possible to tune for excessive bass or crisp treble.

The Burmester audio system includes a number of digital signal processing presets for the stereo.

The sound produced by this system is ultraprecise, leaving no note unplayed as it reaches into the densest layered recording, unearthing every instrument. But it didn't sound particularly warm. While I enjoyed hearing the tones produced from a single stretched guitar string, the system didn't make me want to keep on driving around the block until a favorite song ended. The quality of sound from it is so clean that I just wanted to use it as a reference for every MP3 track in my 60GB music library.

Burmester includes a few digital signal-processing tricks to tailor the sound. A Smooth setting makes the sound quality gentler, appropriate as background music for driving, while a Live setting makes music more dynamic. There is also a Surround setting that we found didn't do much for music.

In sum
As would be expected from Porsche, long known for its unique sports car engineering, the 2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S comes in with cutting-edge performance technology. Porsche managed to keep the big sedan light while fitting it with dynamic suspension technology capable of handing high-speed cornering. Engine and transmission employ the latest road technology to deliver incredible acceleration while keeping fuel economy reasonable.

In the cabin, the Burmester audio system is certainly a centerpiece, but all other electronics can be found in many competing luxury vehicles. The 3D maps of the navigation system and the various digital audio sources for the stereo are all very nice, but Porsche pushes no boundaries with this equipment.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Porsche Panamera
Trim Turbo S
Power train Twin turbocharged direct-injection 4.8-liter V-8, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission
EPA fuel economy 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 17.8 mpg
Navigation Standard hard-drive-based with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard with phone book integration
Disc player MP3-compatible single-CD
MP3 player support iPod integration
Other digital audio Bluetooth streaming audio, SD card, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio
Audio system Burmester 1,000-plus-watt 16-speaker system
Driver aids Adaptive cruise control, rearview camera
Base price $173,200
Price as tested $184,990

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