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2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S (photos)

A truly spectacular feat of engineering, the 2012 Panamera Turbo S hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and sticks to corners like paint. Its electronics are not the most advanced, considering its price, but the audio system produces excellent sound.

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Wayne Cunningham

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Similar to what it's done with its 911 model, Porsche has been creating trim levels for the Panamera based on S, Turbo, and all-wheel-drive models in various combinations. The latest Panamera version is the Turbo S, a halo car for Porsche that achieves better acceleration than many of the 911 models.


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The Panamera Turbo S is a five-door sedan. A hatchback allows for easy cargo access. A console divides the rear seats, limiting it to four occupants.


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The 4.8-liter V-8 uses direct injection and twin turbochargers to produce 550 horsepower. At the same time, its fuel economy is much better than that of other cars boasting this much power, getting 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.


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The styling of the Panamera was controversial from the start, as many criticize its pudgy rear end. It does, however, have a unique presence, and carries distinctive Porsche styling.


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As a high-performance model, the Panamera Turbo S comes standard with front-brake calipers that envelop almost a third of the rotor.


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An active suspension system changes the performance between Sport, Sport Plus, and Comfort settings. But even in Comfort mode, the ride quality is never soft. An automatic spoiler on the rear deploys at around 50 mph.


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The hatchback not only makes it easy to access the cargo area, but allows for more cargo room than a standard trunk.


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The cabin uses leather, metal, and wood trim to enhance its luxury feel.


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Steering is, of course, very responsive. The Panamera Turbo S is an engaging driver, and does not allow for sloppy handling.


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A metal strip along the top of the steering-wheel hub holds icons for the car's various modes, such as Sport and Sport Plus. It will even light up an icon for launch control when that system is engaged.


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Instead of traditional paddle shifters, Porsche uses these molded buttons. They are not completely intuitive to use so they require some experience to avoid shifting in the wrong direction.


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In traditional sports car style, the tachometer takes center stage on the instrument cluster, with the speedometer off to the left. A digital display in the tachometer also shows speed, which is very useful.


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A dial on the right of the instrument cluster holds a round LCD that shows a variety of screens from the car's infotainment system. You can view navigation, phone status, or the currently playing music track.


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The instrument cluster screen also shows how the adaptive cruise control is working. It indicates whether the system is tracking a car ahead, and the following distance.


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The Panamera Turbo S comes with Porsche's Doppelkluppung, or PDK, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that can shift very aggressively or in a more economical fashion, depending on driving style.


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The navigation system uses maps stored on a hard drive, and includes traffic data. The response time for the system is very good, but it is not quite as cutting-edge as the Google Earth system used by Audi.


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The hard drive makes possible quite a bit of detail on the maps, such as these 3D-rendered buildings in urban areas. In the mountains, the map shows terrain features.


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Porsche uses an onscreen keyboard for alphanumeric inputs, which allows for quick address entry.


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Traffic data can be viewed as a separate list, and the navigation system will use it to route around trouble spots.


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The Panamera Turbo S has a full Bluetooth phone system that can download a phone's contact list.


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The satellite radio interface shows presets, and you can tune in stations directly.


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Impressively, the Bluetooth streaming-audio source actually shows track data on the screen.


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This music library is used for both connected iPods and tracks on USB drives.


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The Burmester audio system is a $3,900 option, but it produces exceptionally precise sound.


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