March 19, 2009 Porsche's 4-door Panamera will be finally unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 20 - not that we haven't already had plenty of chances to take a good look at it through the company's prolific PR department. Designed to be at once more luxurious than an S-Class Benz and sportier than a Beemer M5, the Panamera is the first 4-door Porsche with an uncompromising performance focus. It looks like a belter too, considering rumors that the 500-horsepower, US$132,600 turbo model actually had to be reined back in performance terms just so it wouldn't trouser the 911, which is supposed to be Porsche's performance flagship. As a brand new, extreme high end model, you'd be expecting the Panamera to pack a few technological punches - and you'd be right. Here's a few of the key innovations.

Engineers at Porsche have tucked in with gusto to the task of producing a luxury 4-door sports limo that makes no compromises in comfort or performance. To achieve their goals, they have loaded the upcoming 2009 Panamera with some pretty nifty technology. Let's take a look at a few items.

PDK transmission

PDK stands for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe - ten points if you can pronouce that. It's a double-clutch automatic, meaning that there's actually two transmissions, one handling reverse, first, third, fifth and the hugely overdriven economy 7th gear, and the other handling second, fourth and sixth gears. Each has its own clutch, so that, for example, when you shift up from first, second gear is engaging at the same time as first is disengaging.

The result is basically that there is uninterrupted power delivered to the wheels as the car accelerates through the gears - and since no engine revolutions are lost in the gearchange, there's a benefit in terms of fuel economy as well.

The PDK, a several thousand-dollar option on the 2008 911, is standard on all three Panamera models.

Start/stop System

The idea of turning the engine off when you're stopped at the lights, then istantly turning it back on when you lift your foot from the brake, is nothing new. An economy measure used to boost a car's gas mileage and help lower emissions, it's a clever addition to the Panamera range.

Porsche claims this is the first time such a system has been implemented on a premium car with an automatic transmission, and economy tests have rated the Panamera S at 26.2mpg, which isn't bad for a luxury sportster.

Adaptive Air Suspension

The Panamera's adaptive air suspension system adjusts not only the pressure of air in each shock, but for the first time, the volume of each chamber, giving the car a wider range of performance, comfort and compromise suspension settings to play with on the fly.

Adaptive Rear Spoiler

While the whole car has been given plenty of attention in the wind tunnel - including the addition of a completely covered, flat underfloor - the star of the aerodynamics show is the moving rear spoiler. It pops up as speeds increase, and gradually extends to give the optimal blend of stability, aerodynamics and performance.

Interior Acoustics

It's a luxury car, so it's supposed to be whisper-quiet. Wait, it's also a V8 Porsche sportscar, it should snarl at you when you hit the gas until the hairs stand up on your arms.

Porsche believes it's got the balance right on this one, with super-quiet aeroacoustics a priority from day one to deliver a quiet and discreet ride when you're cruising. When you plant the pedal, though, and the 4.8-litre engine really starts to sing, care has been taken to make sure the occupants are in the front row for its performance.

Ultralight body construction

Porsche has devoted a lot of time to getting the Panamera as light as possibe. To that end, each part of the body of the car has been assessed for optimal materials use. Several different grades of steel are used, as well as plastics, aluminium and magnesium alloys in search of the right mix of light weight and strength where each is required.

The lightweight doors, for example, have a load-bearing structure made of laser-treated pressure-cast aluminium, an aluminium outer skin, and door window frames made of thin-walled pressure-cast magnesium. This has led to a nice low weight of 1,770kg for the Panamera S - just 80kg heavier than the 2-seater 911 Turbo Cabriolet.


The 400 horsepower Panamera S, which will hit 60mph in 5.2 seconds, will sell for US$89,900.

The 4S, featuring all-wheel-drive, will get you to 60 in 4.8 seconds, for US$93,800.

The big daddy Panamera Turbo, at the top of the range, boasts 500 horsepower and makes 60 in 4 seconds flat. Top speed is a mighty adequate 188mph. It will set you back US$132,600.

Loz Blain

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