2017’s Top Ten Tech Cars: Porsche Panamera

The world’s fastest diesel

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The original Panamera sedan, in 2009, dazzled everyone with its performance but drew brickbats for its Hunchback-of-Stuttgart styling. The 2017 edition looks like a proper Porsche while packing even more technology and performance under that sleeker skin.

The new Panamera is the first of myriad models built on the VW Group’s clever MSB architecture, a modular layout that will allow many vehicles—including an upcoming Bentley Continental GT—to share power trains, steering, and much else, regardless of the size and shape of the car. A pair of twin-turbocharged engines includes a 2.9-liter V-6 and a 4.0-L V-8, the latter delivering a monstrous 410 kilowatts (550 horsepower), a 0-to-97-kilometer-per-hour (60-mile-per-hour) blast in 3.7 seconds, and a 305-km/h peak. Europeans will get a 4S Diesel model whose V-8 turbodiesel spools up 310 kW (418 hp) and a titanic 850 newton meters (627 foot-pounds) of torque. Porsche calls it the world’s fastest production diesel, combining a 285-km/h (177-mph) top speed with up to 900 miles of range on a single tank. That’s enough to go from Paris to Rome.

And, unlike the Volkswagens that failed emissions testing (and covered it up with a nefarious digital “defeat device”), this Porsche carries a tank of urea-based DEF fluid to neutralize nitrous oxides.

The technical goodies are impressive. Electronic shocks, rear steering, and torque vectoring are all overseen by the new 4D Chassis Control, which analyzes driving situations in three spatial dimensions—pitch, roll, and yaw—and optimizes response in real time (hence the “fourth dimension”). The system thus networks various electronic suspension systems that once worked independently. It obsessively monitors the vehicle’s trajectory and driver inputs, and coordinates every system to maximize agility, stability, and safety. Models equipped with a three-chambered air suspension can include optional active stabilizer bars, controlled via 48-volt electromechanical actuators. These counteract cornering loads to keep the body flatter than a Marine’s haircut.

An electronically controlled steering rack mounts at the rear subframe to steer rear wheels opposite to the fronts at lower speeds, for snappier moves in tight corners. Or it can steer them in tandem with the front wheels at high speeds to keep you on course.

Also new is InnoDrive, which analyzes GPS data from up to 3 km away to autonomously steer, shift, and control the Porsche’s speed. That radar- and camera-based system also reads road signs to automatically keep the Panamera at the speed limit. And a new thermal-imaging night vision system, in tandem with LED Matrix headlamps, will alert drivers to animals or pedestrians in your path, far beyond high-beam range—if they’re not already fleeing your prodigiously fast approach.

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