Lion in Winter: Quick Spin with the Porsche Panamera 4S

In the snowy streets of Chicago, the Porsche Panamera 4S — 420 horsepower V6, all-wheel-drive, stability and traction control, front-to-weight distribution and all — proves a surprisingly spectacular winter car.

It gives old man winter a proper blow to the kidneys. | Amos Kwon

There’s a thick, fresh blanket of new snow on the streets of Chicago. It’s a scene that’s been too often played out over the past few months, but the burden of getting through the traffic and the white stuff is mitigated by today’s transportation. It’s a big beast of a sedan, but the badge says “Porsche”, so I’m not exactly reluctant to take it out. That desire is enhanced by the 4S designation indicating all-wheel-drive. The Panamera‘s huge doors close with an authoritative thud, and the Carrera GT-like buttons on the center console welcome in a way that might dizzy those without petrol in their veins. The ignition fires up the 420 horsepower, twin turbo V6. I activate the exhaust button for kicks. It queues the valves on the mufflers to free up a bypass that makes the big German sedan sound positively ferocious. Talk about waking you from the winter doldrums.

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Porsche’s first sedan in its long history is an oddity. Big, heavy and with questionable aesthetics, it’s a wonder the Panamera got past the bean counters in Stuttgart. It has a bulbous rear end that lends to a whopping 44 cubic feet of storage. Makes me want to cram stuff in just for the hell of it. The Panamera’s practicality is only overshadowed by its sheer presence. It’s a hulking monster of a car, longer and wider than it has any right to be. The stretched wheelbase of the Executive version no doubt brings it to battleship proportions. Dark Blue Metallic paint helps subdue the visual size of this standard 4S, but mashing the pedal betrays any subtlety, to my everlasting pleasure.

I’ve driven it before during a sunny week in San Francisco when the pavement was dry and the temps didn’t drop below fifty, but the addition of a few inches of snow and two more driven wheels today adds another dimension to the Panamera and a greater appreciation for what Porsche has wrought. Even on uneven cobblestone streets caked in freshly fallen snow, the Panamera 4S is composed and capable.

Talk about waking you from the winter doldrums. This is how you do it.

It’s a plus that there’s just enough isolation to create six-figure comfort without separating you from what’s going on outside. No doubt the snow tires wrapped around the classy 19-inch Panamera Design II wheels help get the 4S the proper cold weather traction, but it’s the benefit of the all-wheel-drive system, the PSM (stability), the PTM (traction) and the excellent 52/48 front-to-rear weight distribution that make the Panamera a spectacular, surprising winter car. There’s control every second in bad weather, with passengers all the while cosseted, and the driver all the while grinning.

The caked-on road salt stains along the nose and the body (and sprayed all over the glorious gold, red and black Porsche crest) remind me that Porsche wants this car to be really driven, to fulfill its purpose of being an everyday driver with spirited throttling and steering — and that it just happens to be eminently practical, to boot. To call it a proper sport-luxury sedan is a woeful understatement. I pity the naysayers who’ve never experienced the Panamera in its myriad iterations. It’s a car that does so much, so damned masterfully, that it makes me reconsider the Ferrari FF as the grail family car.

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