The popular Automobile Magazine reviews two of the most controversial vehicles launched last year. First one comes from the Munich-based automaker BMW, in the form of a Gran Tourer: 5 Series GT. Second one, Porsche’s Panamera model is positioned as a genuine alternative to a Maserati Quattroporte or Mercedes CLS, both in image as well as day-to-day driveability.
A fair comparison? Most likely not, but certainly one of a two niche vehicles that are equally loved and disliked.
Before we can move on though, we’ve got to address our insecurities, so we park the two hunchbacks side-by-side. The BMW, with its tall roofline and slightly raised ground clearance, looks a bit truckish when standing alone. But next to the Panamera, the 5-series GT looks natural and even somewhat pleasing. The truncated hatch hardly looks controversial. Instead, the GT seems merely to wear BMW’s design du jour and if you’re into the 5- or 7-series sedans, accepting the Gran Turismo is easy.
Unfortunately, the Panamera doesn’t provide the same sense of resolution. The front end’s broad, low hood and oval headlights establish the Porsche identity, but it’s also rather bland. Boring, however, would be an improvement for the rear end. The awkward interplay of the fenders and hatch present an ungainly growth. Viewing the Panamera from a low front three-quarters angle allows you to hide the massive rear end behind the windshield and side glass, but that mass is lurking every time you look back at your parked Panamera.
On the road
Equipped with the $1320 Sport Chrono Package Plus, the Panamera offers three dynamic modes (normal, sport, and sport plus) to modify the engine, transmission, stability control, and suspension character. BMW’s Driving Dynamics Control adds a fourth setting, comfort mode, and offers a broader bandwidth in varying the ride character. Despite that, with the BMW in its stiffest setting and the Porsche set to its normal mode, the Panamera is significantly more buttoned down. Body roll in the Gran Turismo is present in any quick turn, regardless of the setting, while the Panamera always remains flat and poised.
While the Porsche lacks the BMW’s grunt, its greater body control and more capable handling would likely make it faster around a track. Still, the BMW surprised us because it’s no less engaging than the Porsche. Part of that, though is a weakness of the Panamera, which has a minor case of Nissan GT-R Syndrome. This is the phenomenon that afflicts incredible performance cars boasting uncanny 0-to-60-mph sprints, lateral grip, and lap times, yet failing to engage the driver the way we expect from a sports car. In the Panamera, the steering lacks the satisfying feedback cherished in Boxsters and 911s. The wheel still offers good feel, but the heavy weight masks some of the communication.
Despite their similarities, these two cars have unique personalities. BMW’s Gran Turismo is a bastion of luxury and comfort. The Porsche is a sports car first and a luxury car second.