New Porsche Panamera will launch in 2016
The 2016 Porsche Panamera has been spotted testing on several occasions, with the hybrid model the latest to be spied
The next-generation Porsche Panamera has again been spotted testing again, with the hybrid model spied for the first time. The car has been seen on several occasions now, ahead of a planned launch in late 2016.
The hybrid model prototype appears little different to the conventionally powered versions, with the small ‘hybrid’ sticker in the right-hand front window the only visible difference. It was seen testing as part of a group of Panameras that were out and about in southern Europe.
Based on a new, advanced rear-drive and all-wheel-drive platform, dubbed MSB, the Panamera will incorporate multiple weight-saving measures and an all-new family of V6 and V8 petrol engines that promise a muscular power delivery to cement the Panamera’s position as the world’s sportiest premium saloon.
The template for the new Panamera is based on the technical and design advances introduced on the latest 991 series of the 911, which incorporates six different material types – including magnesium, multi-phase steels and aluminium skin panels.
These new materials helped to reduce the kerb weight of 911 models by up to 45kg, despite a significant increase in the car’s overall dimensions, more stringent crash test standards and a higher level of standard equipment.
“Weight is our enemy and we are looking for the same percentage of aluminium as on the new 911,” said Porsche technical head Wolfgang Hatz. “If you do nothing, the car becomes heavier and heavier. Comfort always equals weight, too.”
Without the high proportion of aluminium structure and body panels, the latest 911 would have put on about 60kg, according to Porsche’s own estimates.
Applied to the Panamera, these weight-saving measures are understood to ensure that its kerb weight stays at about 1800kg to 1900kg. This is despite a greater content of luxury equipment and a new, non-regulatory US narrow-overlap crash test championed by consumer groups.
The new Panamera is understood to sit on a slightly longer wheelbase and have marginally tighter front and rear overhangs than the current model. However, the overall dimensions remain broadly similar and the interior offers comparable accommodation.
A significant part of the programme is the exterior redesign, which is aimed at improving the current car’s polarising looks.
Design chief Michael Mauer told journalists at the Paris motor show in October last year that the styling will “still divide opinion” but will be “more attractive”.
Mauer said: “You have to recognise it is the new one, but as well recognise that it is the successor. So the car will look different. It will look better, but you will immediately see that it is the Panamera.”
Prototypes scooped testing appear to be strongly influenced by the latest 911, particularly the haunches over the rear wheel arches, which are emphasised by more pronounced creases on the new Panamera.
Mauer also said the rear screen will be reclined at a “faster” angle, meaning a more raked fastback shape.
Porsche is also understood to be planning a redesign of the interior and moving some of the functions clustered on buttons around the centre console to a central touchscreen, a current trend in interior design. Evidence of this can be seen in our latest spy pictures, which are visible by scrolling through the carousel, and which include shots showing a less cluttered area around the gearlever.
Autocar understands that the new family of V6 and V8 petrol and turbo engines currently under development is tipped to be one of the new Panamera’s standout features.
New from the ground up, the next Panamera has been the subject of significant investment to ensure that it has a unique, sporty character. The programme fought off the alternative within the Volkswagen Group of merging development of the Porsche/Bentley V8 with the Audi unit to save money.
New engine test cells have been installed at Weissach as part of an annual £60 million investment programme, and these will ease the new engines into production.
The concentration of this new engine development work at Weissach is partly responsible for the large influx of new engineers at Porsche, whose total workforce has risen to about 20,000 from 12,000 in just three years.
As well as the petrol V6 and V8, the MSB platform is being engineered around a diesel V6 and the hybrid.
The diesel will continue to be an Audi unit that Porsche modifies for the Panamera, eased by the close proximity to Weissach of Audi’s diesel development operation.
Significantly, Bentley has finally decided to join the MSB programme to underpin the successors to the Continental and Flying Spur. This means that Porsche is ‘package protecting’ the new platform for a 12-cylinder engine.
Porsche is also working on a new range of transmissions, understood to be PDK dual-clutch autos and manuals, although details are scarce.
Whether or not the Bentley will retain its ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic has yet to be confirmed. But given Bentley’s focus on refined and reserved power, it seems likely.
Porsche is not yet committing in public to other variants of the Panamera, but sources have revealed that two-door coupé and convertible versions, which can share their engineering with the new Bentley Continental GT and GT Convertible, have been package protected.
This means that construction details for the two-door body styles, such as stiffening of the bodyshell for the convertible and stowage space for the hood, have been built into the engineering concept design, even if the production investment has not yet been committed.
However, they may well be integral to Porsche’s plan to raise production to 200,000 units a year by 2018, together with a promise to launch a new model each year until then.
Bentley’s involvement in the project will also help Porsche to engineer these spin-offs, because its three-box designs incorporate a rear bulkhead essential to stiffen the structure of an open-top design. The four-door Panamera’s fastback design, with its estate-style folding rear seats, doesn’t have the necessary bulkhead.
The green light for the two-door Panamera family now hinges as much on Porsche’s engineering capacity as on the projected market demand.
Having launched the carbonfibre-tubbed 918 Spyder and the Macan SUV in just a handful of years, engineering teams want to return their focus to the existing range, which will need updating and replacing.
Hatz said: “At the moment we are on full load, even overload, so let’s do the homework which we have to do. We have had a great deal of development in the past four years. Now we have to stabilise this.”
In fact, such is the workload on Porsche’s engineers that sources in Germany report that much of the detailed production engineering of the new Panamera has been contracted out to consultants to open up capacity for Porsche’s own engineers to work on other projects.
Q&A with Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche board member for R&S, VW Group head of engine and transmissions
Will the new Panamera be ready in 18 months?
We are in the middle of the development and it is some time to SOP [start of production]. Is it 18 months to SOP? No, longer than that.
The new 911 uses aluminium extensively in its body. Will the Panamera follow that lead?
Absolutely, we will do. The same percentage as the 991? I think more.
What sort of weight saving can we expect?
Now we have to do the next step, but it will not be 50kg just from the body. We have to save from each component and each part.
The 918 Spyder uses a carbonfibre tub. Can this technology trickle down to the 911 and Boxster?
The 918 Spyder is very Iightweight, but at a high price point. Carbonfibre will not be ready in the next 10 years for a volume production car.
What is the production future of a Panamera coupé, a new 928?
I like it very much. But in the last three years, we have done the 918 Spyder and the Macan, all on top of what was planned. We have big programmes on powertrain and transmissions – all new. And we did the 919 race car from zero. That’s a big effort from my team.
What about a plug-in hybrid sports car in future?
Our biggest enemy on a sports car is weight. The battery, cooling, plumbing, wiring, electric motor and ECUs add 320kg to the 918 Spyder. Take it out and the car would weigh close to 1300kg, including liquids. It would be the lightest supercar in the world.
Can you solve this problem?
The technology has to become lighter, with reduced cost, complexity and so on. We have to work on it and, in the end, we can do it if we work on it.
Could we see it on the next 911?
This technology can reduce CO2, but it has to be fun to drive or the customer won’t buy it as a Porsche. We’ll only do a plug-in hybrid if it adds performance, despite the weight. We will not do an ‘eco 911’.
When will we see the new flat four turbo in a Porsche?
We are running [it] in test cars, but we are yet to decide when we will go into production. But downsizing is a fact. It can be fun to drive.
Will turbos take over from naturally aspirated engines at Porsche?
We will leave the customer a choice. A high-revving, normally aspirated [engine] is still something emotional. Most likely, we will have both options.
Will manual gearboxes be available in future models?
For ever, I don’t know. But for the next-generation models, we will have a manual. I’m talking out to 2020.
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