Porsche has made a lot of 911s, more than one million 911s in fact. Porsche also made more than 60,000 356s. There were also nearly 200,000 944s, 120,000 914s, 61,000 928s, 150,000 924s, and around 13,000 968s. If we exclude the most recent additions to the lineup, the Panamera, Boxster, Cayman, Cayenne and Macan, the majority of Porsches ever built are 911s. Not a plurality, but a straight majority as far as I can see. Aesthetically the Panamera must answer to the 911’s design, as it should, as the 911 is the brand’s flagship product. Do we really need to draw the comparison between the Panamera and the 911 all the time? Is there a better analogue to the Panamera in automotive history?
Jonny Lieberman thinks that answer comes from the Tatra 87. Like Porsche’s most famous models, the 356 and 911, the Tatra is rear engined, and its 3.0L hemi-head V8 is air-cooled. Like the Panamera, it’s a sedan, and was furiously fast for its day. Its rapid pace and tricky handling thanks to the rear-engined layout even gave it a reputation for killing German officers during the Second World War. Ferdinand Porsche famously borrowed from designer Hans Ledwinka when creating the Beetle, a car which bore more resemblance to Ledwinka’s prior work than Porsche’s own. The owner of the Tatra featured in the video even posits that if Tatra was still making cars now, they’d be a lot like the Panamera.
The Tatra is incredibly cool, and has a long list of descendants which are not well known in much of the world. The 87 begat the 97, which begat the 603, which over time gave way to the 613, and ultimately the rear-engined, air-cooled Tatra T700 which stayed in production until 1999. Yes, the last air-cooled Tatra car outlasted even the 993 in production. Tatra has not built a consumer sedan since.
But is the comparison a good one?
This is not the first time Porsche has produced a big GT car with a powerful V8 out front, rear wheel steering at the back, and just enough 911 cues to remind you that it is a Porsche. To my eyes, the Panamera is looking more and more like the 2017 version of the 928. Even the taillights on the current car resemble the last 928s; the GT and the GTS. The similarly odd arching roofline on a front-engined car brings the pair even closer together.
While the 928 was intended as a replacement for the 911, its long production life and resurgent popularity of the 911 saw it take on new and different roles. The final 928s were continent-devouring GT cars, laden with the latest tech, and even dual zone climate control. The Panamera of today looks more like a logical extension of the 928’s bloodline than of any of the 911-sedan false-starts from Porsche’s history.
Maybe I’m misguided, and I invite you to tell me why
Really, I cherish that part of this site, you’re a well informed bunch and I think this is a worthwhile discussion. The Panamera is an excellent car, and I’d be happy to let it stand on its own in the pantheon of great Porsche production models. If we have to make comparisons to past cars, however, Porsche themselves have provided plenty of basis for comparison beyond the 911.