Are you a successful man who wants to treat himself to a fast car? Are you also the kind of wealthy man who has to haul things around, like a wife, kids, and – more importantly – golf clubs? Might I direct your attention to Germany, because Klaus and Brunhilde have been thinking of you and designed some pretty impressive stuff: the Porsche Panamera and the Audi RS 7.
Despite having four doors, these cars can beat the lederhosen off of just about anything else on the road. But of course they can, they are German. And it’s impossible for the Germans to make a bad car. So, which one of these Teutonic touring terrors should you get with your $100,000? Well, let me take you through it.
One of the first questions we have to address is which Panamera are we talking about, because Porsche makes more versions of its Panamera than most companies make cars. You can spend anywhere from $78,000 to $200,000 on this four-door family Porsche. The one we will be talking about is the Panamera GTS. It’s $6,000 more than the Audi RS 7 at $130,000. But like the Audi, it has all-wheel drive and a V8. So, sure, you can get a V6 and rear-wheel drive in the Panamera. But to compare like-minded creatures, we’ll stick with the GTS.
Cars like the RS 7 and the Panamera exist so that you can have a sports car that you can drive every day, both because your chiropractor won’t forbid it and because it won’t break down every time there is a week in the month. I’m looking at you, Italy.
So, if these cars are going to be worth the hefty price tag, they need to drive like sports cars. The good news is that they absolutely do. The Panamera GTS with its 440 horsepower 4.8-liter V8 can get to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 179.
In and of itself, that is pretty impressive. Really, though, this car is about how it delivers that power. The V8’s power is instantly available across the entire rev range, and, believe me, that power is absolutely electric. The Porsche is also stunningly poised through the corners for such a big car. When you are driving it, you can be forgiven for thinking that you are in a 911. That is, until one of your kids in the back seat vomits all over your leather interior.
But if the Panamera GTS is impressive, the Audi RS 7 is stunning. Audi’s quattro division, which is to Audi what AMG is to Mercedes, worked black magic on the A7 to a truly unparalleled degree. And unlike AMG, no one outside of Audi corporate headquarters even knows that quattro is a performance division and not just an all-wheel drive system.
Like the GTS, the RS 7 has a V8. But where Porsche uses a naturally aspirated 4.8-liter, Audi’s brooding sorcerer engineers used a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. That might sound ordinary, albeit good, but this engine is special. In fact, Digital Trends gave the Audi TFSI its not-so-coveted engine of the year award, because not only does this engine put out 560 hp and 516 pound feet of torque, it also manages 27 highway and 16 city mpg.
How it does this would literally take years to explain, because I would have to go get at least two degrees in mechanical engineering to even start. So let’s just say it uses ECUs and a revolutionary new camshaft shut down cylinders when they aren’t needed.
I may not completely understand how it achieves what it does; but I do understand what it feels like. Driving this car makes you feel like you are in a luxury jet fighter. It trounces the Panamera GTS with a 0 to 60 time of 3.7 seconds. And, really, it doesn’t even feel that close. The Panamera might feel electric and instantaneous, but the RS 7 is irresistible.
In the corners this car gives you miles of confidence to put all of that power down. It might not be quite as delicate or polished as the Panamera but it is more fun more of the time. Really, the only downside is that the engine doesn’t sound as impressive as it feels like it should.
The edge here goes to the RS 7.
In the same way that these cars need to be fast to be worth the price tag, they need to be practical … or at least seem that way.
Both of these cars get shockingly good gas mileage for large performance oriented cars. It’s as if the Germans have decided that it’s not enough to beat the pants off everyone else on the street; they have to do it at the pumps, too. As already mentioned, the RS 7 gets a combined score of 19 mpg, which isn’t stunning compared to a Prius. Delightfully, it is more than enough to avoid a gas guzzler tax. The Panamera doesn’t do quite as well. But at 24 highway and 16 city, it is still impressive – especially because it lacks the technical wizardry of the RS 7.
The Panamera is also going to cost you more at the dealership. Not only does it retail for $6,000 more, Porsche is going to take you for all you are worth on the options list. If you want the sort of kit that you would expect as standard on a $55,000 Cadillac, expect to drop upwards of an extra $10,000 to put it in your Porsche.
Where the Porsche really comes into its own is interior space. The rear seat in the Panamera is big enough to fit an NBA guard, should you need to give one a ride. I won’t ask why. It also has plenty of space in the trunk for all of your golfist twigs.
The Audi by contrast doesn’t do quite as well in this department. The sharply sloping roof line cuts down on the rear headroom and trunk space to a slightly alarming degree. It’s fine for short trips, but if you are taller than six-foot-two like both myself and my editor, you are going to have problems in the back. On the other hand, it does serve the useful purpose of telling you when your kids are ready for boarding school. Too big for the back? Too big for the house!
The edge here goes to the Panamera.
Neither of these cars has quite the pizzazz of a two seat sports car or GT car, but for more than 100 grand you want your car to have presence.
I think the newest Panamera is a better looking effort than the previous generation. That is, if you squint. Honestly, they are pretty damn similar. Then again, this is a Porsche we are talking about. I think the real improvement is that there are now some angles from which the Panamera looks downright good, which just wasn’t true before.
Unfortunately, you do pay a visual price for that rear headroom; and that price is a pretty damn underwhelming silhouette. People will know that you are in a very expensive car. That will be down to the badge, though, and not the looks.
What’s more; the interior quality isn’t as good as you would expect. You can’t point to anything that is specifically wrong, but it just doesn’t seem like the quality is as good as it should be.
In contrast, the RS 7 is, in my humble opinion, one of the best looking mass produced cars of the last twenty years. That sharply sloping roof might cut into headroom, but it pays huge dividends in looks. I could go on for pages about how amazing this car looks, but if you agree with me then there is no point. And if you don’t, all I can say is: get your eyes checked.
On the inside this car feels like it is worth every penny. Not only is the interior quality some of the best I have ever seen, but you get amazing tech. My favorite detail is the capability to create a 3G wireless hot spot. Why doesn’t every car have this?
In short, where the Panamera feels like it delivers adequately for the cost, the RS 7 feels truly special.
The edge goes to the Audi.
If I had $110,000 to spend on a car, it isn’t just that I would buy an RS 7 over a Panamera, I would buy it over just about anything out there. The Audi is just a very special car that combines technical brilliance with excitement in a way that is pretty much unique in anything that isn’t a supercar.
And unlike most supercars, you really could drive the RS 7 everyday and to every possible occasion. It’s one of my favorite cars on the market today.
But if you are a Porsche lover, don’t worry; the Panamera is a very good car. You just shouldn’t buy in the middle of the range. The entry-level Panamera is a fantastic car – and you can get it for $30,000 less. If you are worried about people at the country club thinking you are cheap, sell a kidney … or sell one of your children and get the $200,000 Panamera Turbo. Trust me; it’s worth it.