PRESTIGE CAR OVER $75,000: PORSCHE PANAMERA BASE PRICE $155,000 AS-TESTED PRICE $172,300
Would you spend more than $100,000 on a new car? Besides a hefty price tag, the four entries in this category share another similarity - all come from German auto makers. But one stands out from the crowd: the Porsche Panamera.
It's the first all-new Porsche to hit the road in seven years. And it's not a coupe or cabriolet; it's a four-door sedan.
Admittedly, I'm not sold on the exterior design - it's not the prettiest Porsche on the planet. It's a little too bulky, especially in the rear end.
The Panamera seats four - two in the front seats and two in the rear. The interior is lavish and upscale, but it's extremely busy. It's so high-tech it resembles the cockpit of an airplane. There are buttons and gauges everywhere - on the centre console, the dashboard and steering wheel, it's impossible to find any function fast.
So why is it my favourite of the bunch? The Panamera steals the show when it comes to its power, performance, ride, and handling - it remains true to Porsche's roots. Under the hood is a 4.8-litre, twin-turbo V-8 with a gut-wrenching 500 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque.
Acceleration is fast and furious. It corners beautifully and the all-wheel-drive system keeps the sedan firmly planted on the road at all times. It's a thrilling, spirited and fun ride.
But it doesn't come cheap; add a few options like adaptive sport seats and a heated steering wheel and the base price jumps from $155,000 to $172,300.
The other contenders
BMW 7-SERIES BASE PRICE: $105,200 AS-TESTED PRICE: $127,700
The second German contender is the fifth-generation luxury BMW sedan. Its 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V-8 makes 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. The steering is tight; the ride comfortable. The rear seats are incredibly spacious. Cool innovative safety features such as a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot detector and night vision with pedestrian detection, which helps you see people or animals before they're visible in your headlights, are part of a $5,500 technology package on the test vehicle.
MERCEDES-BENZ S400 HYBRID BASE PRICE: $105,900 AS-TESTED PRICE: $119,900
The Mercedes-Benz contender is a greener alternative; the S400 hybrid is the newest addition to the S-Class lineup. This hybrid doesn't have a traditional nickel metal-hydride battery; it uses a lithium-ion battery pack - the first use of a lithium-ion battery in a series production car, Mercedes says. Combined output with the 3.5-litre V-6 engine is 295 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. The ride is so impressive you'd never know you were driving a hybrid. The fuel economy is respectable, too, at 9.5 L/100 km combined.
AUDI R8 5.2 FSI BASE PRICE: $173,000 AS-TESTED PRICE: $190,300
The final German entry isn't a full-size luxury sedan - it's a powerful hot coupe with an all-new 5.2-litre V-10 under the hood that delivers 525 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. The car's impossible-to-miss looks and intoxicating sound can't help but turn heads. But beware - it is expensive and the AWD vehicle is thirsty, averaging 15.7 L/100 km in combined driving.