BMW M550i xDrive, Porsche Panamera GTS and Bentley Flying Spur interpret their sedan existence in three completely different ways. Very classic as a business center. Disguised as a sports car. As a luxury glider with a powerful engine. Sounds like a logical process. And yet we experience a big surprise on the race track.
Such a launch control can be a great tool to help sporty cars when they accelerate. She balances the slip as best as possible, so that the many little horses don't let their wheels smoke, but can gallop as quickly and as best as possible from a standing start. In this comparison, it is helpful for a second reason. We approach the spirit of the sedan via the launch control.
Switch to Sport Plus mode, switch off ESP, hold the brake with your left foot and stomp on the gas pedal with your right: The electronics level the speed of the four-litre, eight-cylinder turbo engine to just below 5,000 rpm. The Porsche is ready to chase down country road speeds in no time. Release the brake – first of all, the GTS hits you in the back, so that your teeth almost chatter when you engage the clutch, before the double clutch hammers straight into second gear. Here one leaves no doubt as to how he sees himself as a limousine. As a sports car in disguise that shoots to 100 km/h in four seconds.
Cozy with a lot of bang
The BMW is practically in no way inferior to it in terms of image spurt, accelerates only a tenth slower, but is completely different. First of all, the launch control preloads it with a speed of around 3,000 revolutions. When driving off, one gets the impression that the Power 5er grabs like shaking hands before a business meeting, but doesn't press too hard. The driver sits quietly, is not knocked or kicked by him, while the V8 biturbo sounds the alarm up front.
In the Bentley Flying Spur, it's four more cylinders - formed as W12 - that thunderously heave the Elder Statesman for the outside world from a standing start to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds. A quick swipe: We initially wanted the V8, but accepted the twelve-cylinder as an alternative because the stature and the high vehicle weight mean that the Brit cannot be expected to dismantle the opponents here. At least when driving straight ahead, he has a good chance of keeping up.
More than 2.5 tons start to boil after a wink. The luxury steamer lupft the front end, while the leather seats flatter both buttocks and the battered back. Oh Lord, please forgive the choice of words, but here a lot of bang meets outstanding comfort qualities.
The driver sinks into a lounge chair, reaches to the left between the seat and the door to switch on the massage function.What does the perfect start itch when you are surrounded by so much luxury? You don't give a damn about the last tenth, because he masters the quick start with confidence, but it's by no means his core competence. That would be: The Bentley carries you across the street as if on a throne, lets you forget your worries and at the same time relieves tension. Its three-chamber air suspension erases bumps and potholes without completely encapsulating the road surface and bumps. Just lovely.
900 Nm get together
Just the first contact with him. Unlock with the key and the LED matrix headlights with cut crystal effect sparkle in the light. A hatch opens above the grille, through which the "Flying B" emerges with illuminated wings. The massive front end indicates that a large machine is at work underneath.
Six liters displacement. A maximum torque of 900 Newton meters between 1,350 and 4,500 tours. 635 hp at 5,000 revolutions of the crankshaft. The grand tourer is consistently capable of crushing straights in the blink of an eye.
The W12 engine stews in its own juice at a recommended speed of 130 km/h without releasing any audible signs of life into the interior. Then the vehicles ahead reverently clear the left lane. The right foot gets heavier, spurs the Bentley on, which goes over to the speed bolt like a slap on the bottom. Even at 270 km/h, the sedan, which is 5.31 meters long and two meters wide, does not twitch. Instead, fly over the left lane until another one appears in front. Otherwise 333 km/h would be possible.
Of course you can feel its heavy weight of 2,541 kilograms (full tank) on the brakes. The braking distance from 200 km/h is 157 meters. The BMW is just over 142 meters, the Porsche with ceramic brake system just 133.4 meters. Which in turn illustrates the roles in this comparison quite well.
The pounds are also pressing in the lateral dynamics, although the roll stabilization (48-volt electrical system) helps the Bentley to balance the body to a certain extent. That's why he likes long curves best, which he can drive through with one turn of the steering wheel and in one go. In this case, the steering rear wheels provide additional stability. Otherwise, it doesn't help much if you countersteer a little at low speeds. The more technical, the more it has to struggle with its dimensions and weight. Take the slalom time as an example: The Bentley struggles around the pylons at 63.3 km/h, which was to be expected. You don't play basketball with a medicine ball.
In general, it wants to be driven in a relaxed manner, otherwise it will quickly stagger over the front axle in curves. If the dosage is right, he stays on the ideal line in order to push with the rear at the corner exit. Small braking interventions on the inside of the curve let it turn.The 900 Newton meters quickly gather together to form a homogeneous mass. A maximum of 280 of these flow to the front axle in Sport mode.
The GTS attacks corners
In the Panamera, the question doesn't arise as to whether it's better to sit in the front left or in the back right. The Flying Spur takes corners, the GTS attacks them. Yes, with a weight of 2,103 kilograms, the Porsche has definitely put on one or two love handles. But nobody sees them, because the body conceals everything like a figure-shaping compression undershirt. Nothing wobbles when the Panamera steers into corners like a precision machine. Nothing slips.
The front axle tears the ideal line under its wheels. Apparently without limit. The limit of what is possible is defined by the rear axle, which does not stick to the asphalt like its counterpart, but also likes to dance across it. You notice very early on, after just a few corners, which of the two axles the electronically controlled multi-plate clutch is leaning more towards. Which she almost showers with kisses, um torque. In slalom, the driver has to be careful when changing direction quickly so that the rear doesn't deviate too much. If that works, the GTS will whiz around the pylons in 9.37 seconds or at a speed of 69.2 km/h.
On country roads, the rash can be wonderfully dosed with the rear. Because the performance swells nicely linearly. On the race track, all-wheel drive is the perfect partner anyway for taking the 16 corners by storm. Give in: You're right in the middle of a crowd of curves. Accelerate: The GTS adjusts the rear end in order to pepper the next stretch with high traction. The rear axle differential lock distributes the forces, while wheel-selective braking interventions generate additional steering torque on the rear axle.
The system is part of the "Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport" - PDCC Sport for short. As the name suggests, electromechanical anti-roll bars compensate for body movements. On top of that, Porsche gave the test car rear axle steering. Like the Bentley, it already has air suspension ex works.
There are those who find it a bit too artificial with all the electronics on board - too artificial in the movement. But how it bends in curves: That's top notch for the weight that it's carrying around. In everyday life, the GTS can also relax the muscles, just cruise along. Comfortable and sporty at the same time. As soon as the driver turns the wheel on the steering wheel, switches to "Sport" or even "Sport Plus", the GTS returns to being a sports car. The eight-speed PDK precisely engages two gears down before corners during the braking process. The eight-cylinder turbo engine rumbles and bangs through the four embedded tailpipes.
When revved up, it sounds darker than the V8 in the BMW. 620 Newton meters are already formatted from 1.800 revs, pack in and bring the Panamera up to speed quickly. The rear wing extends automatically from 100 km/h. It's done - one should think. The 200 mark only falls after 15.1 seconds. This makes it 1.1 seconds slower than the BMW and 1.3 seconds slower than the Bentley. And that brings us to a problem that weighs on his mind.
BMW V8 simply terrific
Taken by itself, the Porsche V8 turbo is a good engine. Fast in response, powerful in performance development. In comparison, however, it has to bow to the competition. Let's leave the Bentley out. 280 Newton meters more torque, 155 hp more: Of course, it pulls away from the Panamera at some point when it goes straight ahead. But the GTS should be able to play in a league with the M550i. One would think so. In other words: such a sports cannon should already have over 500 hp. But there are "only" their 480, because in Zuffenhausen they keep a large respectful distance to the Turbo S (630 hp). This will be his undoing in the encounter with the BMW. Figuratively speaking: he turns pale when he sees what his Munich colleague is doing.
The V8 biturbo of the M550i takes hearts by storm. What kind of machine is that! 50 km/h, 1,500 tours, step on the gas pedal: This engine is the kind of engine you wake up at three o'clock in the morning and it starts and performs immediately. Since the Panamera can not quite keep up. So it's not just the lower performance that puts him behind.
The BMW maneuvers itself out of the low speed range, packs 750 Newton meters into a powerful right hand and pulls through to around 6,500 revolutions. Upside down world: The sportiest engine does not carry the sportiest bullet.
The engine differences are already very noticeable when changing on the country road. It becomes more than clear on the racetrack. The BMW outperforms the Porsche on every straight. Alone on the Parabolica he gains a second. And because the M knows how to move with its fully variable all-wheel drive, roll stabilization and rear-axle steering, the Panamera can no longer completely make up for the losses in the many curves. The M550i wins the lap hunt by six tenths of a second.
In comparison, it is noticeable that the BMW turns resolutely, but does not bite its front axle as much. So it makes more sense to slow down a bit at the entrance. At the corner exit, the all-wheel drive then forms a neutral to slightly oversteering driving behavior when using the accelerator. The sedan twirls out of the corners - and ensures a good mood at the steering wheel. Like the other two from our trio de luxe.
Upside down world: The Panamera GTS drives like a sports car, but the M550i has the sportiest engine. This is how the Porsche gets the decisive punch. He lacks the strength he could actually have. It's a pity that Zuffenhausen doesn't give it more than 500 hp.The BMW feels spongy overall, but still skilfully handles corners. A real sedan. The Bentley eats straight with its W12 and flatters every bump with its chassis. A feel-good oasis.