Porsche Panamera; last hurrah for the gas guzzler?

Crowds gathering around the new Porsche Panamera at the Frankfurt Car Show may be witnessing a historic event because the future of fast, luxurious sports car is in doubt.

Future shows at the biennial Frankfurt exposition, which opens to the public on September 17, are likely to be dominated by cheap and cheerful little petrol and diesel cars, as well as battery powered electric vehicles, petrol or diesel-electric hybrids and fuel cells, as European Union legislation to force manufacturers to cut fuel consumption kicks in. Massive, expensive gas-guzzlers will probably feature in a historic section in the back somewhere.

And the Panamera certainly is big and gobbles down fuel. Powered by a 4.8-litre, 400hp V8 engine, or if that’s not powerful enough for you, a 500hp twin turbo motor, the least powerful version of this four-seater sports car will consume an average of 26.2mpg-10.8 litres per 100 kilometres. You won’t get half that if the car is driven close to its capabilities, of blasting from zero to 62mph-100km/h in 5.4 seconds, or bearing down on its maximum speed of 176mph-283km/h. Porsche will offer the Panamera with four-wheel drive, and later unveil a 2.8 litre V6 version, which will also be available with a hybrid motor.

Panameras come with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard, or you can order a double-clutch 7-speed automatic. Prices for the 400hp version start at 94,575 euros, after taxes in Germany, which includes leather seats, parking assist, tyre pressure monitoring, touch screen satellite navigation and a hands-free phone system.

The Panamera cost Porsche about 1 billion euros to develop, and when it hits dealer showrooms around the world later this year will steal sales from top-of-the-range BMWs, Mercedes and Audis. The Panamera will also hit Bentley, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari, at a time when the credit crunch has already put a huge dent in luxury sales.

The Panamera will be joined at the show by a host of other new powerful and expensive cars whose days also may soon be numbered. BMW subsidiary Rolls Royce is unveiling its new “smaller” 6.6 litre V12 Ghost, which will sell for at least 200,000 euros. VW owned Bentley will show its massive new Mulsanne limousine. Italian sports car maker Ferrari will introduce its 458 Italia — a 4.5 litre V-8 570hp coupe.

Back in the real world, Opel-Vauxhall will take the wraps off its Astra saloon, which will compete in the cut-throat VW Golf-led segment. Kia, the Korean manufacturer which has made big inroads in Europe on the back of government scrapping schemes, will show its new Sorrento SUV.

One likely head-turner at the show, featuring nostalgia and modernism, will be the Electric Trabant. A German company, Herpa Miniaturmodelle, wants to reintroduce the old East German car with battery power. The new Trabant won’t be made of plastic mixed with paper or cotton fibre like the original, but its green power means it’s more likely to have a long-term future than the Porsche Panamera.

The show closes on September 27.