The Panamera’s missing link.
Porsche have made several attempts at a four seater over the years, from stretched versions of the eternal 911, to a long-wheelbase 928 created for Ferry Porsche’s 75th birthday, but perhaps Zuffenhausen’s most serious attempt was this.
Porsche were no stranger to crisis – for decades prey to the changing needs, regulations and currency fluctuations of the vital North American market. Having almost gone bust on several occasions since the Seventies, Porsche, under chief engineer, Dr. Ulrich Bez, schemed a larger, more mainstream model to help stabilise the business and protect them from exposure to an increasingly volatile sports car market.
Enter 989, a four-seater, four-door fastback saloon, based heavily on 911 styling cues. This wasn’t some speculative concept, destined for a few motor show stands and then oblivion, 989 was a real project with serious ambitions for production.
It was to be powered by Porsche’s own front-mounted V8, potentially a new 80 degree unit. However, its conception coincided with the post-1987 recession, one which almost brought several specialist manufacturers to their knees by the early ’90s. In the wake of this, several key Porsche projects fell by the wayside, the 989 being one of them in 1992.
But did we really miss much? While its styling (on the surface at least) appears a good deal more harmonious than the model that eventually went on sale, the Panamera is probably a more complete package.
For one thing, the 989 wears its 911 influences a little too overtly, especially as they were cues that would later manifest themselves to some extent in perhaps the most controversial 911 derivative ever – Pinky Lai’s 996.
And as is abundantly clear, with its sharply sloping fastback roofline, 989 would have been a rather confined space for rear seat passengers, to say nothing about luggage. Perhaps the Panamera’s rather ample rump was there for a reason?
Realistically, the 928 would have been a far superior stylistic and conceptual jumping off point, but by then Porsche had, under styling chief Harm Lagaay jettisoned Anatole Lapine’s styling legacy, opting for something of a retro theme, based firmly upon their evergreen brand icon.
It would be another decade before we finally saw a full four-seater Porsche in production, but the 2003 Cayenne was a horse of an altogether different stripe. It did however soften up the motoring world for the 2009 Panamera, which takes us back where we started.