Panamera Precursor

Earlier in the week, several readers cited the Panamera’s missing link, which prompted a closer look.

1989 Porsche 989. Image via krmgk
1989 Porsche 989. Image: krmgk

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 the 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.

Another, less resolved 989 concept. Image via
Another, less resolved 989 concept. Image:

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 a more successful package. Firstly, the 989 wears its 911 influences too overtly, especially as they were cues that would see the light of day in perhaps the least attractive 911 derivative ever – the 996. And as has already been pointed out, with its sharply sloping roofline, 989 would have been a rather confined space for rear seat passengers; to say nothing about luggage. Realistically, the 928 would have been a far superior jumping off point, but by then Porsche had, under styling chief Harm Lagaay jettisoned Anatole Lapine’s styling legacy; opting for a retro theme, based firmly upon their evergreen icon.

It was another decade before we finally saw a four-seater Porsche in production, but the 2003 Cayenne was a horse of an altogether different stripe. It did however soften the motoring world for the 2010 Panamera, which takes us back where we started.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

10 thoughts on “Panamera Precursor”

  1. I don’t know… I can imagine a world where 928 owners traded up to one of these for the improved rear seating and access, and liking that it looked like ‘A Real Porsche’. In a pre-Cayenne world the 989 would have offered a decent sized boot for a Porsche as well. It does beg the question whether the focus on the 911 silhouette for all cars is driven by the company, its buyers or both? I still like it more than the Hunchback of Zuffenhausen. I guess Dr Bez loved the concept too – he got to put his 989 theory into practice with the Aston Martin Rapide.

    1. I was about to mention the Rapide, too. And the fact, that it isn’t exactly selling like hot cakes. But from a purely aesthetic point of view, I cannot help but find the 989 infinitely more attractive than the brick-layin’ dachshund.

      Regardless of the visual value of any four-door Porsche, it’s very good to have you (back), Mark!

  2. I thought the 989 was pretty terrific at the time, but I am not sure how plausible it was. Could they really have fitted a V8 under that 911 nose? Not likely. Remember that the Boxster lost quite a lot of its delicacy on the way from concept to production, and that was a much more viable concept in the first place.

    If it was going to work, the 989 would have probably required a flat four, and it would have ended up like a German RX8 without the rampant oil consumption and engine wear issues. That would, in fact, be a lovely car. But almost certainly unprofitable.

  3. Seem to recall the 989 or another model (possibly the 924/944/968) also featuring either a 90-degree V6 based on the 928 V8 or a V6 based on the proposed 989 V8.

    Why was it left necessary to develop a new 80-degree(?) V8 instead of carrying over the 928 V8 for the 989 project? Also was the 989 connected to any other shelved projects Porsche had going at the time?

    1. Hi Bob: I can’t answer that question but am curious to know where you get your rather impressive engine history from? I suspect you have the general knowledge to draft a useful book on European engine history.

    2. Books though mainly online including online book previews, such as the Brian Long book on the Porsche 944 that mentions a PRV V6 being tested in a Porsche 924 with a view of possibly developing a 90-degree V6 from the 928 V8 (though seem to recall the latter being considered for 989 for some reason).

      Engine bay dimensions is possibly one reason though one could argue it would have been cheaper to carry over an updated 928 V8 engine to the 989 project (like the air-cooled Flat-Six with the 911) as opposed to developing a new 80-degree V8, also wonder how Porsche would have been able to spread out the costs of the 989 had it reached production given they apparently had no plans to developing a front-engined RWD replacement for the Porsche 968 either in place of or alongside the Porsche Boxster.

    3. Another V6 engine that may or may not have been linked to the Porsche 989 project was apparently the Ford Duratec V6, since the primary engineering input apparently came from Porsche who at the time was already developing the V6 for other purposes before selling the design to Ford (where it was further developed by Cosworth).

      Not sure why Porsche felt a need to develop a 60-degree V6 (or whether it was to even be used in the 989 or some front-engined replacement for the 944/968), though it did end up being developed by Ford into the (underdeveloped) 60-degree Ford SHO V8 and Aston Martin V12.

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