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Porsche Panamera: Kicking Ass With A New Boot

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The first time you notice the new Porsche Panamera will probably be from behind. Not just because it’s rather quick off the lights, but the design team has done some remarkable aluminum surgery.

My take at the original launch of this incredibly roomy sports car was that the front was very attractive and 911-ish with a few botox injections and the rear end was… well… a touch Japanese of yesteryear and not the most beautiful bum on the block.

A few years ago, the controversial rump (almost as famous as J.Lo) got some visual liposuction with the taillights flattened and enlarged, along with a bigger back window and some complicated adjustments to the bum-per.

And while Chief Designer at Porsche, Michael Mauer, might argue that he was reliving the 928 era, the latest Panamera is now the complete looker that we tend to expect from the Stuttgart stable where the cars are sculpted rather than designed.

Horizontal graphics visually widen the car, which is lower (without sacrificing rear headroom) and longer. But, you only realize that this is a genuine four-seater when you try to sneak into a tight parking spot.

We’re not talking about a pair of Pekinese on the way to the parlour… we mean adults, six-footers, sitting comfortably in the back with their knees below their ears.

But while Meghan Trainor might say it’s all about that bass, the attention to the rear end is a total disservice to the Porsche team which has been so energetic and visionary in producing a vehicle where virtually only the badge remains the same.

And that vision is exemplified when you first glance around the interior. Previously you may have been impressed by the V-shaped array of controls waiting for a flick from your forefinger. Now you are faced with sleek black touch screens which burst into life when you ignite the turbo.

What we probably have in common is an intense dislike for lengthy handover explanations when we take delivery of a fresh steed. But this is one case where you WILL need a 101. It is a bewildering experience getting to know your way around that cyber cockpit with more options than you can shake a selfie stick at.

It really is just a template for you to personalize the various screens and move the selected info to where you want it. So you may opt to simplify your drive style and leave out the G-Force and All-Wheel-Drive Percentage displays!

Savior Giulia

The central analog tachometer is flanked by two 7.0-inch screens. These can be programmed to resemble the five round gauges in a traditional Porsche instrument panel, or you can choose to fill one side entirely with the navigation map.

A 12.3-inch touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay capability, is in charge of infotainment selections.

It does seem like techno overkill to change the flow on the central air vent on a touch screen but there are manual overrides for the fan and temperature. Does it all work? To be honest it would take more than a four-day test drive to come to any conclusion. But the shiny screens were getting friendlier by the day.

If you hanker for the bygone era, there is an analogue clock perched anachronistically on the top of the dash and buttons aplenty on the sensually shaped steering wheel.

Can A Ferrari Be Too Perfect?

The petrol heads may wax on about bhp, rpm and Newton meters, but I would think most Panamera buyers prefer beauty and brains to brawn and aren’t buying this elegant sports limo to dice on city streets.

But the power train and suspension mods will provide the performance right for you. “There are new engines, a new chassis, and new electronics, and everything conspires to make it much sportier, but still very much a luxury sedan,” says Gernot Döllner, Porsche’s head of product design.

Getting back into the boiler room, Porsche make brilliant engines and there is a full range to take you from a mild heart flutter to serious adrenalin overload. And they have all been engineered to the magical new era formula of being lighter, more powerful, less fuel hungry and with lower emissions.

4C The Future

They boast the brand’s new “hot vee” design.

“It adopts a ‘hot vee’ layout with the turbochargers in the engine’s valley. This setup allows for a short run from the exhaust manifold for minimal lag, which is further reduced by the twin-scroll turbos.”

Don’t worry – I don’t understand it either!

What I could feel by the seat of my pants is that the Audi-developed 2.9-liter V-6 Turbo, assisted by the new 8-speed gearbox, propels the Panamera 4S to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds.

The 4S will set you back $123,000. Throw in an extra $70,000 and you can be on the Panamera Turbo rocket ship with a 4-liter V-8 that blitzes you to the mark in a mere 3.6 seconds.

The mention of dollars is a sharp reminder that global car sales across all brands have not looked all that rosy for a couple of years and South Africa’s new car sales have so far lagged slightly behind 2016’s modest results.

A Family Car That Packs A Punch

Yet Porsche increased its global sales figures for 2016 to a record total of 237,778 units.

The key drivers of this growth were Europe, the USA and China and the models leading the assault were the Macan and the new 718 Boxter. But the Panamera was definitely in the fray to provide an added boost.

And locally Porsche, the most profitable car per unit in the world, is a strong contender among the niche brands.

According to the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa, the Porsche Cayenne, selling an impressive 576 units, was the leader of the Porsche pack. The Boxter/Cayman combo waded in with 300 and 296 orders for the legendary 911 found breathless new owners.

The Macan sold a relatively modest 217 units but the facelift is waiting in the wings. And the reason for low Panamera sales last year (just 20) was also the anticipation of the G2 as it is known in the trade.

So according to the NAAMSA figures, a total of 1,409 new Porsches were sold in South Africa in 2016.

“Sales figures are not the key focus though, rather being customer focused and exceeding service expectations on every contact level,” says diplomatic Public Relations Manager Christo Kruger.

“Panamera is a luxury saloon, with a clear distinction – being the sportiest offering in the segment and offering exceptional quality and driver interaction.”

Porsche are also taking their offering into the continent with official dealerships in Angola, Kenya and Ghana. As with all Porsches, the Panamera comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty which can be extended.

Is the new Porsche Panamera the right choice for your new family saloon?

If you like a sporting drive rather than a stiff upper lip, and need to take a couple of kids to school, I wouldn’t think twice! – Written by Derek Watts

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Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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“The best view comes after the hardest climb.”

– Unknown

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Covid-19 In Kenya: ‘We Are No Longer Dreaming’

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Kamweti wa Mutu with his two children; Charlie, 11, and Adia, 8, with their Golden Retriever, Nalia, pictured at their home in Nairobi; image supplied

Kenya is perhaps one of the quieter domains of the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, as its hold intensifies across the country, Kenyans, from all walks of life, have found themselves not only preparing for the worst but also taking stock of the impact it has already had on their lives.

By his own admission, Musa Esevwe, a 49-year-old sculptor and entrepreneur, had never, in his life, experienced trouble with his sleep. That is until Covid-19 arrived in his hometown, Nairobi, in mid-March.

Within the space of a week, a national curfew was announced via Presidential address. Not long after, as confirmed cases jumped to 91, a partial lockdown was imposed around the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, restricting the movement of people in to, and out of, the city.

Travel was tightly regulated and international flights temporarily suspended. The few who do manage to make it to the country, by road or sea, must endure a mandatory two-week quarantine, at the border, before they can obtain official approval to proceed to their final destination.

Meanwhile, inside Kenya’s borders, lives changed overnight. Intensive lockdown measures severely hampered trading for both informal vendors and businesses, causing upheaval in some areas. In April, small business owners clashed with police over the forced closure of their establishments, in Nyeri, a busy provincial hub in Central Kenya.

Schools have been shut since March and, while official numbers are yet to be published, thousands have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Those, still fortunate to be in employment, have had to transform their homes into offices.

“It is like a very bad dream that we are living in now. The happiness and security we once had has gone… we are no longer dreaming, even for those who can still sleep,” says Esevwe whose own business, which was heavily dependent on the disposable income of the middle class and occasional tourists, has been destroyed by the pandemic.

Along with Esevwe, among the hardest hit are the nation’s families, who, for months now, have been confined to their houses.

The lockdown period has been particularly difficult for Kamweti wa Mutu, an international development professional and amateur nature photographer, living in Nairobi. Currently out of work, and with his wife, now the family’s sole breadwinner, stationed in Tanzania, he’s had to play multiple roles to keep his household afloat.

“The quarantine order [on March 13] was sudden, but commendably prompt, meaning it was a somewhat tough transition getting our two children; Charlie, 11, and Adia, 8, settled into home-schooling routines. After a week, we [had to] put our house-help on leave, with some pay, so as not to place [any] undue risk on either her or us,” he says.

Prior to the pandemic, Mutu was actively looking for work. However, the economic turmoil set off by the virus is now a cause for concern.

“I have struggled to find full-time employment for a while [now] but my family has been very supportive with understanding and prayers. The kids have a good grasp of this, in light of the pandemic, but it’s not [yet] getting them anxious. As a household currently on one income, this aspect is a grave one. Most worrisome is my wife losing her post [because of the pandemic], or worse, one of our family members falling ill,” he continues.

Perhaps the most traumatic impact of Covid-19 on the family is their separation. With travel into Kenya currently restricted, Mutu’s wife won’t be able to return until her consultancy with an environmental organization in Tanzania concludes.

When she does, it will probably have to be by road as international flights are suspended. After crossing the border, she’ll have to spend 14 days at a quarantine center, receiving a special permit to enter Nairobi only once she tests negative for the virus.

While this has added an extra layer of anxiety to their situation, the family is choosing to focus on the bigger picture, insists Mutu.

“We have talked a bit about this, and what it would mean for a normal life, even beyond the current situation. However, we have not delved deeply into worst-case scenarios other than how Covid-19 is devastating other families and societies. We have stocked up on enough essentials including non-perishable foodstuffs, water, face-masks, and power to last us a while.”

Elsewhere in the city, Sophie O, who asked that we change her name for this report, is also finding life under lockdown a challenge. The 30-year-old Marketing Manager works for a major multinational in Nairobi and is doing her best to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of being based from home.

“It’s been quite difficult especially because I have three children; a nine-month old, a two-year-old and a six-year-old. It’s been hard for the two-year-old to understand that I am ‘at work’, he keeps barging into [work] calls and expecting us to play. Now, I have to keep my camera off during conference calls although ideally, as a standard, it would have to be on,” she says.

With schools now closed, and most students across the country taking classes virtually, many parents, especially those with younger children, are burdened with the added responsibility of home-schooling. In this, Ms O admits that she is struggling.

“Personally, I’ve really done my best just keeping track with all the lessons they have to do. I think probably if I didn’t have to be ‘at work’, I could have done a better job in terms of being there for my daughter but it’s quite a challenge. You have to work because work pays the bills and work also pays the school fees,” she says.

Factors, firmly out of her control, are also impacting her productivity.

“The practicalities of working from home, like having a workstation, I have had to figure out. But with the internet… some days it’s good, some days it’s bad, and some days you have a blackout and there’s nothing you can do!” she laments.

The experience of both these families hints at the wider setbacks being faced by businesses and the Kenyan economy, as a whole. From Nairobi, Edwin Macharia, Global Managing Partner at multinational advisory firm, Dalberg Advisors, has been leading a fortnightly webinar series advising African leaders and policymakers on how best to respond to the ongoing crisis. He insists that they must appreciate the severity of the pandemic’s impact and act accordingly.

“Our job [on the webinar] is to make sure that [leaders] are sufficiently shaken and begin acting appropriately. China bought the world a couple of weeks to prepare and get ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of intervention but, unfortunately, that jolt wasn’t hard enough in some places. This is very quickly moving from being a health concern to actually being an economic concern,” Macharia warned attendees in early April.

At the time, despite relatively low levels of confirmed cases, African economies were already feeling the pinch with stock markets plummeting and currencies devalued. A few weeks later, as the threat escalated, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) declared that a funding gap of $100 billion needed to be filled in order for governments to battle the pandemic, and its consequences, across the continent.

“The long-term economic effects will become more apparent in the coming months. Inputs not available locally will be inaccessible due to tighter border controls, while markets, for producers serving several industries, will be diminished, leaving many households without a sustainable income,” predicts Macharia.

If they are to have any hope of success, Macharia emphasizes that responses to Covid-19 in Africa will have to be a collaborative effort.

“Flattening the curve demands that governments, institutions, and business leaders are intentional in how they implement their response strategies. Organizations will need to go beyond [their] usual business continuity planning while the public sector needs to re-model institutions in order to slow down the current trajectory of infections while ensuring long-term resilience.”

An example of these wider response strategies are already at work in a number of Kenyan hospitals. Dr Michael Mwachiro, Secretary-General at the Surgical Society of Kenya, is currently stationed at Tenwek Hospital, a faith-based teaching and referral hospital in Bomet County, 230 kilometers west of Nairobi. On May 13, the county recorded its first Covid-19 fatality, at Longisa Hospital, the only public referral hospital in the area.

“We’re now seeing more community-transferred cases in Kenya. I think the advantage that we may have had [compared to] other parts of the world is that we were watching as things were unfolding and, because of that, we had a bit more time to prepare [as a country], and put some measures in place. But if you read the news, or listen to the radio, you’ll hear people complaining that we should have intervened earlier but that’s a difficult thing [to do] if you look at how many stakeholders are involved along with the nature of our economy and public health system,” he says.

Part of these preparations, Mwachiro says, included immediately training the country’s health workers on Covid-19 procedures along with introducing measures preventing the movement of people from hotspots in major cities into rural Kenya, where a bulk of the population lives.

“Nairobi and Mombasa already have containment measures in place. The bigger concern is that, if Covid-19 moves out of the cities to other parts of the country, the effects would be much scarier. These [rural] areas are where the older people are, who are much more vulnerable.”

In addition to the supplementary training for medical personnel, some elective procedures and non-essential surgeries have been put on hold so that all available resources can be committed to fighting the virus at hospitals. However, besides preparedness, maintaining the morale of doctors and nurses will continue to be an ongoing concern throughout the crisis.

“We’ll have to deal with the levels of anxiety and motivation experienced by healthcare workers and first responders taking care of these patients. Doctors and nurses are human, too, and they are experiencing the same emotions as everyone else. You can imagine that, in as much as [their] families are worried about them, they, too, are also worried about their families, and themselves, as well,” he says.

Some medical professionals responding to the crisis, in parts of the country, have had to make the difficult decision to live apart from their families as they work to contain the virus. But the taxing nature of their work, coupled with extended periods of isolation, means that counseling and support services will need to be made available to them as the cases continue to rise.

“We’ll have to deal with the levels of anxiety and motivation experienced by healthcare workers and first responders taking care of these patients. Doctors and nurses are human, too, and they are experiencing the same emotions as everyone else. You can imagine that, in as much as [their] families are worried about them, they, too, are also worried about their families, and themselves, as well.”

As it stands, Kenya, like most of the continent, has not been as badly hit when compared to epicenters in Europe or North America. However, this may be due to the fact that the worst is still on its way. In May, the World Health Organization estimated that up to 190,000 Africans may be killed by the pandemic, at its peak.

With Covid-19 due to exert immense pressure on our public health systems, it does offer some important lessons for the future, explains Mwachiro.

“What this outbreak has brought about, for us in Africa, is [the fact] that we need to invest more in our healthcare systems. This has been said so many times… there have even been a number of strikes [in Kenya] by various stakeholders, all of them trying to highlight these issues. This is a good wake up call. I honestly believe that, if we had spent more on health [before the crisis], it would have gone a long way in helping us to be better prepared. Hopefully, once this [pandemic] resolves, we can keep the momentum going and we can continue looking inwardly for solutions.”

Naturally, Covid-19, with its grim predictions and disruption of lives, has many Kenyans worried about the future. Nevertheless, the challenges of the moment are being met in stride. Families have quickly adjusted to new ways of living while their leaders seek sage advice on how best to address the crisis, and doctors continue to make sacrifices, day in and day out, as they brace for the worst.

Perhaps, most important of all is that, in the pandemic’s wake, hope has become an obstinate presence in all quarters of Kenyan society.

– Marie Shabaya

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