The skies might be friendly, but the view from the tarmac looks awfully good when you’re being whisked to your next flight in a Porsche Panamera luxury sedan. Delta Airlines has expanded its fleet of Porsche service vehicles to New York City, and the New York Daily News Autos hitched a ride to experience flying s– Porsche-style – at low altitude.
Now where did I park my Porsche? Delta Air Lines’ “surprise and delight” Porsche experience makes for some very unusual company.
This is the classiest way to get to a connecting flight, and quite possibly the slowest way to drive a supremely powerful German luxury sedan.
We’re experiencing a view of JFK Airport from Delta Airlines’ pair of “high-value customer” Porsche Panamera sedans. The service is provided free of charge to frequent fliers with a Diamond status and, in most cases, a fairly snug connection time from one flight to another.
Our drivers, Ronald Lewis and Derrick D’Souza, have been trained in the art of high-speed driving at Porsche’s very own performance academy in Birmingham, Alabama. Ironically, here on the bustling tarmac of one of the world’s busiest airports, their freshly honed driving skills – not to mention the Panamera sedan’s 420-horsepower turbocharged engine – are reined in by a strictly enforced 25-mph speed limit.
On the other hand, the slow speed provides extra time to take in one of the strangest views you’ll ever experience in an automobile. Meandering our way along the newly constructed Terminal 4, row after row of jets are lined up, as a multitude of buzzing airport vehicles service these mighty behemoths. Forget the hustle and bustle of cabs and cranky commuters; you haven’t experienced New York City traffic until a Boeing or Airbus is suddenly in your way.
When you’re outweighed by hundreds of thousands of pounds, along with untold amounts of turbine thrust, you don’t start honking or waving your fist like you would in Times Square, however.
Delta first began its association with Porsche several years ago at its home-base in Atlanta, Georgia. The service includes a range of Porsche Panamera sedans and Cayenne SUVs. Since its inception, the fleet has grown to approximately 20 vehicles and the program has expanded to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and New York City.
This VIP-level of service is the ultimate “surprise and delight feature,” according to Gail Grimmet, senior VP for Delta’s New York-based operations. “We want to be able to provide a unique experience for our passengers. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Indeed, this service can’t be booked ahead of time – the program is truly meant to surprise some of Delta’s most frequent fliers. A wide range of factors are involved in scheduling who experiences life onboard a Delta Porsche, such as the customer’s connection time, that day’s flight schedule and, of course, the passenger’s medallion status.
Typically a driver greets the soon-to-be VIP passenger on the jet bridge, as they’re disembarking their flight. The passenger and his or her luggage is then led directly to the idling Porsche, which whisks them away (at a brisk 25 mph) to their connecting flight.
“They’re like big kids,” said Derrick D’Souza, referring to the passengers he drives in the Porsche program. A self-confessed “huge car guy,” he says that driving the Porsches – especially during the high-speed training program – leaves him with “a smile from ear to ear.” The Delta Porsche fleet at JFK airport regularly performs around 40 trips per day, with 2-3 drivers on-duty from the early morning to late at night.
Rolling past jumbo-jets, we were certainly enjoying the ride in the pair of Panamera 4S Executive sedans, which sticker at about $125-grand per copy. At these low speeds, the twin-turbocharged V-6 under the hood barely emits a whisper in the leather-lined cabin. We opted for the front seat but, if you happen to be (not so very) fresh from a long flight, the legroom in the back of the Porsche is absolutely first class.
The Panamera’s active all-wheel-drive should be handy if the weather doesn’t want to play nice during your trip. The large hatchback opening and 15.7 cu. ft. trunk should also easily handle the bulkiest of carry-ons. Then again, if you’ve gone overboard with the souvenirs, the rear seats can be folded to expand available cargo room to more than 40 cu. ft.
On an open road, minus taxing jets and push-back trucks, this Panamera sedan would sprint from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.8 seconds. While it’s not quite enough to take flight, it’s certainly capable of keeping this Stuttgart-built sedan’s nose ahead of many rivals, all while getting the next Delta passenger to their gate with a Porsche-induced grin.