Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

Every compelling work of art has a focal point: the Mona Lisa’s wandering eyes; Botticelli’s curvy Venus; and the angular grace of the ’10 Porsche Panamera’s center console.

Home to myriad controls that otherwise would contribute to clutter, the Panamera’s centerpiece establishes order. Grandly.

For this reason, Porsche’s first 4-door sedan wins the Ward’s 2010 Interior of the Year nod for Inspired Design.

Just as one misguided tap from Michelangelo’s mallet might have maimed David, Porsche easily could have pushed the wrong buttons with the Panamera’s interior. If only because it’s home to so many – 28 on our tester (with space for two more), not counting the rear console, center stack and two pairs of toggles.

The left-brained among us would be inclined to marshal these buttons, stick-man fashion, in monotonous unbroken columns. Worse, they could have been jumbled together in a busy blob, a la Jackson Pollock.

But cooler heads prevailed, literally. “(The) buttons are actually part of the overall design concept – cool!” gushes our resident connoisseur, Drew Winter.

“This is a case where buttons work better than the central controller,” he adds.

Better indeed. Side-by-side or one atop the other, the Panamera’s buttons are arranged at a stylish angle that leads the eye down a gentle slope from the dash to the velvety-soft center armrest.

Each is separated by a metallic trim piece and labeled with a well-proportioned icon in crisp white. The buttons’ precise movements belie the slate-black plastic from which they are crafted and inspire in the driver the bold-stroke confidence of a Van Gogh.

Once the initial shock of this array wears off (think Edvard Munch’s The Scream), the design’s logic reveals itself. The buttons are grouped according to function, with the forward region reserved for HVAC controls and the aft accommodating performance-oriented features, from spoiler adjustment to shift settings.

Say what you will about sheer volume of buttons, the learning curve associated with them is flatter than a 2-D cave painting. See, push and experience.

Try that with the whirligig that helps guide BMW luxury vehicles.

Accentuating the console is a brawny shifter anchored in a sea of metallic trim. Etched with the acronym PDK, for Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, the stick declares in beefy block letters: This car is propelled by dual-clutch technology.

It’s easy to imagine yourself as Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and the Panamera’s inviting lever as the outstretched finger of God.

OK, maybe that’s too much artistic license. But you get the idea.

emayne@wardsauto.com