Well, with the Pencil barrel on the Panther it is one of the few tanks I feel comfortable being in a battle with tiers one or two levels higher than I am. Sure, it isn't a brawler with tier 9's, but if my team does anything approaching normal, I can use the Panther to snipe and pen at amazing distances (the gun is derogatorily named "The Laser" by people who don't like getting hit by it, and since they took out the PzIV's sniper gun... I'd play the Panther with its gun before they go nerfing that, too).
While I have hated the German heavy line (maybe due to the types of players who play them more than the tanks, but I was constantly whined to that the Tiger II and E-75 couldn't hold their own as top-tier tanks, either, by the guys who drove them a lot in my last clan... so inevitably we'd have less big tanks pushing and fail more - due to either the tank or the player, I'm still not sure which), the Panther treated me well, and I know that E50 owners and the new tier-ten 50B drivers seem to really like them (even in clan wars for the tier ten).
Something else I'm hearing since the release of 8.0 from a few in my current clan (who are much better players than my last) is that they are finding the frontal armor or lower glacis on German heavies (mentioned was either the Tiger II or E-75, I forget) was now bouncing everything. WG may have made the German heavies a little better? One way or another I'm not going to fall for it for now. I'll wait until enough people either praise the new armor, or see if this can't-penetrate thing wears off.
German tanks and normalization (one poster in it states he thinks the Tiger II did get better, and another post in it believes that the IS-3 didn't get the buff to its front that it should have received): http://forum.worldoftanks.com/index....normalization/