First Drive: 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Review
Cosmetically, not a huge amount has changed with this update, with the new turbo specific front apron and 21-inch 911 Turbo Design wheels the main focus of the exterior revamp.
The Panamera looks as sleek and imposing as ever, combining Porsche’s archetypal athletic styling with a sense of purpose as a capacious four-door GT model.
Performance and Handling
The Panamera is unmistakable Porsche, with breathtaking acceleration and brilliant cornering, the latter thanks in part to the optimised chassis systems in this update.
Much of that ‘optimisation’ comes via software updates, with improved damping control in Porsche Active Suspension Management system and PDCC Sport roll stabilisation learned from the development of the all-electric Taycan. As a result, it feels delightfully grounded, gripping through corners and barely disturbing the driver’s relaxed poise. The four-wheel steering – again inherited from the 911 and Taycan – is both fast and accurate, turning the two-tonne Turbo with ease.
In normal mode, the Panamera feels wonderfully comfortable and refined. Turn the steering wheel-mounted mode button to the right and feel the suspension firm up as you climb through the echelons of performance. It’s downright feisty in Sport Plus, surpassed only by the ‘Sports Response’ button, which optimises everything (throttle response, aero, engine) and drops to the lowest available gear and to give the car a ‘boost’ – perfect for overtakes.
The 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo powertrain was biggest evolution from the first to second generations, and with this update it has received a host of internal upgrades, including an improved crankshaft, con rods, pistons, timing chain drive and torsional dampers, plus new fuel injectors and optimised turbochargers with a new turbine layout.
Porsche claim ‘Best in class performance’, with the model reportedly setting the executive car lap record at the Nürburgring, lapping the Green Hell in 7 minutes 29.81 seconds – only a little over two minutes off the all-time record. And who am I to argue, with the blistering acceleration forcing me back into the bolstered, upholstered bucket-esque seat as it rockets from 0-60mph in just 2.9-seconds. Power is immediate and unlimited, with just microseconds between the turbo spooling and the car taking off. Automatic gear changes through the eight-speed PDK ‘box are slick, while the flappy paddles offer plenty of driver engagement. When it comes to stopping, the 10mm wider brakes do the job marvellously.
There’s now the option of Michelin Sport Cup tyres from the factory, and while our test car wore the more road-focussed Pilot Sports on its 325 rears, they were still sonorous to say the least, drowning out the (optional) sports exhaust.
In the cab, it’s both comfortable and sporty, with the impression of safety given from the car’s huge mass and low seating position. I felt cocooned, although it was at times hard to see through the huge wing mirror and A-pillar.
Tactile materials throughout promote luxury, and while I wasn’t a fan of the brown interior of the test model, the leather was soft nonetheless. The spacious rear contains many executive elements, including automatic privacy screens over the windows, cupholders and two individual full-sized seats.
Technology and Features
In terms of interior tech, there have been a couple of updates to the infotainment, however nothing fundamental, with the system still as intuitive and user-friendly as before.
On either side of the analogue rev counter is a small high res display, hosting features such as vehicle information, navigation and the aforementioned night vision – a £1,920 option that uses infrared thermal imaging to highlight wildlife and pedestrians at night, providing visual and audible warnings and automatically applying the brakes if required. A heads-up display, meanwhile, provides inobtrusive information right in your line of sight.
The larger touchscreen display in the centre of the dash hosts the aforementioned bird’s-eye view facility, plus a reversing camera, alongside the navigation and infotainment elements. ‘Buttons’ on either side of the gear lever – for functions including the switchable suspension, traction control and heating – provide a pleasant simulated feedback, in the same way that your iPhone centre button does.
Since its launch in 2009, the Panamera has featured as the mature model in Porsche’s line-up. This latest iteration is now more refined than ever, while the Turbo S powertrain brings it into a new dimension of driveability.
With acceleration akin to the marque’s more traditionally sporty models, you don’t have to compromise between performance and practicality, with the Panamera offering both, in a stylish, well thought out package.
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8|
|Power||630PS (463kW) @ 6,000rpm|
|Torque||820Nm (606lb ft) @ 2,300-4,500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed double-clutch, four-wheel-drive|
Reviewed by Laura Thomson