Porsche Panamera Turbo S Review

The beauty is in the engineering for the Panamera, especially in its fastest form
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If grand touring cars are about covering long distances at high speed, there’s nothing faster than the Porsche Panamera Turbo S in the German car maker’s GT range.

Few would find the Turbo version of the four-door Panamera anything but ridiculously quick, but for an additional $61,200 the S designation will take even less time to deliver you to your destination.

The $443,600 Porsche Panamera Turbo S reaches 100km/h from standstill three-tenths quicker, at just 3.8 seconds, and storms to a top speed of 310km/h that is five kays per hour faster than the standard Turbo.

Aiding increases in output and performance are bigger dual turbochargerss fitted to each cylinder bank, higher-pressure direct fuel injection, and pistons lined with friction-reducing coating.

Power is rated at 419kW, produced at 6000rpm. Maximum torque of 750Nm delivered to all four wheels runs from 2250 to 5000rpm, with an overboost function initiated by kickdown stepping this up to 800Nm between 2500 and 4500rpm – to record a rapid 80-120km/h in-gear acceleration time of 2.4 seconds.

While only power changes a bit to the Turbo S that first emerged in 2012, a bigger improvement to fuel economy sees consumption decrease from 11.5 litres per 100km to a Turbo-matching 10.2L/100km.

This extends this Panamera’s theoretical range from 870 to 980km, though the emphasis is on theoretical if you try to test out the abovementioned performance capabilities. Based on our city/freeway/country testing (17.3L/100km), we’d have run out of juice after 580km.

As the flagship Panameras (not including the longer-wheelbase Executive focused on China), the Turbo and Turbo S models undoubtedly cost a vast amount of money but are packaged with almost every conceivable piece of Porsche technology designed to make you go as fast as possible as safely as possible.

That tech comes in a variety of P-prefixed acronyms that signify adaptive dampers (PASM), traction control (PTM), stability management (PSM), variable torque (vectoring) between the rear wheels to help eliminate understeer (PTV), though the Turbo S’s only exclusive letters are PCCB – for composite ceramic brakes.

The result is a car that is virtually foolproof in the way it copes with high-speed cornering, acceleration and braking; the driver will have to misbehave for the car to do the same.

Although those brakes are designed to bring brake-fade-free performance driving, it’s difficult to imagine the typical owner taking their Panamera to a racetrack.

And this is a rare Porsche that doesn’t give this author an urge to get to a circuit. Providing you don’t reference the mid-corner poise of a Cayman or the rewarding responsiveness of a 911, however, the Panamera does plenty of justice to its badge.

What it does is belie its two-tonne mass and 5.0m x 1.9m size in enlightening fashion, turning into corners with surprising conviction and through and out of them without fluster.

Just watch those narrow roads or side streets – as you’ll be conscious of this car’s width.

We found the straightline acceleration the most exhilarating aspect of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S, though, and it left us pining for a stretch of German autobahn where we’d have no qualms about heading past the 300km/h on the speedo.

Thanks to fast-spinning turbines, there’s immediate response to the throttle off idle and from there the V8 delivers a beautifully progressive power delivery exactly as the driver demands. It brings G-forces that pin your back into your seat as you ‘make it so’ with warp drive. (And to complete the Trekkie analogy, the Turbo S is also easy to drive around town just on impulse power.)

Sensationally quick and slick changes from the seven-speed PDK gearbox ensure there’s no interruption whatsoever to your almighty surge towards the horizon.

Pressing the Sport button enlivens the gearbox further and brings more immediate throttle response, and the throttle is automatically blipped as the PDK transmission also picks downshifts with precise timing.

It’s a good job, because it means you can rely on the auto rather than bother with the frustratingly counterintuitive thumb-shift ‘paddles’ on the steering wheel.

Sport also stiffens the dampers by one of two stages. With the dampers set in regular and stage one suspension (indicated by no lights or one red light on the suspension console button), the Panamera Turbo S’s air-suspended ride is remarkably compliant. It's the low-profile, sporty tyres that mean the ride could never be described as plush, though.

There’s a firmer, angrier Sport Plus mode, but Sport is the optimum mode for your typically bumpy Australian country road – maintaining perfect vertical and lateral body control to keep the Panamera Turbo S’s low-profile, asymmetrical tyres (wider at the rear) in full contact with the bitumen, and body roll to a barely detectable lean. Sport Plus also engages the Sport Exhaust System, though it also gets its own button so engine noise can be piped more directly into the cabin.

There are great sounds to behold, too –mixing classic V8 burble and a deep-chested roar depending on throttle position – though less pleasing to hear is that the exhaust costs $6690 even on this circa-$450K car.

Buyers also have to pay extra for radar cruise control ($4990), lane departure warning ($1290) and surround view ($1660).

Options fitted to our test car to push it to $469,800 included lights that can swivel to illuminate a bend ($6360), carbon interior trim ($3470), and four-zone climate control ($2750).

As with all Panameras, the car’s length – and near-three-metre-long wheelbase – ensures there’s plenty of room for two adults to sit in the rear, which is more than can be said for the Aston Martin’s rival four-door GT, the $370,800 Rapide S.

A cleverly scalloped rooflining back there also affords good headroom. The rear doors could open wider for easier ingress/egress, though.

A clever button integrated into the rear hatch glass opens it with a single touch to reveal a decent if overly squarish boot, though the rear seats fold completely flat to make for a reasonably practical car.

Those (comfortable) rear seats are divided by a console with heating/ventilation controls for the seats and the optional climate zones, and links all the way to the centre console between driver and front passenger.

The main console follows the ‘bridge’ design of other Porsches, including the vast array of buttons that creates a sophisticated look but takes some time to learn the locations of specific functions. (And you wouldn’t want to be hunting around for the right button at 310km/h on the autobahn.)

At about a third of that speed on Australian freeways, the Porsche Panamera Turbo S proves it can do the luxury part of sports luxury well as a quiet cruiser. Only coarser surfaces tend to disturb the peace as they induce rumblings from the big tyres.

All sounds can be ignored by playing the standard Bose audio system, though it’s not a match for the hi-fi quality of the Burmester system in the $385,000 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. A Burmester is available as an option on the Porsche, though.

Options for fast four-door luxury cars around the $400K mark are fairly limited, and we’ve already been seduced by the handsome looks and howling V12 of the (albeit less roomy) Aston Martin Rapide S.

It’s also worth pointing out that an Audi RS7 Sportback – even more practical and almost as quick as the Porsche Panamera Turbo S – can be had for about $200,000 less.

Buyers in this price realm have a different level of thinking, of course, and in addition to owning a ridiculously rapid and gifted four-door gran turismo the Panamera Turbo S ensures there’s the bragging rights of driving Porsche’s most powerful continuous-series production car.