It’s the numbers that really make the 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S, and they’re rather special: 463kW of peak power, 820Nm of torque, a 2080kg kerb weight and a 315km/h top speed, for starters.
Then there’s the official 0–100km/h claim of 3.1sec, which makes it the fastest accelerating Panamera model yet.
This is a hugely powerful, rather weighty and, when you want it to be, incredibly rapid car. Even among an ever-increasing number of petrol engine protagonists, the Audi RS7 and Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-door included, it sets a very high standard of engineering excellence. And in the right conditions with its driving mode controller set to Sport Plus to tickle every last bit of dynamic excellence out of it, it’s a truly intoxicating car to drive.
This was all highlighted when we got the chance to lap the new Panamera Turbo S, successor to the earlier Panamera Turbo, around Bilster Berg. The menacing 4.2km-long circuit, set within rolling hills and thick woodland not far from the German city of Paderborn, is a hard test of any car, with its 19 corners and no less than 44 crests and dips.
Not only did the new Porsche devour its straights with all the rabid enthusiasm its raw performance figures suggest, it also impressed us greatly with its outright agility through the trickier sections.
Yet as telling as our time with the Panamera Turbo S at Bilster Berg was, you can’t come to any true conclusions about a road car until you’ve actually driven it in the environment it was conceived for in the first place. But before we do, let’s have a look at what Porsche has done to the range-topping Panamera model to make it an even more exciting proposition than its already highly regarded predecessor.
The new Turbo S driven here is one of eight facelifted Panamera models planned to see Australian delivery by the end of 2020. Other models to have received an increase in power include the GTS, which gains 15kW at 353kW, and the 4S E-Hybrid, whose petrol-electric drivetrain generates a system output of 412kW.
Externally, there’s not much to report, which is not that surprising. It is a facelift, after all. The Panamera Turbo S is claimed to receive a “completely new front end”. However, comparisons with the earlier Panamera Turbo reveal its styling has changed very little at all. Yes, the side air intakes are slightly bigger than before, and the dual horizontal elements that support the secondary light modules are further apart, but otherwise very little has changed.
The same can be said of the rear, which receives a revamped light strip that now runs seamlessly between redesigned LED tail-lamps. There are also a new set of wheel designs.
Inside, the cabin remains fundamentally unchanged. Though, predictably, there are some small revisions, including a redesigned steering wheel, revised trim elements and updated functions for the infotainment system, which receives an improved voice-control system, more advanced hazard recognition and wireless Apple CarPlay. It will be familiar to anyone used to the luxurious interior appointments, force feedback controls and high-quality materials of the second-generation Panamera.
The long list of driver-assistance functions has also been extended, with lane-keeping assist and road sign recognition now included as standard.
Like every new Panamera model, you can have the Panamera Turbo S in both liftback and Sport Turismo body styles – the latter adding greater interior versatility via a wagon-style rear featuring an extended roof line and more upright tailgate. They both feature the same interior accommodation up front, though it is the Sport Turismo that offers the greater space in the rear, most notably in terms of head room. Luggage capacity, meanwhile, is put at 467L for the liftback and 418L for the Sport Turismo (underneath its cargo blind).
Still, all this is really secondary to what’s lurking underneath the new Porsche’s long probing bonnet. Here, mounted longitudinally well back in the chassis to optimise weight distribution, sits the motive force behind the Panamera Turbo S: an upgraded version of the early Panamera Turbo S’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine – the EA825 as it is known within the realms of the German carmaker’s engineering community.
I say upgraded, but it’s more a ground-up redesign with a new crankshaft, pistons, conrods, turbochargers, fuel injection system, particulate filter and mounting points among myriad other changes, including a reduction in the compression ratio from 10.1:1 to 9.7:1 in a bid to reduce knocking.
With 463kW at 6000rpm, power has risen by a none-too-subtle 59kW over the earlier version of the EA825 that began production in 2016, giving it almost 116kW per litre of capacity. Torque also increases by 50Nm to 820Nm between 2300 and 4500rpm.
How does this compare to the competition, you ask? The Audi RS7’s version of the EA825 delivers 441kW and 800Nm, while the Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-door’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine kicks out 470kW and 900Nm.
The Panamera Turbo S’s eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox has been retained with what are described as minor software updates. This is in a bid to provide the new model with smoother yet faster shift action as part of a wider range of changes aimed at improving overall mechanical refinement and comfort. It operates in combination with a multi-plate-clutch four-wheel-drive system featuring the latest generation of Porsche’s Torque Vectoring Plus system.
Predictably, it’s the engine that dominates. There’s huge flexibility on part-throttle loads, so much so that you rarely require more than a pinch of throttle travel to remain within posted speed limits. So driven, it feels wonderfully effortless and supremely refined.
To help improve fuel consumption, Porsche has revised the coasting function by linking it with the radar and front camera so that it only operates when it is really necessary, instead of the on-off-on-off effect you got before. That said, we did notice some spots of jerkiness to the way the gearbox shifts at low revs.
Once the turbocharger boost really kicks in around 2500rpm and Porsche’s Variocam Plus system adjusts the camshafts to maximum performance potential, though, the reworked V8 propels the Panamera Turbo S with the sort of relentless energy matched by very few road cars – let alone one that’s capable of accommodating up to five.
The acceleration in lower gears on a wide-open throttle is stupendously rapid. That official 0–100km/h time mentioned earlier is four-tenths of a second inside that quoted for the old model. Porsche also claims a 0–200km/h time of just 11.2sec, which for a series-production car weighing over two tonnes is quite remarkable.
In Sport mode, the rich and woofly twin-channel exhaust is enhanced by an opening of a set of flaps that increases its volume and brings a more baritone tone. Plus, the odd pop and bang on the overrun as excess fuel is ignited in combination with the optional Sport exhaust system fitted to the car we drove.
Beyond the engine bay, the Panamera Turbo S adopts a lightly reworked version of its predecessor’s three-chamber air suspension, which features revised front-end geometry in combination with new bushing rates. It also receives software upgrades originally developed by Porsche for the Taycan, most notably in the area of its standard anti-roll and rear-wheel-steering systems.
The standard 21-inch wheels – 9.5 inches wide at the front and 11.5 inches wide at the rear – come mated with 275/35 front and purposeful-looking 325/30 ZR-rated tyres.
It is the steering that really sets the basis for the new Porsche’s dynamic ability – and its potential to engage the driver with greater success than before. It starts with the inherent accuracy and superb weighting of the front steering system, which is geared between 14.2:1 at dead centre to 9.3:1 at its bump stops.
Arguably, though, it’s the rear-steering system that contributes even more to the Panamera Turbo S’s handling prowess, allowing it to rotate the rear quickly to suppress any understeer, and provide the sort of balance you otherwise wouldn’t credit in a car of this size and weight.
Together, they provide reassuringly sharp turn-in qualities, and with the rear-wheel-steer neutralising any penchant for the nose to run wide, you can get on the throttle early and fully exploit the four-wheel-drive traction and torque-vectoring effect that individually apportions power individually to each of the rear wheels for added cornering speed.
The active roll stabilisation, part of what Porsche calls PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) that also comes standard, plays a key role, too, helping to suppress body roll and keep it tracking flat through corners.
Granted, the Panamera Turbo S is not at the same elevated dynamic level as the 911 Turbo S we test-drove earlier this year, but its ability to provide rapid changes of direction while retaining its inherent poise is as central to its driving appeal as the sheer accelerative ability served up by its engine.
The standard carbon-ceramic brakes tend to lack for real feel at the top of the pedal travel when you set off down the road. However, they come alive when you work some heat into them, at which they deliver powerful, fade-free retardation that is easily modulated.
For what it’s worth, Porsche claims the new Panamera flagship can lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit quicker than the Mercedes-AMG GT63 S 4-door, though only just at 7min 29.81sec versus 7min 30.11sec, in what it says is a new “executive class car” lap record.
One thing we noticed during our time on the Bilster Berg circuit is that the new Panamera Turbo S relies less on its stability management systems than before. They’re there when required, but you can take great liberties before they make themselves felt.
Dial everything back into Comfort mode and the Panamera Turbo S is every bit as docile as other less performance-oriented Panamera models, with the exception of its ride, which remains quite firm even in Comfort mode. It’s never harsh, but the air suspension, which uses a combination of double wishbones up front and multi-link at the rear, is never quite as forgiving of bumps, ruts and broken bitumen than that of its siblings.
No-one really needs a Panamera Turbo S. Detractors will say it shouts conspicuous consumption – they always do. And yet, it’s hard not to admire. Well apart from its engineering excellence, it is also a hugely competent car, whether cruising in its softest settings around city streets or being fired along a lonely back road in its most ferocious driving mode.
It’s also very luxurious, with a cabin that will accommodate four in comfort and all the very latest in connectivity functions Porsche can muster right now. It’ll even handle a trailer up to an unbraked weight of 2200kg.
There’s only one problem, its $409,500 price tag, which makes the Turbo S more than twice as expensive as a base Panamera that comes in at $199,500.