The 2021 Porsche Panamera presents an interesting conundrum, even for those of you who might want to dislike it. What started out as a somewhat compromised design that attempted to buy into the 911 heritage while offering four-door practicality, became – typical of Porsche – a quality evolution of the original that has only gotten better with time.
Need a main course of four-door usefulness, with a heavy side of Porsche dynamism and DNA? We have the answer to your quandary.
For our recent Porsche extravaganza at the sensational The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia, we drove the Panamera GTS to the track, and the Panamera Turbo S back to Adelaide Airport. In short, neither drive was anywhere near long enough, that’s how good the new Panamera is.
You can read our pricing and specification guide for all the details, but a headline that reads 'More power, less money' is a good place to start. You’d hardly accuse Porsche of offering ‘cheap’ product, but more for less is a good thing no matter which end of the pricing pool you’re swimming in.
To quickly recap, though, the GTS starts from $309,500 and the Turbo S starts from $409,500, both before on-road costs. In the case of the GTS, that price is a whopping $57,200 less than the previous model. Both GTS and Turbo S are, of course, AWD. Interestingly, the Turbo S once again sits atop the range now, replacing the old Turbo S E-Hybrid.
All Panameras get an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic, and it’s a good one no matter how hard you’re asking it to work. In the case of the Turbo S we’re driving, there’s a meaty 463kW and 820Nm to be unleashed from the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, with a 0–100km/h run taking just 3.1 seconds. The GTS gets the same engine with less grunt – although 353kW and 620Nm – along with a 0–100km/h time of 3.9 seconds is hardly low-rent.
In short, both GTS and Turbo S are very fast four-doors. They feel it, too, despite their heft and less than diminutive bodies. The Turbo S gets Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with torque vectoring standard, and it’s a $9870 option for the GTS. Rear-wheel steering is also standard on the big daddy, and costs $3750 elsewhere across the range. The Turbo S also ups the ante with ceramic brake discs, 10-piston front callipers, while all Panas get four-piston rear brakes.
I get the sense we won’t have the chance to sample any of that wizardry above on public roads, and that’s fine by me. The Panamera is, after all, a grand tourer in the truest sense of the word.
|2021 Porsche Panamera GTS||2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S|
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8||4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8|
|Power and torque||353kW at 6500rpm, 620Nm at 1800-4000rpm||463kW at 6000rpm, 820Nm at 2300-4500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||11.7L/100km||11.6L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Untested||Untested|
|Warranty||Three years/unlimited kilometre||Three years/unlimited kilometre|
|Main competitors||Maserati Quattroporte Trofeo, Audi RS6||Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S, BMW M8 Gran Coupe|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$309,500||$409,500|
Inside the cabin, changes for 2021 include new infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay, and live traffic information through the quality proprietary navigation system. The GTS gets Alcantara as standard, while the Turbo S gets what Porsche calls ‘smooth’ leather. To be honest, either cabin is a high-quality place to be.
All Aussie Panameras are further equipped with lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, and park assist with a 360-degree camera. There’s also speed-sensitive power steering, front ventilated seats, lane-change assist, adaptive LED headlights, head-up display and soft-close doors. Nice touch that last one, too, at this end of the market.
While completely unnecessary, the 18-way electric sports seats that come standard on the Turbo S are optional on other models – for $2950 thank you. Unnecessary, sure, but damn they are comfortable on a long drive. Properly adjustable to get into just the right driving position as well.
Subtle exterior changes will notify the trainspotters that, no, you aren’t so 2020, but you are in fact very 2021. I never loved the Panamera stylistically when it was first released to the world, but it’s grown on me over time, and I get why it exists certainly. The revised styling, as it has aged, has only added to the striking presence it has on the road as well.
It’s perhaps highly unsurprising that the Panamera Turbo S – and GTS for that matter – is incredibly fast on the right stretch of road. Being a Porsche, you’d expect that. There is plenty that you might not expect, though. It has a deftness of ability at the limit that shows no hint of its size or weight. So composed is it through even tighter sections of road that there’s real encouragement to push on. Reference my earlier point about not finding the limits on public roads.
The fact that it is as fast as it is, then, leads me to the next point that might surprise you. Despite the way it behaves under duress when you make it work for a living, the Panamera is almost incongruously comfortable on poor road surfaces. Heading out of Adelaide into the hills, we get to sample the usual array of coarse chip, shoddy Aussie B-road fare. And yet, the Panamera is effortlessly unruffled.
The steering shows the same poise over these surfaces that it might on buttery-smooth hot mix, the chassis is seemingly unaffected, even by nastier mid-corner bumps, and you can proceed with comfort and insulation. Grand tourers need to be able to tour in grand style, funnily enough, and the Panamera is utterly capable of that feat.
While the second row is compromised a little in regard to head room for taller occupants, there’s no other visible compromise to the GT brief. The cabin is quiet and insulated unless you’re doing 100km/h or more for long sections on coarse-chip where some tyre noise comes in. On smooth surfaces, the cabin is calm.
The key in any great car, let alone a GT specifically, is that the drive experience leaves you wanting more. The Panamera does that, and in truth the GTS is all the car you really need. We’ve said that repeatedly, that numbers and ego aside, the GTS is the sweet spot in any Porsche model range. It’s got everything you want, nothing you don’t want, and doesn’t feel like there’s anything lacking in any way. Plus, it’s fast.
The Turbo S is, of course, better. It’s faster and more ego-rewarding in that you can feel good about owning the best of the best in the range. Ridiculously fast, comfortable and beautifully equipped, it’s yet another special car from the master in Stuttgart.
Rejoice, too, in the fact that we may have reached ‘peak internal combustion’ in a Porsche sense – certainly as we have known it. It’s a phrase that gets bandied round the CarAdvice office quite regularly these days, and for good reason. My recent drive of the Taycan at the same track we drove the Panamera to shows that there is nothing to fear in a performance electric future.
There is, however, something truly great to savour about the very best conventional internal-combustion engines we can currently get our hands on. And outside of whichever 911 floats your boat, I’m not sure there’s a more accomplished all-round example of it than a 2021 Panamera Turbo S. Enjoy it while you can.