Does the new Porsche Panamera Turbo S finally escape the RS6's shadow?
Does 630hp make the new Panamera our favourite four-door?
The Porsche Panamera has always been a bit of an oddball – it's a saloon (or estate) that has always promised a thrilling driving experience coupled with four seats and a reasonable boot.
Anyone who's driven one will likely have shortly thereafter bought one, or added one to their lottery-win list. Which is odd, because on paper, it's always been down on practicality compared to a regular estate car, and down on power compared to a fast estate car. It's never been an obvious choice.
Now we have the 2021 Panamera Turbo S, which erases one of the Porsche four-door's on-paper weaknesses. Power. It now comes with an Audi RS6-trouncing 630hp from its 4.0-litre V8.
But is it any good? Watch my video review below, or read on for more thoughts.
What's new for 2021?
The exterior tweaks to the new Panamera are minor – a few different bumpers and daytime running lights are your lot up front, while the rear gets a lovely full-width light bar a la the Cayenne and 992-gen 911.
Inside you get a redesigned steering wheel, wireless Apple CarPlay and the option to have your dash-top sports chrono trimmed out by Porsche Design. And you can buy a matching watch, if that's your thing.
It's all relatively minor then, until you put your foot down.
The updated Porsche Panamera range loses the range-topping and weighbridge-breaking Turbo S E-Hybrid, and this Turbo S now sits as the big daddy. Its 630hp 4.0-litre V8 will punt you and the Panamera to 62mph in 3.1 seconds and on to 196mph. But from the driver's seat, it doesn't feel as gut-wrenching as that sounds. A combination of the cabin's refinement, the relatively muted V8 and the car's two-tonne mass mean it feels fast, but not so fast you'll lose your lunch. It takes a second or two longer to get a triple-digit speed appearing in the HUD than you'd think.
630hp and that many doors. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the parental taxi of choice
The relative hush of the cabin means you tend to get to corners a darn sight quicker than you realise, but the Panamera's chassis has the chops to keep you safe. Before you get to the corner, you're reassured by the feel and weight of the brake pedal. It's a small thing, but the Turbo S' standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes feel like they're connected directly to your brain – unlike other fast estates that have jerky, single-function blunderbusses. Then there's the steering. The Panamera isn't quite the feelsome thing it once was, but you still feel very much a part of the car when cornering hard, and you can get on the power ludicrously early in a corner to romp away.
Those brakes feel incredible
After 10 minutes on a country road, you can genuinely start to forget about the boot and pair of seats behind you, such is the Panamera's agility and cross-country pace. If you manage to get an ounce of understeer out of the front Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, you're more of an oaf than me. And that takes some doing.
What about the other stuff?
You buy a Panamera because you want a Porsche you can drive daily. And in terms of comfort, infotainment and back-seat accoutrements, the Panamera scores almost perfectly.
Don't bother with the five-seat option unless you really need it – the middle seat you get is tiny
The main niggle is that rear-seat headroom in the regular 'Gran Turismo' Panamera is poor if you're over six feet tall, and your lankier passengers will end up leant forward to avoid the sloping roofline. The Sport Turismo (estate) version does away with this problem. Also, it's worth noting there are only two rear seats as standard – a centre one is a £626 option, and it's still too narrow for regular use by an adult.
Back up front, the digital driver's display and infotainment screen are both pin-sharp, feel modern and are a delight to fiddle with, without being as distractingly over-complicated as Mercedes' latest system.
Brown leather? Must be a German-spec press car
The Panamera's 495-litre boot isn't that huge – and if you go for the Sport Turismo estate it only increases to 515 litres – a significant 50 litres smaller than an Audi RS6's, but it's still a reasonable space. If you want outright luggage capacity in this segment, you should be looking at the 640-litre black hole in a Merc-AMG E63 estate. What a lovely luggage problem to have.
Should I get one?
If you want to ferry three other family members about in comfort and with wonderful rapidity, but don't want an SUV, you can do little better than the new Porsche Panamera Turbo S. It's unflappable, wonderful fun to hoon on a twisty road and big enough to make everyone feel pampered rather than cramped.
You can reconfigure the dash pretty much as you wish – but the central rev-counter always remains
However – experience suggests if you want a bit more noise, drama and even better handling (at the cost of some speed and acceleration), the upcoming Panamera GTS will be the sweet spot. There aren't any in the UK yet, but as soon as there are we'll let you know…