Short on time? Here’s what you need to know about the new Porsche Panamera Turbo S - it’s a luxury saloon that’s as fast as a Lamborghini and comfy enough for you and three friends to cross continents in.
Got a bit more time? Then here’s the detail.
The Turbo S is the most powerful petrol-only version of the current Panamera range, sitting beneath the petrol-electric Turbo S E-Hybrid and above a range of lesser-powered petrol and hybrid models including the entry-level 2.9-litre V6 with 325bhp and the 4S E-Hybrid which you can read about here.
The Turbo S uses the same twin-turbo V8 as the 473bhp GTS but turns everything up to 11, with 621bhp and 605lb ft. That’s a substantial 79bhp and 37lb ft more than the previous Turbo and enough to get the Panamera round the Nordschleife in 7 minutes 29 seconds.
When driving anything with more than 600bhp, it’s a good idea to gradually explore its performance. Which is how I found myself initially pootling around the Northumberland countryside like I was driving any regular saloon. One of the wonders of the Turbo S is that, while it can be a hair-raising beast, it’s also set up to be a useable day-to-day car with sensible throttle sensitivity, manageable steering weight and an unruffled cruising ability.
So, dropping the kids at school or an easy, refined run down the motorway are totally possible. But if that’s all you want then the standard V6 model has what you need. If you’ve opted for the Turbo S it’s because you want something that can also take your breath away. And it will certainly do that.
Lean heavily on the throttle and the response is almost instantaneous. Sixty-two miles an hour is gone in 3.1 seconds and if you head for the autobahn of Porsche’s homeland you’ll be nudging 200mph by the time it runs out of puff. It’s the kind of thrust that threatens to rearrange your insides and makes you wish you’d had a lighter lunch.
The power delivery from the big V8 is fairly linear but there’s a hint of added impetus as you sail north of 3,500rpm and as you surge through the revs you’re accompanied by a deep, rich burble from the engine, and pops, crackles and woofs from the exhaust. The noise is an ever-present reminder of the car’s potency but doesn’t stray into being intrusive or wearing.
Three drive modes allow you to dial up or down the lunacy and you can toggle elements individually, meaning you can have the full barn-burning Sport Plus acceleration and naughty exhaust noises but stick with the comfort suspension setting.
Which leads us nicely to the Panamera Turbo S’s ride and handling. If the car’s pace is a feat of engineering, the way it tackles even the most challenging roads and surfaces is nothing short of witchcraft.
The firmest of the three suspension settings is admittedly a touch too stiff for your average British road but knock it back into sport and the blend of control and comfort is simply astonishing. On a selection of twisting routes across the northern moors it feels utterly composed, changing direction with the immediacy you’d expect from a far smaller car and with virtually no body movement. There’s a whole barrel of clever and newly optimised technology helping it do that, from the optional four-wheel-steering to torque vectoring and active damping, but there’s also a beautifully linear steering feel and weight that means the Panamera reacts precisely to your input.
What’s more, the control isn’t at the expense of comfort. Even major bumps and changes of surface that you’d expect to produce a shudder or bounce have no effect as it powers over them, the adaptive air suspension soaking it all up with utter sure-footedness.
Of course, a 911 can do that as well but the Panamera is a proper large saloon/fastback. That means it can perform those cross-country miracles while carrying four fully-grown adults in a spacious, sophisticated cabin.
The interior of the Panamera has been updated as part of the car’s midlife facelift and is beautifully finished with a luxurious but not ostentatious feel. There is enough space for even tall passengers and the likes of heated, electrically adjustable seats and individual climate control for every seat. The only misstep is the centre console where a confusing array of haptic-feedback buttons break up the simple unfussy flow of the design. Things are neater in front of the driver where the traditional big central rev counter is flanked by two smaller configurable data screens, viewed over a new steering wheel.
That midlife facelift has also sharpened up the exterior looks. The second generation was already a big improvement on the blobby first-gen car but it has now been refreshed again with most models getting the sharper, more attractive Sport Design nose while the Turbo S gets its own exclusive front end with larger side air intakes, body-coloured elements and its own light design. There are also new LED lights at the rear and a restyled rear light strip plus new wheels designs in 20 and 21 inches.
The update brings some technology updates too, with wireless Apple Car Play and wireless charging, improved connected services and online voice assistant, and upgraded media and navigation functions.
Of course all of this comes at a price - a handsome £135,610 before options for the car pictured. But you get an awful of a lot for your money. The Panamera is a genuinely luxurious, refined and spacious saloon with true supercar performance.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Price: From £136,610; Engine: 4.0-litre, V8, twin-turbo, petrol; Power: 621bhp; Torque: 605lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; Top speed: 196mph; 0-62mph: 3.1 seconds; Economy: 21.4-22.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 289-298g/km