FIRST DRIVE REVIEW: The new Porsche Panamera Turbo S has finally won me over with its glorious combination of power and style

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The fastest Panamera once bugged me in a bad way. The new fastest Panamera now scares me in a good way.

  • I spent a day testing the updated Porsche Panamera, in Turbo S trim. It’s the best Panamera I’ve ever driven.
  • My 2021 model year car had a 620-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 under the hood.
  • The interior combined sporty minimalist with effortless luxury — and some surprisingly decent cargo capacity.
  • Porsche is absolutely killing it with all its redesigned and revamped models, so I shouldn’t have been too shocked.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


I’ve never been what you might call a Porsche Panameraista. A 911-ista, to be sure. A Cayenneista, most definitely. More recently, even a Spyderista. But the Panamera has always been my least favorite Porsche, taking a back seat to even the Macan SUV.

I’m especially ambivalent about the V8-powered Pana: I’d rather have the six-banger, which has always felt lighter in my hands. Still, I approached the 2021 Panamera Turbo S — the mightiest sedan in the Panamera lineup — with an open mind, when Porsche let me borrow a Euro-spec version of the updated four-door for a one-day evaluation. 

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The Panamera isn’t a beautiful design, but it is familiar after a decade.

And dang-it if the car didn’t have me within seconds. Three seconds, to be precise, which is all that was required for the Turbo S to blast from 0-60 mph. I was slightly north of that barrier in my testing, which you could chalk up to my laying off the throttle a tad. Floor it and Porsche says you’ll post a 2.9-second run.

All is forgotten, Panamera Turbo S! This is a staggeringly good — nay, great — effort from Stuttgart. I can finally sign on to spending $180,000 (more or less where the car should be priced, before extras, when it goes on sales in the US early next year) for a big ‘ole cruiser with the heart and soul of a supercar.

The 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S: 602-horsepower in a luxurious package

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The twin-turbo V8 makes 620 horsepower.

Porsche is revamping much of its lineup, so since last year I’ve been able to drive more of the company’s vehicles in a row than ever before — ranging from the 911 Turbo S to the Panamera Turbo S — and can say the automaker is just flat-out killing it. Every car is the best it’s ever been. The Panamera Turbo S was my first taste of a refresh to the second-generation of the lineup, and it tasted very, very good.

So what’s new for 2021? Well, the Turbo trim has been eased out, with the Turbo S now sitting a notch below the Turbo S E-Hybrid, a plug-in that’s forthcoming in Porsche’s revamp of the model. The V8 engine is an improved, twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter mill that makes 620 horsepower with 604 pound-feet or torque and zowie! do you feel it.

“Crap, this thing is fast,” I heard myself mutter whenever I punched it. I punched it often.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The rear end isn’t the Panamera’s best look.

In fact, all you want to do with the Panamera Turbo S is punch it. Admittedly, the 550-horsepower Panamera Turbo that helped the car win our Business Insider Car of the Year award in 2017 was also addictively punchable. But I thought it was sort of over-muscled, as a sports sedan. Not so the Turbo S. The extra 70 ponies knocks a half-second off the 0-60 mph sprint and gives this car a savagely engaging quality. 

The fastest Panamera once bugged me in a bad way. The new fastest Panamera now scares me in a good way.

Yeah, but how does it look?

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The front isn’t much better.

My tester car arrived wearing a different but compelling “Papaya Metallic” paint job, and after the immediate shock of seeing an orange Porsche in the driveway, I grooved on the color, especially when some late-September golden light of sunset hit the vehicle and made it glow like the Great Pumpkin.

All right, I doubt many customers are going to select the autumnal tone, but this close to Halloween, it struck me as appropriate. 

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Overall, however, the Panamera’s exterior is tasteful.

The Panamera Turbo S’s front end has been tweaked, but it still suffers from having to embrace the infamous Porsche bug-eyed headlamp design, even if the headlamps, with the quad-point running lights, are mad LED coolness. The back end is better than what we saw when the Panamera burst onto the scene a decade ago, but it’s still a Panamera back end. 

In short, well, you don’t buy a Porsche because it looks great. And you certainly don’t buy a Panamera for aesthetics. 

Better on the inside

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The interior is minimalist and wonderful.

My Turbo S came outfitted with simple black leather upholstery, but the simplicity was deceptive. The front seats were 18-way-adaptive units, heated and supple, complete with adjustable bolstering. The rears were equally well-crafted, with their own climate controls. Above them all was a dual-pane moonroof.

Glossy piano-black surfaces, carbon-fiber trim, and beautifully machined controls shared the space with a multifunction GT steering wheel, also heated, that featured a drive-mode controller with a boost mode that pulls out all the stops on the twin-turbos for short bursts of fury.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
A dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with natural light.

The instrument cluster is an analog-digital rendering of the famous Porsche five-gauge setup, and for my tester, a Sport Chrono package brought a lovely stopwatch to the center of the dashboard.

So while I have all the predictable complaints about the Panamera Turbo S on the outside, when tucked into the cockpit, I become an enthusiast. One feels both incredibly purposeful at the wheel — It’s time to drive! — and coddled by an interior of abundant, yet never excessive, luxury.

And you get nearly 17 cubic feet of cargo area under the hatch, so the Panamera provides some surprising versatility for a vehicle with supercar performance specs.

Technology that’s keeping up with the times

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
The infotainment system more than get the job done.

Porsche’s infotainment system is thoroughly familiar to me now, and it adds quite a bit to an interior experience. It’s essentially the same system that’s in other Porsche’s I’ve tested. 

Running off a large central touchscreen, it handles Bluetooth device pairing and USB connectivity, and the GPS navigation was reliable, although I barely used it. 

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Welcome to your Turbo S!

My Turbo S came with an impressive 14-speaker, 710-watt Bose audio system that sounded superb. Bose setups handle a wide range of music, and the system in the Panamera produced a rich and, as you might expect loud listening experience.

The Verdict: Ain’t cheap, but if you have to ask …

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
All-black script was an extra for my test car.

I didn’t have enough time to properly thrash the Panamera Turbo S, but I did drive it in a spirited manner, and let me tell you, for a potentially well-optioned $200,000 sticker price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exhilarating sedan. (And I was coming off an Audi S7 test that already had me agog over what the VW Group can do with a four-door.) 

The Panamera Turbo S is just hypnotic: so fast in a straight line, so planted in the corners, so confidence-boosting coming out of them, with a blissfully smooth-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission sending succulent slabs of power from that roaring V8 to the absurdly capable all-wheel-drive system. 

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Carbon-ceramic brakes kept the car’s massive power in check.

The extra horsepower over the V8 Panameras I’d previously driven made all the difference. Something special happens when you cross that 600 hp barrier. The car no longer felt bulky — the oomph made it light. But that was an illusion, because it was just the physics adding intensity, and with it the sense that I could ask more from the chassis and suspension.

Sometimes, a fine machine just leaves me without much to say. That’s what happened with the 2021 Panamera Turbo S. As I was driving my daughter home from a friend’s house at the end of my day with the vehicle, the verdict arrived. 

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Such a good car,” was all I needed to say.

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