The car’s temperature gauge may be claiming it’s eight degrees celsius, but the moment I step out, it’s as though I’m being viciously stabbed by a million icicles. I’ve been warned of the brutally cold winds along the exposed moorland part of the pre-planned drive route, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. I probably shouldn’t have worn shorts today.
Photos snapped and in the bag for Car Throttle’s Instagram channel, I’m back in this Porsche Panamera’s fantastically brown interior, cocooned from the autumnal nastiness outside. Comfort and refinement are what I’m looking for right now, but also a good dash of dynamism - the road only gets twistier from here.
I’m not sure I can think of a better car to be in right now. The Panamera does the luxury stuff brilliantly - it’s quiet in here, the ride is silky smooth, and the cabin design and build quality are first rate. And yet, I can twist the steering wheel-mounted drive select dial to Sport Plus, partially disengage the ESP, and pretend I’m on a tarmac rally stage.
The Panamera derivative I’m in is a new one - the Turbo S. It replaces the old Turbo, and while there’s still a twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet, quite a bit of it is new. The crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods and timing chain have all been redesigned, while the turbochargers have a new turbine layout.
It produces 621bhp and 605lb ft of torque, up from 542bhp and 567lb ft in the old Turbo. That car was already stupidly quick, but this one takes things up a notch further - it’ll do 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds. 3.1!
This should, you’d think, make for the ultimate Panamera. It’s just 50bhp shy of the Turbo S E-Hybrid (which hasn’t returned post-facelift - yet), but around 200kg lighter. But I’m not so sure I’d label it thusly.
Perhaps by the time you’ve got well over 500bhp in a car like this, any increase gives diminishing returns. The Turbo always felt hilariously fast - the Turbo S merely feels slightly faster. It probably doesn’t help that opportunities to exercise the full travel of the throttle pedal are few and far between out in the real world.
When you finally get to use the V8’s full potential, there’s a noticeable increase in lag. Once you’re past that, there’s a hint of what’s to come between 2000 to 4000rpm, while after that point, the delivery of the V8 is proper pinned-to-your-seat stuff.
The new exhaust system makes a great noise, and when it’s time to change gear, a eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is ready to efficiently do its thing. Rival cars tend to use conventional torque converter gearboxes, and while they usually work very well, such arrangements still can’t compete with the immediacy of something like the PDK setup here.
We had few complaints when it came to the chassis of the old Panamera, but Porsche has sought to make some changes anyway. The Porsche Active Suspension Management setup has been tweaked, as has the roll stabilisation system. There are new front axle bearings and engine mountings, with a steering wheel pinched from the 911 and Taycan forming the cherry on top of this already delicious-looking cake.
The element that impresses the most is the compliance from the air suspension - Sport Plus is normally a setting best avoided in modern performance cars, but despite a noticeable increase in firmness, setting the Panamera to SP doesn’t turn it into an uncomfortable mess. It’s never crashy, and the body always settles quickly and confidently when you hit imperfections at speed.
Quick, natural-feeling steering means this two-and-a-bit-tonne chunk of metal and leather feels much lighter than it actually is, while the all-wheel drive system provides a near-endless supply of traction. You can go beyond this and make the rear break away, of course, but it takes some doing.
Having driven the 4 E-Hybrid before and finding it to feel a touch too lardy, a switch to the 4S E-Hybrid - another new derivative - was a big surprise. Those chassis tweaks seem to have worked wonders for this plug-in Panamera, as you wouldn’t believe it’s nearly 150kg heavier than the Turbo S.
It changes direction swiftly without even a hint of understeer, and it’s more playful than the Turbo S. Because of the instant torque back-up the twin-turbo V6 gets from the front axle-mounted electric motor, the powertrain is much more responsive. While you’re always waiting for the lag to be over in the Turbo S, the 4S E-Hybrid’s reactiveness makes playing around with the throttle mid-corner much easier.
The muted V6 soundtrack may be inferior to the rumble of the V8 in the Turbo S, but you’re definitely not left wanting for performance. The total system output is 552bhp with 553lb ft of torque, making for a 0-62mph time of 3.7 seconds - only a little slower than the old Turbo. Not bad for a car you can stick in an electric-only mode and silently waft for up to 34 miles thanks to the new, larger 17.9kWh battery pack.
It’s also substantially cheaper, weighing in at £101,690 compared to £135,610 for the Turbo S. So is it the best Panamera? Maybe, but we wouldn’t like to say without trying the updated GTS, which is more powerful than before and still getting on for £30k less expensive than the new range-topper.
Whichever of the three you go for, though, you’ll end up with a luxury car able to do pretty much everything you ask of it, and do it brilliantly.