by Gabe Beita Kiser
The Porsche Panamera is the brand's take on the full-size luxury sedan segment. Smartly, Porsche continues to position the Panamera as a true driver's luxury sedan with sharp responses and blistering acceleration, rather than try to compete head-on with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as a comfort-oriented carriage for busy executives who would rather jump in the back seat. You'll certainly want to get behind the wheel of the Panamera Turbo, because there's 550 horsepower to play with from the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 - enough to reach 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds with launch control. These numbers are made all the more remarkable when you consider the Panamera's beautifully-tailored and spacious cabin. The precise handling sees the Panamera entertain at the limit while the comfortable ride makes it a crushing long-distance cruiser, too. Apart from a fussier-than-necessary infotainment system and rivals that offer better space for five occupants, the Turbo isn't only the fastest non-hybrid Panamera, but one of the best luxury sedans in the world.
The Panamera Turbo is largely unchanged for 2019, with only the addition of an available full-color head-up display differentiating it from last year's model.
The second-generation Panamera is far sleeker than the maker's first attempt, and even though the Panamera Sport Turismo has been getting plenty of attention, the regular Panamera remains instantly Porsche with those extra pair of doors integrated as sleekly as possible. The Turbo has 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with four-spot daytime running lights, and a panoramic roof fitted as standard. An extending rear spoiler is integrated into the body and helps to reduce lift at higher speeds. The Turbo Executive also has soft-close doors.
The Panamera Turbo measures 198.8 inches in length, 76.3 inches in width (with the side mirrors folded), and 56.1 inches in height while riding on a 116.1-inch wheelbase. The Turbo Executive is longer at 204.7 inches (with a stretched 122-inch wheelbase), and 0.3 inches taller than the Turbo. Curb weight is 4,398 pounds for the Turbo and 4,630 lbs for the Turbo Executive.
The Porsche Panamera's color palette extends to over 15 different shades, from basic Black and White to metallic hues like Sapphire Blue, Volcano Gray, Mahogany, and Night Blue. Optional colors like the fiery Carmine Red add a bit more flamboyance to the Panamera Turbo but will cost you over $3,000 extra. Overall, there's a color to cater to most tastes.
By virtue of its lighter weight, the shorter Turbo will get you to 60 mph faster than the Turbo Executive, but there's not much in it. 0-60 mph comes up in 3.4 seconds for the Turbo with launch control activated, and the Turbo Executive is just a tenth of a second behind. The Turbo will also cross the quarter-mile in comfortably under 12 seconds before hitting a top speed of 190 mph. Of course, all-wheel-drive helps to put down the twin-turbo's 550 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque with devastating effect. Overall, the Panamera Turbo twins represent some of the fastest full-size luxury cars in the world - the only Panamera that's quicker is the Turbo S E-Hybrid with the extra grunt from its electric motor. Not too far behind is BMW's M760i xDrive, but even that missile has to employ a monster 6.6-liter turbo V12 just to get close to the Panamera Turbo.
Both the Panamera Turbo and Turbo Executive make use of a sublime twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine with peak outputs of 550 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard. Responsiveness is improved by the positioning of the turbochargers in-between the cylinder banks, reducing the distance that the exhaust stream needs to reach each turbo. The eight-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung (PDK) dual-clutch transmission is one of the best of its kind, blending smooth habits with tremendously quick shifts. The first six gears are closely stacked for quick acceleration, while seventh and eighth gears have a long ratio for refined cruising.
From a standing start, the Panamera Turbo hauls itself off the line with the alacrity of the smaller 911. Passing power is towering and you'll often find yourself needing to practice restraint in this car, such is its ability to gain speed. Not only does it accelerate with force, but the V8 also makes a pleasing growl. Even considering the Panamera Turbo's many other strengths, the powertrain stands out and is virtually flawless.
Luxury cars are expected to get you to where you want to be as effortlessly as possible and, for the most part, this is generally all that is expected of them on the dynamic front. Evidently, nobody told Porsche about this when the Panamera was being developed, because this is a luxury car that would be a waste if you only occupied the back seat. While the steering isn't as communicative as in Porsche's smaller coupes, it's still incredibly sharp and precise, making the Panamera feel much smaller than it actually is. The all-wheel-drive system grips brilliantly, and together with the Turbo's extra power, makes shooting out of corners an addictive affair. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) continuously alters the damping force on each wheel depending on conditions and driving style, with the combined benefit of reduced body movement and enhanced comfort. Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes offer a tangibly different experience depending on your preferences.
Of course, none of this means that the Panamera Turbo isn't still a phenomenally comfortable car. It's not an S-Class on the open road, but there's still an absorbent ride that soaks up the majority of road scars with ease, plus the refined cabin effectively shuts out external noises. Tire and wind noise are largely absent. If the lights turn red or a 'normal' vehicle disrupts your progress, there's the reassurance of a powerful braking system to quickly and easily slow down the big Porsche.
You may expect a car with this kind of performance to make you pay heavily for it at the pumps, but the Panamera Turbo's EPA-rated estimates of 18/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined are thoroughly decent in this segment, particularly the impressive highway figure. The BMW M760i xDrive is much thirstier, returning only 13/20/16 mpg.
On a 23.7-gallon tankful of premium gasoline, the Panamera Turbo should manage a combined cruising range of just under 500 miles. On the highway, the range increases to almost 600 miles.
Unlike more traditional luxury sedans, the Panamera's interior is more driver-focused - the design is clean, technical and sleek. Make no mistake, though, it's still crafted using only the best soft-touch plastics, aluminum and wood. Ahead of the driver is the iconic Porsche centrally mounted tachometer, with a large touchscreen to the right and a distinct lack of protruding knobs and switches. The rear area is set up for two passengers with a broad center console that stretches through from the front. There's plenty of space for all passengers, and the Turbo Executive's rear legroom is especially generous. As you'd expect on the Turbo models, there are features like full leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and heated seats front and rear.
Out of the box, the Panamera seats four passengers. All have enough headroom and legroom, with the Executive providing true stretch-out space for passengers at the back. Optionally, the rear center console can be replaced with a seat, increasing capacity to five occupants, but it is not as comfortable as the rear outboard seats, so we'd stick with the standard layout. The standard seats have a good shape and although cushioning isn't overly generous, they remain comfortable for long periods. Most drivers shouldn't have a hard time finding a suitable driving position, and besides a rather broad B-pillar, visibility isn't an issue. Ingress and egress are made simpler thanks to wide-opening doors, and only lankier adults will need to drop down a bit lower to avoid making contact with the sloping roofline.
Turbo models get a leather interior as standard - Club leather and two-tone leather are optional. Standard colors are Black, Agate Gray, Marsala, and Saddle Brown. The striking two-tone interior color combinations are Black/Luxor Beige, Black/Chalk, Marsala/Cream, Saddle Brown/Luxor Beige, Black/Saddle Brown, and Black/Bordeaux Red. Interior trim offers a similarly diverse range of options, from high-gloss black to brushed aluminum, dark walnut wood, and carbon fiber. Turbo variants have a smart Alcantara roof lining and the Porsche crest can also be embossed on the headrests for another exclusive touch.
Both the Panamera Turbo and the Turbo Executive have generous cargo compartments, with 17.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. The trunk is long but a tad shallow, so larger suitcases will have to lie flat. Folding down the rear seats frees up 47.3 cubes of total cargo space in the Turbo, and 52.6 in the Executive model.
While the center console compartment, glovebox, and door pockets all help with stashing smaller items, none of them are especially large. The cupholders are well-designed, however, and do a solid job of keeping beverages secure when on the move.
The Panamera Turbo is equipped to a reasonable standard, although at the price, some of the optional extras should be standard. Both models have 14-way power front seats with memory, heated front and rear seats, a rearview camera, keyless entry, heated and power-folding side mirrors, a power liftgate, and rain-sensing wipers. While the Turbo has dual-zone climate control, the Turbo Executive gets a four-zone system. The Executive additionally has eight-way power rear seats and soft-close doors. There's a comprehensive array of options, from a heated steering wheel to ventilated seats, massaging seats, and adaptive cruise control. For 2019, a color head-up display showing information like speed and navigation has also been added to the options list.
Infotainment is handled by the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) interface, highlighted by a 12.3-inch primary touchscreen. Physical buttons and knobs are only noticeable by their absence, and therein lies the main criticism of the system: some functions are simply too complex to adjust without a concerted effort to look down. There are no problems with the screen's clarity, though - the high-resolution display is crystal clear. Standard features are navigation, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and an auxiliary input jack. Android Auto integration isn't available. A 14-speaker Bose surround sound system is fitted, but you can upgrade to a Burmester high-end unit if the basic system isn't quite punchy enough for you.
The 2019 Panamera Turbo doesn't yet have a J.D. Power rating, but last year's model scored 80 out of 100. Promisingly, the J.D. Power 2019 Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Porsche in first place among luxury brands in the United States, indicating a high level of satisfaction and trust in the brand's vehicles. There were also no recalls issued for the Panamera range in 2019. Last year, however, saw six recalls for the 2018 Panamera range, some of which pertained to the Turbo variants. The first issue was for no visual warning of brake pad wear, which could increase the risk of a crash. A potentially failing control unit, intermittent loss of power steering assistance, and a rear axle anti-roll bar connecting link which may detach, were further problems noted.
The Panamera Turbo is covered by Porsche's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty with roadside assistance, a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and corrosion cover for 12 years with unlimited miles.
The Panamera range hasn't undergone crash-testing by either the IIHS or the NHTSA, but there's little reason to doubt that this is a safe car thanks to the fitment of many passive safety features.
Although the Panamera has many safety features included in the base price, it's disappointing that more of the common and most useful driver aids remain on the options list. Standard gear comprises dual-front, head and side airbags. The Panamera also has brake assist, daytime running lights, traction control, and electronic stability control. Park Assist with a rearview camera is standard, but you have to cough up extra cash for lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and night vision.
With the Panamera, Porsche has proven that there isn't just a single interpretation of a full-size luxury car. Even in this segment, there are shoppers who still want to take matters into their own hands and do the driving themselves. In that respect, the Panamera Turbo delivers - and then some; this is a supremely engineered car with breathtaking performance, composed handling, and enough comfort and space to enjoy the experience with three lucky passengers. The Turbo Executive is one of the most luxurious Porsches ever made, yet it still dashes to 60 mph in under four seconds as if it were a 911. No, the Panamera Turbo doesn't surpass the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or the BMW 7 Series for sheer opulence and refinement, and Porsche's infotainment system usability and standard features count also lag behind these two competitors. But neither of these rivals tear down the road with anywhere close to the confidence and enthusiasm of the Panamera Turbo. All of the leather, space, and comfort you could wish for has not prevented that unmistakable Porsche DNA from shining through strongly, and that is perhaps this car's greatest achievement.
The Panamera Turbo range begins with the Turbo at an MSRP of $151,500 before options, tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $1,350. The extended-length Turbo Executive costs $161,900. To get close to this much performance in a luxury car, you'd have to consider the BMW M760i at $156,700. The four-seater, two-door Ferrari GTC4Lusso has even more power and the right badge to measure up, but it is vastly more expensive and not as practical as the Panamera.
The two-strong Panamera Turbo range comprises the Turbo and the longer wheelbase, more spacious Turbo Executive. Both are powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with 550 horsepower, enough to accelerate to 60 mph in under four seconds. An all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission are standard. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and an adaptive rear spoiler are fitted.
Both models have 14-way power front seats, heated seats front and rear, a panoramic roof, 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with the brand's dynamic light system, leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch touchscreen interface with navigation, a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system, comfort access, and a rearview camera. Along with the Executive's increased legroom, this variant also has four-zone automatic climate control (the Turbo has a two-zone system), power-adjustable rear seats, and soft-closing doors. In addition to a choice of two-tone leathers and wheel designs, optional equipment includes blind-spot monitoring, night vision, and lane departure warning. A high-end Burmester sound system and seat ventilation are also available.
Porsche's range of optional packages equips the Panamera Turbo to a more satisfying standard. The Premium Package Plus costs $2,790 and adds the likes of front-seat ventilation, LED-matrix headlights, soft-close doors, and lane change assist. The Executive has a variation of this package; it costs $2,760 and adds front and rear seat ventilation, dynamic cornering lights and LED-matrix headlights.
The Assistance Package bundles together driving aids like night vision assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist - it goes for $5,370. For less of a focus on luxury and more on performance, there's the $5,580 Sport Package (only on the Turbo) which includes a sports exhaust system, Sport Chrono package ($2,530 on its own), and rear-axle steering.
Some of the most desirable standalone options are soft-close doors for $780 (Turbo only-they are standard on the Turbo Executive), a heated steering wheel for $280, a head-up display for $1,720, and front and rear Park Assist with surround-view at $1,200.
At over $150,000 for a Panamera Turbo, the $10,000 difference between the Turbo and the Turbo Executive doesn't seem as significant. Considering that the Executive also gets extras like power rear seats, tons of legroom, and soft-close doors - and that the gap in performance is negligible - this is the model we'd go for. We'd also spec ours with the $5,370 Assistance Package, as a top-line luxury car shouldn't be without the driver aids it contains. The available head-up display and Park Assist with surround-view are also upgrades that we'd add. Our ideal Panamera Turbo Executive would work out to $170,190.
Even if the Panamera's hatchback body style seems far removed from the more traditional S-Class, you can't exist in this segment without being compared to the benchmark. At almost the same price as a Panamera Turbo, the S63 combines the opulent and incredibly comfortable S-Class interior with a hooligan AMG V8 twin-turbo power plant which delivers 603 horsepower. Like the Panamera, the S 63 features an all-wheel-drive system. Dynamically, the two cars have different priorities - the S 63 has a smoother ride and the Panamera Turbo is far more dynamic through the corners. The Mercedes has a more indulgent cabin, with brilliant materials and more accessible technology. It's also better-equipped than the Porsche; you don't need to pay extra for blind-spot monitoring or lane departure warning, for instance. The lighter Porsche is also no faster than the S 63, with both clocking 3.4 seconds to 60 mph. Both cars have their merits, but it ultimately comes down to whether you prefer to drive or be driven. If it's the former, you'll want the Panamera Turbo.
Although technically playing in a segment below the Panamera, the BMW M5 is a great match for the Porsche performance-wise. In the full-fat Competition specification, the M5's twin-turbo V8 puts out a crushing 617 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, enough to catapult the Bimmer to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds - that's even faster than the Panamera Turbo and at over $40,000 less. The latest M5 also atones for the previous generation's dull responses and feels incredibly agile and capable on track, thanks to the rear-biased xDrive system. The cabin doesn't look as special as that of the Panamera's, but the ergonomics are superior and the quality can't be faulted. The M5 is also a full five-seater. If cost is a deciding factor, the M5's thrilling driving experience will hardly feel like you settled. But there's something to be said about the allure of driving a high-performance Porsche. In either case, you won't be disappointed.