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 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.
See trim levels and configurations:
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.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
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.
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.