by Michael Butler
Now celebrating its tenth year of production, the Porsche Panamera Turbo has grown from an ugly duckling into one of the best full-size luxury sedans on the US market. Unlike its competitor, the Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan, which offers a more relaxed, although blisteringly fast driving experience, the new Panamera Turbo is a full-on driver's car that handles like a car half its weight. With 550 horsepower on offer and an all-wheel-drive system to put the power down, the Panamera Turbo feels like a warp-speed missile at full tilt. What makes this even better is the ultra-luxurious interior that doesn't pretend to even try to save weight. With a trunk space that's much bigger than its rivals, the Panamera is also one of the most practical cars in this segment. It's fast, comfortable, practical, and may well go down as one of the best performance sedans in history.
We can hardly believe that the Panamera nameplate has been around for a decade; when it was first released, the Panamera didn't draw a ton of praise, especially in the looks department, but has always been admired for its comfort, practicality and sheer pace. Ten years later, the Panamera looks arguably more appealing and is more capable than ever. 2020 models don't see much in terms of major tech or styling updates but it does gain two new paint colors, namely Gentian Blue, and the wild and wonderful Papaya.
The 2020 Porsche Panamera's price is a big number, but it should be mentioned that you're paying for a car with class-leading performance, handling, and practicality. The base price will also see a big jump as most owners will select at least one or two added options, and those who want a fully-loaded car will have to wipe the tears off of their bank manager's pale little cheeks. The base Panamera Turbo will set you back $153,000, which does not include registration, tax, and a destination fee of $1,350. The larger and better-specced Executive goes for over $10,000 more at an MSRP of $163,400. These prices are well over $50,000 more than the ever-capable BMW M5 but are closely matched by the Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan.
See trim levels and configurations:
The Panamera Turbo handles unlike any other full-size luxury car we've driven and is most certainly the class leader in this regard. Get behind the steering wheel, dive into a corner, and be amazed at just how much the Panamera grips. It makes itself feel like a smaller car and is planted firmly to the road, thanks in part to an active aero rear spoiler with four adjustments. Porsche has made extensive use of aluminum in the suspension setup to keep weight down, and the whole deal is controlled by Porsche's 4D-Chassis Control system that actively gathers data and makes adjustments to the suspension to better match your driving style at that specific moment. The Panamera is great whether you appreciate a stiff and sporty suspension setup, or prefer a GT cruising feel; it can do both quite convincingly. Bringing everything to a stop is done without fanfare; six-pot front and four-pot rear calipers stop the Panamera Turbo on a dime, time after time. Executive models get rear-axle steering, which further enhances the driving appeal of this large Porsche.
The simple truth about the 2020 Porsche Panamera Turbo is that it's a maddeningly fast, gung-ho supercar camouflaged as a luxury executive that should be used for transporting important people to important places. It's a wolf in an Armani suit. Its twin-turbocharged V8 engine delivers breathtaking acceleration and in-gear performance, which makes it feel much faster than the numbers suggest. As if that is not enough, the Panamera Turbo will waft around in refined luxury when not pushed, and with a large trunk and cargo area is practical too. The cabin has been meticulously crafted and is one of the nicest in its class. What we struggle to get over is the omission of Android Auto, and some basic active driver safety systems such as blind spot monitoring and pedestrian detection. Yes, it may be pricey, and the options might be pricier still, but it's probably the best full-sized performance executives ever made, even if it's not quite as opulent as an S63.
The choice here is simple: if you need the extra legroom and luxury touches offered in the Executive model, then that's what you should get, but for everyone else, the standard Turbo will do. Featuring the same twin-turbocharged V8 engine and adaptive suspension, the standard car only misses out on the rear axle steering system, which can be added as an optional extra. If we had the money, we would get the standard Panamera Turbo in Volcano Grey metallic with a set of 21-inch SportDesign wheels and a scattering of carbon fiber on the exterior. Inside, we would get the sport seats with 18-way adjustment. We would also add the Sport Package, which adds rear-axle steering, a sport exhaust system, and the Sport Chrono package, which adds a more hardcore driving mode and launch control. Finally, we'd invest in the Assistance Package, which adds lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and night vision assist.
The M5 is an absolute legend in the history of performance saloon cars, and is, to this day, one of the leaders in its class. Under the hood of the 2020 M5 lies a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission. The BMW M5 is one of the Panamera Turbo's closest rivals in terms of dynamic ability; it accelerates at a blinding rate, getting to sixty in only 3.2 seconds, and can be set to rear-wheel-drive mode which increases the fun factor. That 4.4-liter engine has also been underquoted on power. When not belting around a track, the M5 offers a fairly luxurious, if not slightly hard-edged, drive quality that feels on par or even better than the Porsche. Inside, you get a stunning interior that looks and feels more modern than the Porsche, and you also get more features as standard, but we were disappointed with its lack of steering feel and pricey options. Costing over $50,000 less than the Panamera Turbo, it's a performance bargain that just can't be ignored.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan is a heavyweight boxer that delivers knockout blows time after time. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which it shares with the GT line of supercars, delivers 603 hp and a massive 664 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to see a zero to sixty sprint time of 3.5 seconds. From the outside, the S63 looks like it hasn't aged a day, and should go down as one of the best-looking S-Class sedans ever made. What we really like about the S63 Sedan is its hauntingly beautiful engine sound, which is miles better than the Porsche, and we also love the fact that it feels like a bullet train in a straight line. Ride comfort and refinement are excellent, and sitting inside one feels like you're sitting in the lobby of a six-star hotel. The S63 also offers one of the most comprehensive available safety suites in its class. We don't like that it's not as dynamic to drive as the Porsche or BMW M5, and the fact that it's up for replacement soon. Give us the Porsche then - we're gearheads after all.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Porsche Panamera Turbo: