2021 Porsche Panamera First Look Review: Blitz All Rivals

First Drive / Comments

A mid-life refresh retains the Panamera's competitive edge.

Porsche changed the rules of the game (again) when it launched its original Panamera sedan back in 2010. Prior to its arrival, premium German brands, meaning Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, stuck with the traditional three-box sedan design, in numerous sizes, of course. Enter the Panamera. Sure, the first generation's design didn't appeal to everyone, but it was drastically different than anything else out there. And because it was a Porsche, it drove like a Porsche. The competition later responded in kind with their own high-powered four-door coupe missiles, but the Panamera had made its mark and continues to do so.

For 2021, the Porsche Panamera, now in its second generation, returns with a mid-life refresh that'll ensure it retains its competitive edge for the next few years. Not only has Porsche upped the power across the lineup, it's also expanding its hybrid offerings with a new trim, the 4S E-Hybrid. The Panamera Sport Turismo, a sport wagon body style with additional rear cargo space, also returns with the same upgrades as its executive sedan sibling.

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A Slight Exterior Nip/Tuck

The overall shape of the Panamera and Sport Turismo's silhouette can't be mistaken for anything else, and Porsche has no intention of changing this. But it has given the Panamera some slight exterior styling enhancements for the second half of its life. For starters, the SportDesign front fascia, previously optional, is now standard fare. A carbon fiber-enhanced SportDesign package costs extra, however. The taillights have also undergone some slight tweaking, as there's now a light strip connecting them. The rear fascia also has a new look featuring diffuser fins. There are also new wheel designs for the 20-inch (standard) and 21-inch (optional) wheels.

Looking more specifically within the trim range, the Panamera Turbo S (previously the Turbo), features a special front fascia design all its own, most notably the larger air intakes and headlight lighting signature. The mid-range GTS, meanwhile, comes with a new Satin Black front fascia and unique 20-inch wheels. The taillights are tinted as well, sticking with the darkened theme. A Sport Exhaust System is also standard.

All Panamera trims can now be had in two new exterior paint colors: Cherry Red Metallic and Truffle Brown Metallic.

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Great Interior Needs Cool Steering Wheels

Because this isn't a complete redesign or a major refresh, interior design changes are most minimal. Panamera and Panamera 4 base models receive a new multifunction steering wheel and eight-way electronically adjustable driver and front passenger seats. The Turbo S, however, gets a new GT Sport steering wheel covered in high-quality leather and 14-way seats. The GTS gets 18-way adaptive sport seats.

All Panameras come with a 12.3-inch touchscreen that includes standard navigation and a WiFi hotspot. A 14-speaker Bose sound system is standard on the Turbo S, but there's also a 21-speaker Burmester surround system that can be tacked on to all trims (for a price, of course). A few other features include a heads-up display and the Porsche Communication Management (PCM), a system that offers more digital functions like improved Voice Pilot, wireless Apple CarPlay as well as other connected service platforms.

As before, both Panamera body styles offer seating for up to five passengers.

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More Power And A New Hybrid Trim

Porsche has replaced last year's Panamera Turbo with the Turbo S, meaning more power and greater performance. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 remains, though it now produces 620 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque instead of the outgoing Turbo's 550 hp and 567 lb-ft. Zero to 60 mph now happens in 2.9 seconds with Launch Control engaged. This is a half-second quicker compared to last year. Top speed is a claimed 196 mph.

The GTS, also powered by this V8, receives a 20 hp boost for a new total of 473 hp and 457 lb-ft. Last year's 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 found in the Panamera 4 is gone, replaced by a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 with 325 hp.

And then there's the new 4S E-Hybrid. It shares the base model's 2.9-liter V6 but is connected to an electric motor that creates a combined output of 552 hp and 553 lb-ft. Yes, those are nearly the same figures as the outgoing Turbo. Not bad for a hybrid. The rest of the Panamera E-Hybrids now have a 27 percent battery capacity improvement and recalibrated driving modes.

All trims come standard with a newly updated Porsche Active Suspension Management.

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Pricing And Competition

Official pricing for the entire 2021 Porsche Panamera lineup has not yet been announced, but the automaker has confirmed it'll begin accepting customer orders in early 2021 for deliveries next spring. Expect similar pricing to last year, meaning a new Panamera can't be had for less than $87,000. A fully-loaded 2020 Turbo, for example, goes for around $163,000.

Competition at this high level is fairly limited but fierce. Familiar rivals include the BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, Audi A7 Sportback, and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. All three offer more powerful variants aimed directly at the Panamera Turbo S and 4S E-Hybrid. What mainly sets these outstanding German-built and engineered vehicles apart are driving and handling characteristics unique to each brand. All offer plenty of advanced technologies and it really boils down to individual tastes and brand loyalty.

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