Thursday 29th October 2020
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First drive: Porsche Panamera 'G2 II' 2020MY. Image by Porsche AG.

First drive: Porsche Panamera 'G2 II' 2020MY
This is a 630hp, four-wheel-drive, 196mph, V8-powered estate car, blessed with a Porsche chassis. Terrific.

 



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Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Porsche's round of midlife updates for the second-generation '971' Panamera are, on the surface, fairly minimal - new lights and technology and so on, you know the sort of stuff. But under the bonnet, three out of the four 'launch' models for the 'G2 II' executive sports saloon have seen significant output increases. So we're focusing on the most powerful new variant of them all: the mighty Panamera Turbo S.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
Pricing: Panamera range from 69,860, Turbo S Sport Turismo as tested from 137,760
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: PTM all-wheel drive with PTV Plus limited-slip rear differential, eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic
Body style: five-door performance estate
CO2 emissions: 251g/km (VED Band 226-255: 1,850 first 12 months, then 475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.7mpg
Top speed: 196mph
0-62mph: 3.1 seconds (with Sport Chrono Package)
Power: 630hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 820Nm at 2,300-4,500rpm
Boot space: 520-1,390 litres

What's this?

The brilliant Mk2 Porsche Panamera, hopefully made that little bit more brilliant by a carefully thought-out programme of revisions from its parent manufacturer that we hesitate to call a 'midlife facelift'. This is because, visually, very, very little has changed with the 'Pan'. All models now gain the larger front air intakes and slatted grilles that were once the hallmark of the optional Sport Design Package, while almost all versions have a single-bar light detail in the same area - the exception being the car we're driving here, the flagship Turbo S, which has a twin-bar arrangement so that those who are in the know are subtly aware that they're looking at the daddy of the Porsche's line-up. Around the back, a slight tidying of the coast-to-coast light strip apparently allows this detail to 'flow more naturally' across the bootlid, while inside there are connectivity updates and an enhanced suite of advanced driver assist safety systems to go at.

Otherwise, physically speaking, it's 'as you were' for the 971.2 (we prefer this nomenclature to either 'facelift' or 'G2 II', if you don't mind) Panamera: you can have it as a 'saloon' (it's the four-door model which looks more like a fastback), as a long-wheelbase, special-order-only Executive (this is a saloon Panamera with its erstwhile-2,900mm gap between the axles stretched by 150mm to an overall 3,150mm) or as our absolute favourite, the glorious Sport Turismo (it's an estate, of sorts; more of a shooting brake than one which will take a boatload of antique in its cargo bay, but just look at it!). There are a couple of fresh alloy wheel designs and some additional colours for the body palette, but you're going to need to be a devoted Porsche aficionado of the highest order to easily clock the 971.2, over and above a 971.1, at a distance of more than 50 metres.

Not that this is a bad thing, of course, as the 971 is a handsome beastie and it partway eradicates the memory of the, um, aesthetically challenging 970 first-generation Panamera, so drastic remedial work on its appearance was not necessary. Therefore, we need to talk about the model line-up and this is where things might become confusing - especially if you read our news story on this very subject. Which, er, was written by yours truly... but we digress.

Anyway, what we're trying to say is that we have four distinct models in the 971.2 first wave and some of them are evolutions of what went before, some of them are evolutions which replace what went before and some of them are what look to be evolutions which replace what went before but they're actually not, because apparently they're all-new, additional models to the range and the model they looked like they had replaced is coming as part of a second wave of updated Panameras. Well, quite. So, first up (and easy to get out of the way) is the one variant which hasn't changed at all, in terms of its mechanicals. The base Panamera (from 69,860 as a four-door) is the only car in the entire range which can be rear-wheel drive, and even then you can only specify it as the regular saloon. If you want an Executive or a Sport Turismo with the carried-over 2.9-litre biturbo V6 petrol developing 330hp/450Nm, you have to have them with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive and 'Panamera 4' badging (you may also specify the saloon as a Panamera 4, of course). Job done on that version, then.

The changes begin with the 4S E-Hybrid plug-in petrol-electric vehicle (PHEV). Whereas in the 971 range there was a Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, using the aforementioned 330hp V6 with a 100kW (136hp) electric motor for peak outputs of 462hp and 700Nm, this new-to-the-family PHEV uses the same uprated 2.9-litre motor as found in the Panamera 4S (which hasn't returned as a 971.2, as yet, but is apparently in the homologation pipeline). That means the 4S E-Hybrid has a 440hp iteration of the internal combustion engine and the same electric unit as the 4 E-Hybrid, leading to overall outputs of 560hp (+98hp) and 750Nm (+50Nm). These are very similar figures to what the 971 Turbo (550hp/770Nm) managed, hence why the 4S E-Hybrid - despite weighing a portly 2,225kg as a saloon, the lightest of the three body styles available - can do 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds (with Sport Chrono), 0-100mph in 8.7 seconds and go on to a 185mph maximum. It also has a larger lithium-ion battery pack than the old 4 E-Hybrid, at 17.9kWh plays the former's 14.1kWh, so it is said to be capable of up to 33.6 miles of electric-driving range on the WLTP cycle.

Such increases for the sole PHEV Panamera so far move it well clear of the magnificent GTS, which continues with the most minimal changes of all (because the Panamera/4 hasn't been altered in the slightest, yes? We hope you're still following all this...). The 'sweet spot' of the Pan family continues to deploy the outputs from its beautiful 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 to all four wheels through PTM and an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission. Its torque hasn't moved, remaining pegged at 620Nm, but an additional 20hp lifts the peak power to 480hp for the 2020MY GTS. Better than that, Porsche says it has mapped the engine to deliver its maximum thrust closer to the car's redline, making it feel like a muscular normally aspirated lump instead of a forced-induction unit. You'll pay from 107,180 for the GTS as a saloon or 109,330 for the fabulous Sport Turismo.

Finally, there's the Turbo S, another model to gain an additional 'S' in its nameplate. This takes the pre-facelift Turbo and adds another 80hp and 50Nm into the mix, bringing the grand totals to the colossal peaks of 630hp and 820Nm. The Sport Chrono-enhanced performance, on paper, looks utterly ridiculous: weighing at least 2,080kg as a saloon, the Turbo S will nevertheless hit 62mph from rest in 3.1 seconds, will have passed 100mph from a standstill in just 7.2 seconds (about as fast as many hot hatches take to reach the first accelerative sprint benchmark) and can run 0-124mph in an outrageous 11.2 seconds. About the only head-scratching feature of its 'numbers' is that it apparently won't crack the double-ton flat out, Porsche claiming it will V-max at 196mph. Nevertheless, the Turbo S is scandalously potent and it also spells the end of the Turbo - whereas you can have both 580hp non-'S' and 650hp 'S' derivatives of the capital-T halo car in the current '992' 911 line-up, Porsche believes that the Turbo S will satisfy all Panamera buyers' needs.

Still to come in the 971.2 phalanx are the 4S, which we've already touched upon, as well as strong hints that both the 4 E-Hybrid and the insane Turbo S E-Hybrid will return in the not-too-distant. And if you're keeping score, you'll realise that last statement means that: a) there will be no fewer than three PHEVs to go at in the complete 971.2 Panamera line-up; and b) that the formerly 680hp TSEH is probably going to have to go beyond the 700hp barrier to keep it clearly demarcated from the new Turbo S. Astonishing stuff.

How does it drive?

Make no mistake, while the old 550hp Panamera Turbo was a long, long way from being a 'slow' car, you can immediately feel the rabid difference between the former ultimate petrol-only Pan and this shiny new Turbo S. Good grief, it is demented. If you're deliberately trying to get it to do something daft, like accelerate from 1,000rpm in sixth by locking the PDK gearbox into manual mode, then you might encounter a tiny trace of turbo lag. Otherwise, what happens when you depress the throttle by any significant amount on dry road surfaces is that the twin-clutch transmission smartly hooks up the atom bomb of a V8 engine at the front to the big tyres at all corners of the car and then the Panamera Turbo S catapults into the middle-distance in a breathtaking instant - as if it weighed 280kg, never mind 2,080kg. Having sampled it on German roads and on a track, it has that unrelenting, sledgehammer ferocity of acceleration beyond 100mph that denotes you're in something truly special, a car that's from the realm of mega-power machines, rather than a vehicle that's merely 'pretty fast'. The Turbo S feels every single one of its 630 horses and 820 Newton metres, and knowing Porsche's fabled trait of underplaying power/performance somewhat, we'd say it subjectively feels more ludicrously muscular in reality than its on-paper stats would have you believe.

Sounds good, too, the V8 burbling nicely through a Sports exhaust and ramping up with a deeper timbre plus additional rumbles and thuds when you switch the Panamera Turbo S into Sport or Sport Plus modes (or, alternatively, stay in Normal and simply tap the 'exhaust' icon on the home-page of the glorious Porsche Communication Management touchscreen). Porsche never really lets its cars fully cut loose in terms of the sonics, though, and so if you're expecting some of the audible bombast of an AMG V8 or supercharged Jag, you might find the Turbo S a little too acoustically restrained.

You'll find little to complain about with the chassis, mind. The Panamera has always been the sportiest and most dynamically rewarding of the large executive saloons and nothing has changed with the updates and power boosts. The Turbo S gains an extensive standard-fit armoury of chassis-sharpening goodies, such as Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), three-chamber air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive dampers, Rear-Axle Steering (RAS), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) and Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), and they all add up to a car that is rarely found wanting when it's on the move, no matter what comes its way. It's incredibly refined, with a tautly controlled yet forgiving ride in Normal and superb sound suppression in the passenger compartment, and its outrageous drivetrain can play the civil, demure pussy cat if you want it to.

Where Porsche's chassis-engineering genius shines through is that it can clearly differentiate the steering and damping feel in the various different drive modes - Normal, Sport and Sport Plus - and yet neither facet of the Panamera loses its composure as you click through the settings; as the steering is always wonderfully direct, beautifully weighted and feelsome, while the suspension is both comfortable enough for road use in Sport Plus and yet never allows the body to get away from the chassis to a significant degree in Normal.

This just makes the Panamera Turbo S immensely and marvellously gratifying from mile one. And then, when you want it to behave like a Porsche, it will do, with perfect chassis balance and a sizeable degree of throttle-adjustability to its underpinnings, while turn-in is rapier-sharp and you are rarely, if ever, made aware of the Sport Turismo's considerable mass. And this is on the roads; around the daunting Bilster Berg race circuit, an up-and-down loony-house of a track to the east of Paderborn in northern Germany, you'd think the heavy Panamera would be totally out of its depth but, in the hands of a complete novice on that particular circuit, it managed to keep a better-driven, lighter 911 Turbo S reasonably honest along the straights. Some achievement.

Is it perfect? Not quite. The too-muted exhaust is one issue and, right at the very limits of its suspension's operation, there's a feeling that the Turbo S is ever-so-slightly looser and less controlled in its movements than the GTS Sport Turismo. This is because the Turbo S has a very wide operating bandwidth to cater for, whereas the GTS is marginally more focused on driver reward before all else - its bespoke suspension tuning, noisier exhaust notes, and honed appearance inside and out means that you can save 28,430 on purchase price compared to the Turbo S, and then spend a chunk of that money on some of the most desirable cost options. You'll be left with the greatest Panamera 971.2 of all if you do. As to the 4S E-Hybrid? It is definitely technically accomplished and a significant improvement on the 4 E-Hybrid of the 971.1 line-up, but its increased weight from its electric gear blunts its responsiveness a touch too much for our liking.

Verdict

This is a difficult summation to write, because the Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo is comfortably all you could conceivably want or need from a high-end, high-performance, prestige estate. And, once you've sampled the addictive hit of its 630hp haymaker, you'll not want to easily relinquish such power. But the GTS Sport Turismo, almost 30 grand cheaper and offering 99.99 per cent of the performance of the Turbo S, would be our choice, as it is just - just - the more cohesive, rounded and polished product of the pair. Still, the net outcome is the same: the best large executive sports saloon/estate just got even better. Time for its competitors to attempt to catch up with the sensational 971.2 Panamera... if they possibly can.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 22 Sep 2020









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2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.

2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.2020 Porsche Panamera G2 II Germany test. Image by Porsche AG.








 

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