Highlighted by the Sport Turismo wagon model, Porsche's updated Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid gains power, refinement, and 30 percent more electric range.
Recent headlines regarding Porsche's four-door cars have naturally gravitated to the company's new Taycan electric sedan. And given the performance of the 750-hp Taycan Turbo S—the most powerful Porsche currently available—that hype is understandable. But Porsche has partially electrified its Panamera sedan and Sport Turismo wagon (and Cayenne SUV) for several years now with some spectacular results. For the 2021 model year, a range of updates comes to the second-generation Panamera lineup, with the most anticipated of those changes being an uptick in power, performance, and refinement for the range-topping Turbo S E-Hybrid models.
Although the Panamera Sport Turismo has been around since 2018, the wagon remains a rare bird, even in car-crazy Los Angeles. Our 2021 Turbo S E-Hybrid test car has been collecting lustful stares all morning, even from a few Tesla drivers. Exterior changes are subtle. Aside from new wheel designs, the previously optional SportDesign front fascia is now standard; a reconfigured SportDesign package, with or without carbon fiber, is in the works. To bring the car's rear end in line with the look of the brand's fresher sports cars and SUVs, a continuous light strip now spreads across its tail. The only upgrade inside is a new steering wheel with simplified audio and information controls. Our German-spec example was not fitted with a panoramic glass roof, but it will remain standard on United States models.
Mechanically, things haven't changed much either. The plug-in Turbo S E-Hybrid retains its all-wheel-drive system, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, and an electric motor integrated into its eight-speed dual-clutch PDK automatic transmission. Engine calibration enhancements have increased the V-8's output from 550 horsepower to 563. Peak torque stays at 567 pound-feet, and the electric motor contributes an additional 134 horsepower and 195 pound-feet. As a result, combined horsepower climbs from 680 to 690. And with 642 pound-feet of total torque plus a low 5.97:1 first gear, hard launches strain back muscles and rearrange bodily fluids more than ever. Tummies twizzle.
Porsche says the updates shorten the wagon's 60-mph dash from 3.2 seconds to 3.0 flat, but we've already clocked a 2.7-second run from a 2018 Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, which also covered the quarter-mile in 11.0 seconds at 126 mph. We won't know for sure until we get the updated car to the test track, but the 2021 model should shave a tenth of a second from those times. Porsche also claims a 196-mph top speed, which is an increase of 4 mph. We'll buy it.
The most significant powertrain upgrade is an increase in battery capacity from 14.1 kWh to 17.9 kWh, which ups the Turbo S E-Hybrid's all-electric driving range by 30 percent. On a full charge in the E-Power driving mode, there are now enough electrons for about 20 miles of travel. But get aggressive with the throttle, and the V-8 fires up quickly to deliver a boost of power.
Hybrid mode maximizes the system's efficiency by blending both power sources with remarkable refinement, running the engine only when necessary to either charge the battery or answer your request for harder acceleration. "We spent a lot of time under the hood optimizing engine and suspension systems to enhance the bandwidth between performance and comfort," said Thomas Friemuth, vice president of the Panamera model line. EPA fuel-economy estimates aren't finalized yet, but the current car's 48-MPGe and 20-mpg combined ratings aren't expected to change.
Sport and Sport Plus modes keep the engine running and retune the transmission for more immediate response. They also dial up the volume of the active exhaust system, giving the V-8 a thumpy idle and a pleasant growl. The Turbo S E-Hybrid's adjustable air springs use the same hardware as before, but ride quality has been improved, and the range between the suspension's three settings have been broadened. Normal is a bit softer than before and Sport Plus a bit stiffer, but each setup retains the relatively supple ride quality and excellent body control that we've previously been impressed with.
The Turbo S E-Hybrid's regenerative braking system helps replenish the battery pack rather quickly. A half hour of moderately quick driving in the hills above Malibu increased our indicated electric range from 7 to 21 miles. Porsche has also made some adjustments to the Panamera's Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport system, which governs the car's active anti-roll bars, torque-vectoring system, rear-axle steering, and more. There's more steering feel than in other big sedans and wagons, and a new electromechanical brake booster seems to have eliminated the brake pedal's previously squishy transition from regenerative to friction braking. Massive carbon-ceramic rotors with Acid Green-painted calipers are still standard.
Porsche continues to mount the battery pack under the Turbo S E-Hybrid's cargo floor to help balance the weight of the chassis, which helps lend the car incredible grip and agility. You can notice some road noise from the updated 21-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tires (275/35R-21s in front and 325/30R-21s in the rear), but their impressive grip is a fair tradeoff. Despite weighing around 5300 pounds, we recorded 0.99 g of stick on the skidpad from the previous version of this electrified wagon. While it does feel big and heavy on the road, it's also seriously quick, stupendously stable, and it simply explodes from corner to corner.
Pricing for Turbo S E-Hybrid versions of the Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo will be released closer to the cars' availability in spring, but we'd expect slight increases over their current base prices of $189,050 and $193,050, respectively. With its improved performance and additional refinement, we could make a case for the top Sport Turismo model as Porsche's best all-around car. Sure, both the electric Taycan Turbo S and the updated 911 Turbo S are quicker, and we'd rather have one of the company's GT sports cars for pure driving joy. But none of them combines speed, comfort, efficiency, and versatility as stupefyingly well as the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. It may be the perfect ride for the deep-pocketed enthusiast with a family and a single parking space.