In mid last century, the golden age of the automobile, lots of time and money were invested into fascinating but often impractical projects. Some, like the Chrysler Turbine Car were engineering marvels, while others like the Ford Edsel were fated to fail due to their looks. Today, there is neither the time nor the money for such flights of fancy. More and more manufacturers are competing for a slice of an ever-shrinking pie. Porsche has long been associated with performance; engineered with competition in mind as opposed to luxury one would find from other manufacturers like Mercedes.
Despite this, Porsche (unlike Microsoft) have always kept a finger on the global pulse, the zeitgeist or spirit of the times. Recognizing that they were losing valuable market share to other companies like BMW, Cadillac and Maserati made them re-think their model lines and to the horror of Porsche purists, they introduced first the Cayenne in 2002 and then as a double whammy, the Porsche Panamera in late 2009. This is Porsche’s idea of the ultimate sports sedan – aimed squarely at the Mercedes, Audi, Maserati and BMW alternatives. Stiff competition is old hat to Porsche, and three generations later Stuttgart continues to refine their recipe of practicality and performance with the 2021 release.
The Looks Department
While we weren’t able to get a look at the model’s visual changes (as is the norm with new releases) we expect them to be modest. A distinct lower front end is available on the Panamera Turbo S model, with the rear end receiving Porsche’s wrap around light bar and three-dimensional Porsche lettering. The optional ‘sport design’ package is now standard across all models. As a cherry on top, three new wheel designs and two new paint colors will clearly distinguish the updated range.
Interior and Infotainment
The interior is also subtly refreshed, with the steering wheel alluding to the 911 pedigree, and more wood décor options available. The tactility of the steering shift paddles is solid and precise while the courtesy of a console mounted shifter is much appreciated. The one ripple in this otherwise seamless interior is the ‘Sport Chrono’ clock, which we’d like the option to hide, or else see integrated into the driver’s instrument binnacle.
The infotainment is also upgraded to incorporate Apple CarPlay and other connectivity functions. The voice recognition system has been improved and the central screen is now high resolution.
Engine and Transmission
This is where the money is at in the 2021 Porsche Panamera; the entry-level 3.0-liter V-6 has been downsized to 2.9 liters while making the same horsepower. The 4S has an almost identical engine but could see a horsepower upgrade to 450. Moving further up, there is the GTS with a detuned version of the Turbo’s 4.0-liter V-8, shifting it from 453 to 473 horses. The Turbo is replaced by the Turbo S with a thoroughly modified engine producing 620 horses; this would be the performance orientated choice.
From here we move onto the expanded range of hybrids. A new mid-level model, the 4S E-Hybrid debuts between the entry level 4 Hybrid and the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. Batteries are upgraded to 17.9-kWh over the old 14.1 pack, which should be visible as a 30% range increase.
Yeah, yeah, we hear you say, but what about the power output? Well, the entry level hybrid stays roughly around its current power of 462 horses, while the all-new 4S E-Hybrid will reach 552 horsepower. The crowning hybrid, the Turbo S will break the 700, but Porsche is yet to publish the output. In comparison to the non-hybrid Turbo S, the V-8 In the E-Hybrid version remains largely unchanged.
All powerplants are coupled to Porsche’s excellent PDK 8 speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is standard except for the base model. We feel the additional thought that Porsche has given to the hybrid range will pay off; they are quickly becoming more of a performance category and less of an environmental afterthought.
Other modifications include a thoroughly re-thought suspension, with refinements in the electronic anti-roll and dampening systems. There is the option of an air suspension which we feel is necessary on a vehicle that wants to pose any reasonable competition for Mercedes or BMW, especially in the long wheelbase derivative.
In summary, Porsche just got better and the Panamera fits nicely into their 2021 portfolio. Don’t be deceived, behind the business-like facade, beats the heart of a true driver’s car.