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Hyper-Wagon Test Drive: The 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo Is Ballistic

Porsche’s biggest four-door gets a 620-hp shot in the arm.

Conner GoldenWriterManufacturerPhotographer

If you think about it, the most outrageous cars currently available on Porsche's menu aren't the GT Division's motorsport-aping 911s, despite these wicked wonders pulling power from what feel like rear-mounted particle colliders and wearing enough wings and dive planes to shame an F-22 Raptor. If mind-bending engineering and technological dominance are what you're after, the upper branches of the Panamera family tree hang heavy with some of the most absurdly over-engineered cars ever to lay rubber to pavement, especially now with the updated 2021 Panamera lineup.

2021 Porsche Panamera: It's a Crazy World Out There

Twin-turbo V-8s, all-wheel-drive, dual-clutch transmissions, and the capacity to strip the doors off an unaware supercar in the neighboring lane are all part of the range-topping Panamera Turbo S package, though that build sheet's not necessarily a rarity nowadays, considering the BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG E63 S, and Audi RS7 all match the Porsche blow-for-blow, cylinder-for-cylinder, and turbo-for-turbo. Even the astounding Panamera Sport Turismo wagon braves return fire from the Audi RS6 Avant and E63 S Wagon. But the first phase of the second-generation Panamera offered an optional performance hybrid drivetrain in the ridiculous Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, a 680-horsepower weaponized hybrid the other Germans have yet to match in four- or five-door form.

Before the 2021 model year, spending big bucks on the S E-Hybrid was the only way to tack the vaunted "S" onto the swoopy "Turbo" script on the rear liftgate, meaning if you didn't want your extra juice to come from electrons, the highest you could climb was the Panamera Turbo. In a high-dollar game of switcheroo, Porsche rolled out the new 2021 Turbo S model first, leaving potential updates to the erstwhile-halo Turbo S E-Hybrid for later.

2021 Porsche Panamera: Who's On "S"

Porsche touted the outgoing Turbo S E-Hybrid proudly and loudly during its tenure as the biggest and baddest Panamera, so this quick redistribution of the "S" nomenclature is surprising, but only if you don't zoom out to the greater picture. The way Porsche puts it, the release of the Taycan relieves the Turbo S E-Hybrid from its post as the brand's eco-centric halo car, slotting in the identically-priced Taycan Turbo S adjacent to the E-Hybrid. Couple this potential internal competition with customer requests for a non-hybrid Panamera Turbo S, and this shuffling starts to make perfect sense. Again, Porsche hasn't discontinued the Turbo S E-Hybrid, but it's not yet ready to announce when this green-accented zapper goes under the knife.

Now that we're all caught up, let's take a look at exactly what Porsche fiddled with to make sure the new gas-guzzling, soot-shooting Turbo S is worthy of that extra letter. Compared to the combined power of the departing Turbo S E-Hybrid, the new Turbo S is down on overall power, but the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 format, shared with all second-gen Panamera Turbo variants, now peaks at a mighty 620 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque in the 2021 Panamera Turbo S, up 70 horsepower and 37 lb-ft over both the previous Turbo and the gas-powered portion of the E-Hybrid drivetrain.

2021 Porsche Panamera: New Guts, New Power

To achieve this extra muscle, the engine is augmented with an updated crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, timing chain drive, fuel injectors, and rejiggered turbochargers with redesigned turbines. The result of this shot in the arm is a 0-60-mph scramble that takes just 2.9 seconds,  0.7-seconds quicker than the previous Turbo's time, and 0.3-seconds quicker than even the Turbo S E-Hybrid. Of course, Porsche being Porsche, expect an instrumented test to shave at least a few tenths off. Be brave with the throttle on a long enough strip, and the new Turbo S will eventually hit its 196-mph top speed.

Elsewhere, Porsche upgraded the chassis hardware significantly to compliment the extra anabolics under the hood. Making every suspension option standard was a good place to start, meaning each 2021 Turbo S carries adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), rear-wheel steering with Porsche's upgraded Power Steering Plus, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, and its trick PTV torque vectoring system. Carbon ceramic brakes are standard as well, which is likely the most important bit of standard kit, as even the lightest Turbo S variant splinters the pavement at 4,691 pounds.

2021 Porsche Panamera: Under the Skin

Beyond the equipment standardization, Porsche tweaked and twiddled the updated Panamera behind the curtain. According to the automaker, all the kit and caboodle above is tuned specifically for each model variation; in this case, the Turbo S sits at the peak of the mountain, so where there is room for improvement from lesser Panameras, be sure the new Turbo S has the very best hardware available. Unseen hardware is revised as well, including both axle bearings and engine bearings, alongside a reworked electric steering assist control with guts improved by gleanings from the 992 Carrera and Taycan that improve the amount of "road grain" that makes it through the steering wheel to your fingertips.

The 2021 model is the first Panamera that can be had straight from the dealer with ultra-high-performance tires, though we cannot report on any improvements these bonkers Panamera-spec Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 shoes have, as our tester arrived with the standard performance summer tires.

Elsewhere, you'll find little aesthetic updates and changes inside and out. The Turbo S features the Sport Design front fascia as standard, and the rear taillight bar is now a seamless slash across the liftgate. Inside, the steering wheel is brought in-line with Porsche's latest design, there's a new Porsche Design Sport Chrono clock, and the suite of driver assistance systems is updated to now include Comfort Access and Lane Keep Assist.

2021 Porsche Panamera: Unbelievable Performance

However, if you drive the Turbo S in a manner befitting the 620-horsepower block of Tannerite up front, you won't have time to admire the new fascia or use the new lane keep assist. In fact, during launch control, you really won't have time for much at all as your breath is crushed from your abdomen and your neck strains against the headrests. As the tach's needle rises, you scramble for coherence; any thoughts of the updated clock or steering wheel morph to plans of recovery from the sustained g-forces.

Unless you're doing this on a highway on-ramp or abandoned airstrip, you're going to have to scrub that absurd speed rather quickly; thankfully the massive 16.5-inch carbon ceramic discs up front and 16.1-inchers in the rear haul things down to reasonable velocity quickly. Even if you don't slow as much as you hoped, there is likely more than enough grip and outright dynamic capability to carry you through any surprise maneuvers with equal measures of poise and violence. There's no getting around the Panamera's Bigfoot dimensions, but standard rear-wheel steering effectively shrinks the wheelbase and improves turn-in to the point that it feels at least a whole segment smaller than it actually is.

2021 Porsche Panamera: Handling Hustle

It's only small in sensation, mind you; threading the Sport Turismo through the labyrinthian roads that squiggle through the Malibu hills is a bit like playing a round of polo atop one of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Nonetheless, it's a nimble one, as the myriad active drive systems crammed under the longroof profile kept cornering speeds high and body roll to an absolute minimum. With all-wheel drive and Porsche Torque Vectoring, you can apply that prodigious power pretty much anywhere you please; mid corner, off-camber, who cares—provided you're not a complete moron with the throttle and you leave everything on, the Turbo S's brain won't let you come out anything less than shiny side up.

We can't speak for how precisely improved steering is compared to the prior tune without a back-to-back drive, but the combination of heft, responsiveness, and road feel are top-notch, as is brake actuation, throttle mapping, and the innate built-in confidence of the whole shebang. In motion, the two-point-five-ton vehicular ICBM is a masterclass of hyper-intelligent performance tech. It's enough to make you believe in the impossible—what can't automakers do nowadays?

Off the backroads and back into everyday life, the updated Panamera continued to excel. In keeping with the rest of Porsche's products, even the mighty Turbo S coddles and cossets over broken pavement and expansion joints with Stuttgart's trademark preternatural duality. The guttural rumblings from the V-8 quiet down to a faint burble, only intruding into the cabin when kickdown occurs. Speaking of the transmission, that eight-speed dual-clutch PDK remains a modern marvel. In a world lousy with smooth dual-clutch boxes, Porsche's PDK continues to be gunshot quick when you need it, and milkshake-smooth when you don't.

2021 Porsche Panamera: Does It Get Any Cooler Than This?

Conceptually, the Sport Turismo wagon variant shatters the scale of the ISO-verified metric for Car Dork Desirability (CDD); a twin-turbo V-8 all-wheel-drive dual-clutch Porsche hyper-wagon is one retro paint job and a manual transmission away from triggering a singularity. Porsche will be happy to slather Signal Yellow or Meissen Blue over your wagon provided you have the coin, but since there's zero chance of a stick, our reality is safe. Thanks, Porsche!

Porsche isn't ready to talk prices just yet, so you're going to have to be a bit patient. Yes, even with Stephanie from next door sneering at you as she unloads the bags of topsoil from her fresh RS6 Avant.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo Specifications

PRICE $189,000 (est)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-8/620 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 604 lb-ft @ 2,300-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD wagon
EPA MILEAGE TBA
L x W x H 198.8 x 78.2 x 56.4 in
WHEELBASE 116.1 in
WEIGHT 4,729 lb
                     0-60 MPH 2.9 sec
                    Top Speed  196 mph