What You Learn After Driving the Porsche Panamera Turbo

Porsche's sedan finally looks as good as it drives.

DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles

You'll be sold on the Panamera Turbo in the first ten seconds.

You don't need to drive it. You don't need to do a launch. You don't need to go around a corner. You don't even need to start the engine. You just need to look at it. And you need to sit in it. You definitely need to sit in it.

The Panamera used to be good to drive and only good to drive. That's because, other than a few deranged people who like the way it looked, it wasn't considered beautiful (Full disclosure: I was one of the deranged). A sedan that looked like a 911 crashed into a Volkswagen Golf rather than something traditionally pretty, they'd say. The Panamera wasn't traditionally beautiful, but at least it wasn't boring.

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This time, Porsche has built something gorgeous. The design shouldn't be that shocking; we saw it as the Sport Turismo Concept at the Paris Motor Show just a few years ago. The awkward lines of the old car are gone, replaced by a sleek suit and a three-piece wing that was seemingly built for Instagram. There are great little details everywhere you look, like the three-dimensional treatment on the taillights. The concept behind the design of both Panameras might be the same–a Porsche sports car with two more doors–but the new Panamera is striking to everyone who sees it... in a positive way.

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The interior, which wasn't a weak spot in the old car, is somehow a huge, huge upgrade. It all feels futuristic, like it was designed for the 2025 Panamera and accidentally put in the 2017 model. Most buttons have been replaced by capacitive sensors that light up in bright white or red. Unlike the buttons on Cadillac's CUE system, these work and feel natural. The new infotainment system is intuitive with a giant screen. There's a center aircon vent you control through that system. The seats have massage, like, real massage.

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Of course, it's all well and good that the Panamera looks better on the outside and is a vision of the future on the inside. What really matters is how it drives. Can this Panamera continue the last generation's reputation as one of the finest driving four doors on the market?

Yes. Yes it can.

How it drives is the most striking part of the Panamera. You expect it to be good. You don't expect it to be this good. This Panamera Turbo, which has no hybrid tech on board whatsoever, weighs in at approximately 4,400 pounds. That is not light. It's the sort of weight that'd make you expect the Panamera to be relaxing on the highway but floaty and unresponsive in corners.

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As expected, it is relaxing on the highway; the ideal GT car. You can gobble up hours at high speed effortlessly. A road with corners is where you need to drive it, because it masks its heft so well that it defies physics. This is something Porsche knows how to hide thanks to supercar projects like the 918 Spyder.

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At more than 3,700 pounds, the 918 was the heaviest of the hybrid hypercars by a few hundred pounds. Initial thoughts were that it was going to be a massive mistake, that the added weight of batteries, electric motors, and all-wheel drive would make the 918 less engaging on the road and more of an experiment in hybrid tech than a cohesive car.

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Clever engineering like torque vectoring and rear-wheel steering let Porsche make up for the hybrid system's weight penalty and create a phenomenally, ludicrously fast car that handled exceptionally well. The experiment became a rousing success.

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Porsche uses the same systems in the Panamera. Our test car had rear-wheel steering, it did not have torque vectoring. Most sporty luxury cars still feel huge when you put them into a more aggressive sport mode or drive them fast on a backroad.

Not the Panamera. These systems are used to shrink it around you. Not literally, obviously, since that's impossible. It also doesn't hide the weight, you can tell there's a lot of mass moving around here. The Panamera just does things that it shouldn't be able to, shocking you at every corner. It corners flat, turns in sharp, and doesn't feel ponderous as you go quicker. I can't imagine how much more nimble it'd be if it had rear-wheel steering and the torque vectoring. It'd be like it's on casters.

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Going quicker isn't hard. The Panamera has the VW Group's new Porsche-developed 4.0 liter V8 with 550 horsepower and 567 pound-feet of torque. That all goes through a new eight-speed PDK dual clutch gearbox, which is just as good as, or better than, the benchmark ZF eight-speed automatic. That combines to make it a 4,400 pound car that can get to 60 in 3.4 seconds and destroy a backroad, all while giving you a Shiatsu massage and updating you on the latest news. It's quite a thing.

The Panamera is supposed to translate the Porsche sports car experience into something that can chauffeur executives one minute and do a blistering back road run the next. That's exactly what Porsche has done. And now it's all in a package that looks as good outside as it is brilliant underneath.

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