In 1987 the future looked positively bright for personal transportation. Cars were going to go so fast they’d replace jets. Really. Does anyone remember a GM concept car called the Chevrolet Express? It came out in 1987 looking like a glass-roofed loaf of pumpernickel. Chevrolet called the Express “…a streamlined, whisper-quiet, turbine-powered, ground-hugging, four-passenger, 150-mile-per-hour, futuristic highway alternative to the hassle of short-distance air travel.” Without ever getting specific, there were supposed to be “discussions” between GM and "the Federal Government" to construct exclusive high-speed highways between cities just for fleets of brilliant new cars like the Express. Imagine such a world! It would be like… Germany!
Almost as soon as all those car magazines copied all that down word for word and diligently published their “car show roundups,” everyone promptly forgot about the Chevrolet Express. Those exclusive high-speed highways were never built and the turbine engine was once again put back on its shelf in the basement of the Warren Tech Center, not to be mentioned again - until the next auto show season.
But look what has happened now: Porsche has made a car that supercedes anything the Express and its imagined competitors could ever have hope for. I submit to you the 2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo! It seats five, is whisper quiet inside and tops out at 196 mph. The only thing missing – in the U.S. anyway – is the limited-access high-speed superhighways on which to drive it. In Germany, they still have the autobahn.
So our high-speed transportation dreams did come true, just 33 years after the Express.
Any Panamera fan would have seen it coming. If you look at the Porsche page on the internet, you’ll see that there are 32 different Panamera models. 32! Is that enough? No! Because the one you really want, the one they let me drive, the newest one, is by far the best of them all. One member of the skate park carpool said of my borrowed 2021 Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo: “Seating for five, a trunk and it goes 200 mph? This is the perfect car!”
Well, it goes 196, which is close enough. And yeah, maybe it is the perfect car.
This is the first time there’s been a Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. There has been a Panamera Turbo, Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo, and Panamera Turbo Executive, but no Turbo S. (The Panamera comes in three body styles: the Panamera, which you could call the sedan version, Panamera Executive, which you could call the fastback, and the Sport Turismo, which you could call the wagon, though Porsche in no way calls them anything like that, but if you look at the profiles, that’s kind of what they look like.)
So not only is the Sport Turismo the biggest body of the Panamera line, with the most room inside for passengers and cargo, it is now fitted with the most powerful engine and most responsive suspension.
The new engine makes 620 hp, 70 more than the previous 550 hp Panamera Turbo, as well as 37 more lb ft of torque, up to 604 lb ft. In a delightful understatement only the Germans could make, Porsche said of the improvements, “This has a very positive effect on driving performance.” I’ll say. The V8 has new crankshaft, con rods, pistons and even timing chain, not to mention new fuel injectors. The turbos are larger and the blades inside them have a slightly new shape for greater efficiency.
All of that gets the new car from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 196 mph.
To handle all that power, the suspension has also been upgraded, particularly in front. Engineers cranked up the response of both the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and the electric active anti roll bar. Steering calibration, derived from the 992 and Taycan, is now setup to give the driver better feel just at the moment of turn-in initiation. My test car got a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S UHP (ultra high performance) tires to handle that 196-mph top speed as well as to go around corners.
It all works splendidly together.
First thing I did as soon as I got the 2021 Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo was head straight up into the hills on my semi-regular twisty mountain road loop. First thing I did was crank the drive mode selector knob on the steering wheel all the way over to Sport Plus. I tried the other modes periodically throughout the day just to be able to say I did but even in the city and in stop and go traffic all I ever wanted was Sport Plus. Throttle response is, of course, much quicker and body roll was downright sportscar-like. The only thing I would have changed about the mode is the louder exhaust note. I don’t want to announce that I’m arriving, I want to sneak around – albeit at great speed.
The brakes are all standard carbon ceramic, a fact I appreciated when I came around a corner to find Bambi and her mother standing in the middle of the road. I stomped down hard and the Panamera came to a quick and undramatic halt. The deer were unimpressed, eventually walking at their own pace back into the forest. “Hey, these are carbon ceramics, man!” I said. You just can’t impress some people.
After only a few more turns in the hills I was reminded that Porsche used one of these cars to set a Nurburgring lap record of 7:29.81 for “executive class cars” with test driver Lars Kern behind the wheel. Kern beat out the previous record-holder the Mercedes AMG GT 63. After my drive I do not doubt Porsche could do that. I knew I was having a blast driving this thing on my own private Green Hell. In Sport Plus I didn’t have to even do any manual shifting of the eight-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission, the car anticipated downshifts and blipped the throttle nicely before performing them. I was having such a good time that I went back and forth a few times before dropping back down into the city to ask the Panamera to perform some decidedly more suburban tasks.
Loading up the rear cargo area with skateboards and backpacks and the interior with skaters, the Sport Turismo met with resounding good reviews, even from kids used to my sometimes extravagant rides. Everyone was comfortable, everyone was happy. It was strange to recall that only an hour before I had been pulling probably over one g in corners without tire squeal.
All too soon I had to turn the Panamera back in to Porsche. The old question about if you could have only one car which one would it be could easily be answered with this ride. If it weren’t for the sticker price. That won’t be released until closer to the car’s on-sale date at the end of Q1 2021, but I’m guessing it’ll be close to or over 200 grand. The thing is, it’ll be worth it.
At least until the Chevrolet Express goes into production.
2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
Twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, AWD
620 hp at 6,000 rpm, 604 lb-ft of torque between 2,3000 – 4,500 rpm
Estimated Fuel Economy:
18/23/20 mpg (city/highway/combined)
Quiet cabin for all five passengers. Goes 196 mph!
Mark VaughnMark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there.