2021 Porsche Panamera Pros and Cons Review: Freshened and Improved


  • Exceptional ride and handling
  • Excellent powertrains
  • Exciting to drive and practical, too


  • Expensive, especially as you add options
  • Confusing center touchscreen
  • HVAC controls too complicated, lane change/keep systems need refinement

Porsche’s asphalt-storming second-generation Panamera benefits from a few powertrain updates and subtle styling changes this year, and Stuttgart sent us three versions for Car of the Year evaluation: a base model, now with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 (replacing the previous 3.0) making 325 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque; a GTS with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 fortified by 20 ponies to make 473 hp along with its carryover 457 lb-ft of torque; and a Panamera 4S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo wagon. The 4S E-Hybrid is a new trim level powered by a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 plus an electric motor, good for 552 horses and 553 lb-ft. Plug-in hybrid versions now benefit from an 18.0-kWh battery pack versus the 14.0-kWh pack of 2020 models, increasing their electric-only driving range from an EPA-rated 14 miles to 18.

Other across-the-board changes to the Panamera range include a new steering wheel with a Sport Response button, a refreshed rear fascia, an available Sport Design front fascia, and redesigned, 911-like taillights. Lane keep assist and traffic light recognition are now standard across the lineup, as well.

The Panamera has been a mighty performer since it first hit the market in 2009, seeming to defy physics despite exceeding the two-ton mark. The second-gen version that arrived for 2017 not only upped the performance ante but also finally fixed the original’s ungainly appearance.

“All it took was a quarter mile down the highway to realize just how superb the Panamera family is,” senior editor Conner Golden said. “Even in basic V-6, rear-drive form, this is one of the best all-around luxury sport sedans. This is a phenomenal base car.”

Indeed, the base engine should be plenty potent for most, with a decent amount of power and torque and a willingness to rev. But this Panamera isn’t perfect.

“Why did the directional air vent need to be reinvented?” buyer’s guide director Zach Gale asked in reference to the car’s touchscreen-based vent adjustments. “And even in the back seat, Porsche finds a way to make you feel like you’re not worthy if you don’t select Every. Last. Option. The screen with the HVAC controls and the metal tabs look great, but then you see the heated seat controls and the button blank for ventilated rear seats to remind you what you didn’t order.”

Jumping into the 4S E-Hybrid and GTS reveals what the Panamera is capable of. The former makes you say, “Uhhhhhhh, wow,” as features editor Christian Seabaugh put it. With long-range cruising capability, a fully electric mode, and monstrous power, it’s a super-comfy grand tourer and a tremendous performance car all in one. Like the GTS, it came alive on the Hyundai Proving Ground’s winding-road layout, with tons of front-end bite and overall grip. And while not all PHEV systems on the market are integrated well, the way the Panamera’s motor so capably supplements the 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 is nearly breathtaking.

As for the GTS, it boasts chassis balance you don’t expect from something so large, and it feels nimbler than the hybrid thanks to weighing more than 500 pounds less. As guest judge Chris Theodore noted, “It’s probably the best handling of our test cars,” and its rip-snorting V-8 is an audible middle finger to EVs.

But although the Panameras were satisfying contenders, the updates didn’t advance the state of the art far enough against our criteria to claim our 2022 honors. Even so, the Panamera remains one of the best ultra-sporty, high-performance grand touring cars of all time.

View every 2022 Car of the Year contender here

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