What’s the world’s best sport-luxury sedan? Many would point to Porsche’s Panamera on performance alone, despite not technically being a sedan due to its practical rear hatch and sloping rear deck…

Porsche updates 2021 Panamera with greater performance and sportier look

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
The new 2021 Panamera Turbo S looks fabulous in its more practical Sport Turismo body style.

What’s the world’s best sport-luxury sedan? Many would point to Porsche’s Panamera on performance alone, despite not technically being a sedan due to its practical rear hatch and sloping rear deck lid to match. There’s even a more useful wagon-like Sport Turismo version that’s responsible for many of the Panamera’s sales since being introduced for the 2018 model year, so therefore the car more appropriately fits within the alternative four-door coupe category. Still, no matter how you look at it, the Panamera is one impressive sport-luxury offering.

As it is, the Panamera will cruise into 2021 with some modest styling updates and yet bolder drivetrain enhancements, particularly at the top of the range where the new Panamera Turbo S replaces the Turbo, with power moving up from 550 horsepower to 620, a 70-horsepower bump in just one, single refresh. This results in a sprint from standstill to 100 km/h of just 3.1 seconds when Sport Plus mode is selected, all before attaining a top track speed of 315 km/h.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
Porsche was smart to offer three body styles for its Panamera, the Sport Turismo really upping the style ante.

Of note, last year’s most potent Panamera was the electrified Turbo S E-Hybrid, good for 677 net horsepower, albeit a zero to 100km/h run of “just” 3.4 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the outgoing Panamera Turbo, but 0.3 seconds off the new Turbo S. That hyper-quick hybrid is at least temporarily gone for 2021, but don’t fear hybrid fans as it’ll be back soon with even more power.

According to plenty of interweb reports, Thomas Friemuth, who heads the Panamera line at Porsche, has confirmed the electric portion of the car’s drive system will produce some 134 horsepower, which means the new Turbo S E-Hybrid, when mated to the new 620-horsepower twin-turbo V8, should put out somewhere in the neighbourhood of 750 horsepower. If you think this lofty number sounds insane, consider for a moment that a key Panamera rival, Mercedes-AMG’s fabulous GT 4-Door Coupe, is expected to hit the tarmac soon with more than 800 horsepower.

2021 Porsche Panamera 4S E-Hybrid
The new Panamera 4S E-Hybrid adds considerable power over the previous 4 E-Hybrid, and is a significant step up over the base Panamera.

Those satisfied with mere blistering pace rather than ultimate scorching speed, yet still wanting hybrid economy, can opt for the all-new 4S E-Hybrid that comes fitted with 552 net horsepower that propels the big luxury car from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds ahead of topping out at 298 km/h. The entry-level 4 E-Hybrid, which only made 462 net horsepower and needed 4.6 seconds to arrive at the 100 km/h mark, is no longer available for 2021.

Benefiting both new 4S E-Hybrid and Turbo S E-Hybrid trims is 30-percent more EV range than their predecessors, all thanks to an upgraded 17.9 kWh battery, an improvement of 3.8 kWh. The hybrid models’ control systems and chassis components have been modified too, with next-generation steering control as well as new tires, enhancing comfort and performance.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
New frontal design elements beef up the Panamera’s look.

This said, the hybrid isn’t the only 2021 Panamera to receive steering and suspension improvements. In fact, the new Turbo S gets a custom tuned three-chamber air suspension, while the top-tier model’s Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) system and roll stabilization system, the latter called Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport), have also been modified to perform at more extreme levels. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) was updated to improve at-the-limit handling as well, all resulting in the best performing Panamera yet, and one of the best performing passenger cars available period.

Proving that point, the automaker took its new Panamera Turbo S to the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife race course in Germany on July 24, 2020, resulting in Porsche works driver Lars Kern setting a new “executive cars” class record of 7:29.81 minutes over the 20.832-kilometre track. We can hardly wait to see how the new Turbo S E-Hybrid will fare.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
The updated horizontal light strip gets new contours around the outer taillights.

Those wanting most of the Panamera Turbo S’ performance for a more approachable price point can opt for the Panamera GTS, which continues into 2021 with the same 473 horsepower 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and identical zero to 100 km/h rating of 3.9 seconds. This engine added 20 horsepower over its predecessor when introduced, helped along by a special standard sports exhaust that utilizes asymmetrically positioned rear silencers for an especially exhilarating exhaust note.

Lastly, or more accurately, the first rung on this model’s hierarchal ladder is the most basic Panamera, which is the only trim offering rear-wheel drive, all others incorporating Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive as standard. Both the base Panamera and the Panamera 4 include a 325-horsepower twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 capable of very a spirited 5.6-second zero to 100 km/h sprint with RWD, and an even better 5.3-second run off the line with all-wheel drive.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
Porsche updated the 2021 Panamera’s infotainment system with new features.

That base Panamera starts at just $99,300 plus freight and fees for 2021, which is unchanged despite its improvements, while a Panamera 4 can be had for $104,600. The rear-wheel drive Panamera only comes with the regular wheelbase and coupe-like liftback, but the base powertrain will all-wheel drive can be had in three body styles, starting with the regular wheelbase liftback before moving up to the longer wheelbase $112,200 Executive and finally the more wagon-like $111,700 Sport Turismo.

The 4S E-Hybrid is next on the financial pecking order at $128,500, or $141,400 for the Executive version and $133,100 for the Sport Turismo, while the 2021 GTS remains priced at $147,400 for 2021, and increases to $154,400 when its cargo compartment is expanded to Sport Turismo dimensions.

Finally, the Turbo S starts at $202,400 for the regular wheelbase model, $214,300 for the Executive, and $207,000 for the Sport Turismo.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
New advanced safety and convenience features help modernize the Panamera driving experience.

Of course, there’s more to any Panamera than mere performance, which means it was important for Porsche to keep the car looking fresh and up-to-date. Therefore, all 2021 Panameras will now come standard with the previously optional SportDesign front fascia design, which includes the brand’s new single-bar front lighting module, augmented air intakes, and bigger, more assertively styled corner vents.

The new Turbo S gets some exclusive frontal styling with even larger lower fascia corner vents that adds to its aggressiveness, while some unique exterior paint options help to set this model apart.

Three new 20- and 21-inch alloy wheel sets can personalize any Panamera model further, while the new car’s long, body-wide horizontal taillight gets new contours for 2021, while the lenses have been darkened on the GTS model.

2021 Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo
We love the updated Porsche Design clock face.

The Panamera’s interior remains mostly the same entering 2021, which is no bad thing. Just the same, improvements include new functions and services for the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) infotainment system, such as enhanced Voice Pilot online voice control, Risk Radar for real-time road sign and hazard info, wireless Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, and more.

Also enhanced, the 2021 Panamera can be had with Lane Keeping Assist featuring road sign recognition, as well as with the Porsche InnoDrive suite of advanced safety and convenience systems, which includes Lane Change Assist, LED matrix headlights including PDLS Plus, Night Vision Assist, Park Assist with Surround View, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display unit that projects key info on the windshield ahead of the driver.

The 2021 Panamera is ready to order from your local Porsche retailer now, with deliveries starting in Q1 of 2021. After you make that call, make sure to check out our complete photo gallery above, and then be sure to enjoy the three videos below (which include the new 2021 Panamera Turbo S on the Nürburgring Nordschleife race track), plus remember to go to CarCostCanada’s 2020 Porsche Panamera Canada Prices page where you can learn more about the automaker’s zero-percent financing offer on all 2020 models, plus access info about manufacturer rebates when offered, and always available dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Find out how the CarCostCanada system can save you money, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google PlayStore so you can have access to all this important info whenever you need it.

New Panamera achieves lap record on the Nürburgring Nordschleife (3:09):

The new Panamera – digital world premiere (11:33):

The new Panamera: Highlights (2:13):

Story credit: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Porsche

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t…

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Road Test

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
If you’ve always wanted a Subaru Outback but never taken the plunge, the 2018 model is the best iteration yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra no doubt came into play for this 2018 model year refresh, but despite only receiving a subtle redo I have to say the iconic mid-size crossover looks better than ever. 

Over the years the design has slowly evolved from beefed up wagon to low-profile SUV, with this latest iteration the most rugged looking yet. The 2018 model gets a reworked grille, revised lower front fascia, new door mirrors, and a much more aggressive rear bumper design, making it just as appealing to adventure seeking, wilderness conquering daddies as it has always been to reality-minded mommies. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
From side profile it’s difficult to tell new from old. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the grille gets a stronger strikethrough in its upper section, the 2018 Outback’s redesigned headlights might be the most dramatic visual enhancement up front. Now each cluster is more sharply angled with a unique scalloped treatment at the topmost inner point, as well as a more defined signature LED element inside, whereas the matte black lower fascia’s fog lamp bezels protrude upward in a more pronounced fashion, or at least they appear to do so now that more body-colour surfacing separates them from the centre vent. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 2018 Outback’s rear bumper design is the most obvious clue to its model year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

New mirror housings with slimmer more sophisticated looking LED turn signals aside, there’s not much to distinguish the outgoing Outback from the new one when viewed from the side, although if you look very carefully from this vantage point it’s possible to pick out some augmentation to the new taillight lenses and rear bumper, the latter feature getting additional black cladding extending upward at each corner. That bumper cap makes the most obvious difference from the rear view too, giving the Outback most of the rugged visual upgrade mentioned earlier. Outback faithful should be well pleased with the exterior changes made to this 2018 model, although improvements made inside might elicit even broader smiles. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
All Outback headlights are redesigned, yet only upper trims get full LED illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The renewed interior features higher-grade materials, greater comfort, reduced engine, wind and road noise due to acoustic front door glass, and more advanced electronics, with some key upgrades including a redesigned steering wheel with reorganized switchgear, standard dual USB charging ports for rear passengers, a new 6.5-inch STARLINK infotainment touchscreen for base 2.5i trim that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration plus Aha radio, a centre display that grows from 7.0 to 8.0 inches in just-above-base 2.5i Touring trim and higher, plus a new voice-activated dual-zone automatic climate control interface featuring digital readouts for easier legibility and greater overall functionality also comes standard with the same 2.5i Touring and upper trims, as does a redesigned centre vent grille, centre panel, air conditioning panel, and instrument panel. Lastly, Limited and Premier trims get steering-responsive LED headlights, while more functionality gets added to these models’ navigation system. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Along with the new headlights, the grille, bumper and wheels get noticeable revisions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All 2018 Outbacks get a retuned suspension that makes a noticeable improvement in smoothing out pavement imperfections and quieting the ride, while it certainly doesn’t seem to have upset the mid-size crossover’s always stable and confidence-inspiring handling. The Outback isn’t just a strong performer, but possibly even more importantly it feels a lot more premium than its mainstream-branded peers. There’s a genuine solidity to its overall build quality, while the inherently smooth 3.6-litre H-6 adds to this upscale ambience in ways only a six-cylinder can. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
How long will this 3.6R badge grace the back of top-tier Outback trims? The more formidable new 2.4-litre turbo-four will likely replace the big H-6 soon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know how long Subaru will support this engine now that the even more potent 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has been introduced for the larger 2019 Ascent, up 4 horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque over the 3.6R, but for now the refined powerplant does a good job of helping the Outback imitate a luxury CUV in quietness and performance, its output measuring a meaningful 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. 

Performance off the line is very strong, although it’s more of a smooth linear power than anything WRX-like. Still, the high-torque Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) offers nice positive shifts, plus you can slot the lever over to a new seven-speed sequential manual mode before swapping gears via steering wheel paddle shifters in order to maximize performance or short-shift to minimize fuel usage, the latter good for a reasonably efficient claimed 12.0 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.5 combined as-tested or 9.4, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively with the base 175-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Outback interiors keep getting better and better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering is substantive feeling, meaning that it’s not too loose and light, but it certainly isn’t overly heavy or ponderous either. In fact I found its weight just right no matter the speed, and extremely easy to turn into tight parking spaces. 

Speaking of easy, visibility is superb in all directions thanks to a tall SUV-like ride-height and expansive glass all the way around, while rearward visibility and safety is improved by a very clear backup camera with an especially good wide-angle view, not to mention dynamic guidelines. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
This is easily one of the highest quality interiors Subaru has ever done. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Improving driver ease yet further, Subaru includes an electromechanical parking brake with auto-release, plus the brand’s well-proven Symmetrical all-wheel drive system incorporating hill descent control and X-mode to overcome rougher off-road sections as well as deeper snow, either of which is made easier due to an impressive 220 mm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance. 

We didn’t have any snow to slog through during my time with the car and had no opportunity to take it up the mountain for winter testing, only encountering some West Coast spring showers, but previous experiences with the Outback in inclement weather have always been positive so there’s no reason this one would be any different. In fact, the new model’s improved suspension compliance should be a benefit for dealing with such situations, on top of providing the superb ride mentioned earlier. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Electroluminescent dials are joined by a 5.0-inch multi-info display in upper trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Not affecting my tester yet still important to note for the majority of Outbacks being sold, all four-cylinder trims are now Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) rated, which translates into one of the lowest emissions ratings in the mid-size SUV class. Important for safety, all Outbacks get a revised brake booster to improve stopping performance, while Subaru’s acclaimed EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems remains available with all trims above base and standard on the top-line the Premier model. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The centre stack gets a redesign, with this top-line infotainment touchscreen upsized by an inch to 8.0 inches in diameter. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

EyeSight, at just $1,500, includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and new high beam assist, which incidentally let Subaru remove the third camera from the other side of the Outback’s rearview mirror. 

Of course, a full array of active and passive safety features come standard across the line, while the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD), which includes blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert, is standard with all models above the base 2.5i. Additional safety upgrades include a collision detection feature that can automatically unlock the doors if required, plus automatic door locks that do the opposite when getting under way, a window off-delay timer, and improved child safety seat anchors. Fully equipped with EyeSight and the Limited/Premier models’ full LED headlights, which are now steering-responsive as well, the 2018 Outback’s collective safety kit once again receives a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
It’s hard not to like the colourful Apple-inspired menu interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with the Outback’s lengthy list of safety equipment and aforementioned mechanical prowess, my Limited model was beautifully finished inside, plus roomy and comfortable for the five-seat mid-size crossover class. Cream-coloured contrast stitching enhanced the soft-touch instrument panel, even extending to the halfway point of the centre stack, and crossed the nicely revised door panels as well, albeit without the contrast stitching which is instead used for the door inserts and armrests, while new shift panel detailing and attractively redesigned leather upholstery join features like fabric-wrapped A-pillars that were already doing a good job of pulling this mainstream volume-branded crossover SUV closer to premium status. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Subaru has refreshed the lower console too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new steering wheel is a really attractive leather-wrapped design with sporty thumb spats to enhance comfort and grip. Switchgear is very good as well, and includes audio controls, voice activation, and phone controls on the left spoke, plus multi-information display controls below that, while the right spoke is taken up by dynamic cruise control functions, with a switch under that for the heatable steering wheel. 

Possibly the biggest overall improvement to Subaru interiors is on the digital front, with the Outback’s displays very high in resolution, its colours bright, and graphics benefiting from wonderful depth of contrast. This is most noticeable with the new larger infotainment touchscreen, but it’s also true within the driver’s primary gauge cluster that features beautifully bright backlit analogue dials surrounded by an even brighter full-colour 5.0-inch multi-information display in EyeSight-equipped models (a 3.5-inch display is standard), this filled with plenty of premium-level functions, such as EyeSight those features including adaptive cruise control, the ECO gauge, additional fuel efficiency info, etc. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 10-way powered driver’s seat is wonderfully comfortable and very supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to the centre stack, infotainment functions include AM, FM and satellite radio, CD, USB, Bluetooth and aux media capability, Bluetooth phone, very accurate navigation with nicely detailed mapping, Starlink, Aha, Pandora, Travel Link, plus the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, car info, car settings, plus more, while it’s all organized from a stylishly colourful Apple-like home menu. 

Features in mind, a quick glance at any Outback’s wheel and tire package can help distinguish its trim level, as base 2.5i and Touring models get 17-inch rolling stock and Limited/Premium trims receive larger 18-inch alloys. On that note, pricing for the base 2.5i starts at $29,295 plus freight and dealer fees, as found on CarCostCanada.com, while moving up through the line shows Outback 2.5i Touring trim priced $3,500 higher at $32,795, 2.5i Touring trim with EyeSight at $34,295, 2.5i Limited trim at $36,795, 2.5i Limited trim with EyeSight at $38,295, and 2.5i Premier with EyeSight at $39,195. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Rear seat roominess, comfort and finishing quality is top-notch for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want the 3.6R six-cylinder engine in base Touring guise you’ll be asked to pay $35,795, whereas the 3.6R Limited starts at $39,795, the same package with EyeSight that I drove will set you back $41,295, and finally the 3.6R Premier with EyeSight is priced at $42,195. 

Features exclusive to Limited trims and above that were not yet mentioned include brushed aluminum front doorsill protectors, silver and authentic looking matte woodgrain interior accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink garage door opener, rear climate controls, a great sounding 576-watt, 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, two-way driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, and more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
A powered tailgate opens up to an expansive cargo area. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As yet unmentioned items pulled up from lesser trims that enhance the Limited model’s experience include auto on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, welcome and approach lighting, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder in the overhead console, a powered moonroof, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, a rear centre armrest, a powered rear liftgate, three-way heated front seats, a retractable cargo cover, four chrome cargo tie down hooks, two utility bag hooks, a cargo tray, a sub-floor compartment, 60/40-split rear seatbacks with one-touch flat-folding capability, plus more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback is hardly short on utility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted earlier the Outback is spacious, with plenty of room for large adults front to back. It’s comfortable too, the front seats superbly supportive, especially in the lower back and from side-to-side. What’s more, the Outback is as nicely finished in back is it is up front, and includes a large and wide centre armrest that flips down at the ideal height for optimal adult comfort (or at least it was perfect for me), while it comes filled with sizeable cupholders featuring grippy rubber clasps to help keep drinks securely in place. A covered compartment on the backside of the front centre console includes two USB charging ports plus an auxiliary plug, but other than aforementioned rear ventilation, good reading lights overhead, and big bottle holders moulded into the lower door panels that’s about it for rear passengers. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Get the impressive 3.6R H-6 while you can, as it’s days are likely numbered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for rear seat roominess, I had about six inches ahead of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my five-foot-eight height, plus loads of space for my feet. There was also a good five inches above my head and about the same next to my shoulders and hips. In other words, there’s loads of room in back for two average sized adults and one child, or three smaller adults. Likewise, the cargo compartment is accommodating thanks to 1,005 litres (35.5 cubic feet) behind those rear seatbacks, or 2,075 litres (73.3 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. 

Thanks to Subaru making this already excellent crossover SUV better with each makeover, it’s hardly a mystery why Outback popularity continues to grow.