Porsche's Panamera has had a mid-life refresh, tested here in its most-powerful state yet - the new 513bhp Turbo

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This is the Porsche Panamera with mid-life freshenings, sampled here in its most potent turbocharged form with 513bhp rather than the 493bhp of the outgoing model. This rework sees Porsche’s saloon resculpted at the rear end, receiving new bumpers front and rear as well as some suspension changes designed to smooth out its ride and quell road noise.

The big news elsewhere in the range is the launch of a plug-in hybrid version, and the arrival of a new Porsche-designed bi-turbo V6. But it’s the almost preposterously potent Turbo that we’re dealing with here.  

This is a gloriously excessive car that relatively few will buy, the lesser, more economical Panameras, and the intriguing e-hybrid will attract more signatures on the dotted line

This is a car of galactic performance, its 516lb ft of torque and seven gears allowing you to bound down the road at time-crushing pace, and with little more than a flex of your right foot. It dismisses 62mph in just 4.2 seconds, storms to 100mph 8.9sec and 124mph in 13.8sec. That’s mighty performance in anyone’s book. And a finger-jab will access it still more completely; sport or sport plus needing the attentions of your index digit if you’re to penetrate deeper and more swiftly into this Porsche’s torque reserves.

These modes sharpen the accelerator and encourage the seven-speed transmission to extract power from higher up the rev range, besides girding the chassis for speedier assaults on the fast-arriving horizon. 

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Going harder is a worthwhile activity on almost any kind of open road, the Porsche impressively agile despite its bulk and heft, its nimbleness through corners heightened by the low centre of gravity that’s central to the concept of this four door, four-seat saloon. On autobahns, this Panamera will confidently run at high-speed-train challenging speeds. Four-wheel drive helps too, allowing fat gouts of power to be fed to all four wheels without disturbing the car’s trajectory. 

In the previous model, you were more likely to be disturbed by the Panamera’s backing track. Not the sounds of its V8 of course, which are decidedly pleasing, but the thresh, drum and hum of tyres on coarse bitumen, which are at their most acute in the fat-wheeled turbo. These sounds Porsche claims to have diminished through the judicious application of more substantial suspension bushes, the key challenge being to maintain wheel control with these bigger, softer rubbers.

The contours of the rubber air-springs have been reworked to the same end, and to improve the Panamera’s ride, too. And it appears to have worked. I say only 'appears' because the test roads I drove on were smoother than the Porsche’s roof, making it hard to tell. A back-to-back drive of old and new certainly revealed less bump-thump, but it will take a drive on British roads to uncover the extent of the improvement.

This is a gloriously excessive car that relatively few will buy, the lesser, more economical Panameras, and the intriguing e-hybrid attract more signatures on the dotted line. But if you want the ultimate Panamera – or the ultimate until the 50bhp more potent Turbo S turns up – then the Turbo is certainly an impressive weapon, now with 500bhp-plus bragging rights and more polished manners to go with them.

Porsche Panamera Turbo 2009-2016 First drives