Tail of the Dragon (and More) via Turo: 2018 Porsche Panamera 4S Review

My partner and I were gearing up for an end-of-summer road trip. Our plan was to start at home in New York and work our way south to the Great Smoky Mountains. We’d spend a few days in the Smokies exploring on foot as well as by car. With Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, Foothills Parkway, and other amazing driving roads right at our fingertips, what kind of car enthusiast would we be if we didn’t take advantage of these incredible, bucket-list driving experiences? The “hard part” was yet to come… deciding which vehicle to take.

My company car, a Chrysler Pacifica was (obviously) nixed from the list. This left my 981 Porsche Cayman GTS 6-speed or his Audi SQ5. What if there was a third option? One that gave us the flexibility to pick and choose the features and characteristics we want in a vehicle? Enter the Turo Porsche Panamera 4S.

2018 Porsche Panamera

We’re now about halfway and 1,300 miles through a road trip with this Turo-sourced 2018 Panamera 4S. It’s a 4S trim, so all-wheel drive and the 440 horsepower 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 are paired to Porsche’s brilliant 8-speed PDK. It’s equipped with the Premium Package Plus, 14-way heated/ventilated/messaging seats, Sport Chrono package, 21″ Turbo style wheels wrapped in 275/35 tires up front and 315/30 out back, and a few other options here and there for which Porsche will gladly accept your money. Not equipped, as much as I would have loved them, are the Sport package or Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus.

The 2.9-liter V6 is plenty stout and moves the 4,100-pound sedan with relative ease. While I wish the soundtrack was piped through an optional Porsche Sport Exhaust, it still delivers a subtle yet satisfying deep tone with occasional muted pops on deceleration. The PDK is satisfying as always and remains one of the best automatic gearboxes in the business.

2018 Porsche Panamera Tail of the Dragon

The standard PASM adaptive suspension (without four-corner air) helps keep the car compliant and comfortable over road imperfections in day-to-day driving and transforms the Panamera into a four-door 911 at the twist of a dial. This car is impressively athletic for its size, and I can only imagine how much more so it would be with every sport option or package tacked on. It would certainly be more than enough for spirited daily driving; it already is.

Steering feel is typical Porsche: Amazing. Precise. Communicative. The best there is. Seriously, BMW and Mercedes, take a lesson on how to engineer proper electronic power steering. You need it and Porsche is the master who could teach you.

2018 Porsche Panamera Tail of the Dragon

Brakes are stout – fade-free, direct, and with an excellent feel. They didn’t fade or disappoint at any time, even on the Tail of the Dragon.
Speaking of the Tail: wow. I can’t believe the way a full-size executive sedan transformed from a compliant, comfortable ride to a razor-sharp tool and demolished the 318 curves without breaking a sweat.

Porsche’s infotainment and tech are solid, but I have a few gripes. Massaging seats with multiple programs and adjustments make soaking up highway miles a breeze. I miss buttons. I miss the giant array of buttons down the center console of previous Porsches. Fiddling through menus is a greater distraction than pressing buttons and takes longer to execute the same command.

2018 Porsche Panamera interior

The choice of an electronically-controlled center vent is gimmicky, unnecessary, and borderline dangerous. And what sort of horrible human designs piano black glass touch points throughout the car? Every control is piano black glass and shows fingerprints. It drives me insane (more than I already am, and that’s saying something).

2018 Porsche Panamera center vent controls

So far, this is a wonderful car in which to soak up miles. It’s supremely comfortable every day while also providing more than enough sport with remarkable Porsche driving dynamics. Dare I say I’d have a hard time choosing between a Panamera GTS Sport Turismo and a Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. Yes, the Panamera is that impressive. It really, truly is. At the end of the day, the Blackwing stirs my soul in an oh-so-special way and would still take my hard-earned cash, but my-oh-my would the decision almost come down to a toss-up.

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