It made the waves on the internet: The aging Tesla Model S hurling its portly body around the Nürburgring, heavily modified with a widened body, racing tires, aerodynamic enhancements and unknown changes to the powertrain and battery safeguards. And they took the interior out of one of its two test cars – while claiming on Twitter that both test cars are seven-seaters.
Their lap time? Unconfirmed, but in a tweet on September 19, Tesla claimed that “data from our test track indicates that Model S Plaid can achieve 7:20 at the Nürburgring.” An unofficial stopwatch timing supposedly produced a 7:23 reading. “Plaid” is rumoured to be an upcoming version’s designation.
The glowing revelation was supposed to serve as a “hard smackdown”, to borrow an Elon Musk phrase, to the new Porsche Taycan. Porsche had achieved a 7:42 time around the famous track – in a production spec Taycan Turbo and on series production tires. A record attempt in the more powerful Turbo S has yet to happen.
Meanwhile in mid-September, one of the heavily modified Model S prototypes gave up its ghost on the Nürburgring in broad daylight and was humiliatingly lapped – twice – by a Taycan. The Porsche driver resisted stopping to offer his generous help.
While Tesla is intensely focused on the EV race, a similarly sized but vastly different animal has been spotted raging on the Ring: A black Panamera Turbo, sporting the license plate LEO-GD 710. An indication of the target lap time?
We stretched our feelers to Weissach and came up some plausible information: This is a car created by a small internal project team and set to prove the racing potential of the Panamera – as a celebration of the model’s 10th anniversary.
The team cut around 550 lbs from a non-hybrid Panamera Turbo: Out went damping material, massage seats, and interior panels; a 250-lbs-plus roll cage was installed, as well as a racing driver’s seat and a passenger seat taken from the 718 Cayman GT4. The Bose surround sound system had to go, but the PCM communication module remained.
And the engine? The 4.0-liter V-8 has been tweaked to produce a whopping 750 horsepower. Voilà: The Panamera “Lion”, as the car is internally called.
We also learned that the Panamera missed its 7:10 target: Observers recorded 7:11. Asked directly, Porsche spokesman Ben Weinberger winked and volunteered: “I can neither confirm nor deny this number…” We have no doubt the drive happened just like our sources tell us: Changes to the power-to-weight ratio and tires make a big difference on the Ring.
The Panamera Lion’s 7:11 time is a full 27 seconds faster than the series production model: That’s a remarkable improvement with a few simple tweaks to chassis, aero, engine management and street-legal Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires. The effect of the Porsche team’s relatively low-effort improvements suggests that the Panamera’s potential is far from maxed out.
While Porsche can wait and sit back, Tesla has their work cut out for them: The Panamera Turbo’s 7:11 figure is just the next benchmark for the Tesla Model S, but assuredly not the final one. Last week, the Americans were spotted again with two cars, until the weather gods had enough – and sent Tesla back to the pits.