2012 Porsche Panamera Turbo S
Say you were to read the Panamera Turbo S's stats blind on the back of a trading card: an all-wheel-drive German car powered by a 550-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8; a 0–60 jaunt of three seconds flat; a Nurburgring lap time to match the Lamborghini Gallardo's. Now, flip the card. You didn't expect to see this two-ton sedan staring back at you, did you?
Indeed, the Panamera Turbo S is a car of contradictions, as a recent test drive around Southern California proved. For one, the Panamera shines as a sedan when it's not going 190 mph: It easily swallows luggage for four and has an air suspension that allows you to raise the body up two centimeters to avoid grounding it when you enter garages. Meanwhile, the park assist feature's particularly sensitive sonic sensors in the bumper make handing the keys to a valet a worry-free experience. Plus, its muted exhaust note doesn't plead for attention like a Jersey Shore cast member.
But ask it, and the Turbo S's strange powers surface instantaneously. Lighter alloy turbochargers produce punishing acceleration and crush any turbo lag, while an array of sophisticated torque vectoring and traction control systems provide endless grip. High on the winding curves of Mulholland Drive, I discover a problem particular to the Turbo S: Your backseat passengers will beg you off the gas pedal long before the car does. [From $173,000; porsche.com]