VICTORIA, British Columbia—They’ve made an SUV. They’ve gone from solely offering rear-engined models to offering front-, rear-, and mid-engined models. They’ve even gone so far as to make a sedan/shooting-brake-like thingy.
Now, however, they’ve really done it. Yes, folks, Porsche – 911-building, world-conquering race-car-developing Porsche – is releasing a station wagon.
Well, sort of. It’s called the Panamera Sport Turismo, and while the Porsche folks at the vehicle’s global launch just off of British Columbia’s west coast don’t like to call it that, it’s the best way to segementize this new automotive creation from Porsche.
And by God, I love what they’ve done with the place.
When I first saw the Sport Turismo revealed in concept form five years ago, I had a little trouble differentiating the new model from the old one. After all: some would categorize the original Panamera as a wagon anyway, though its steeply-raked rear window cuts a very shooting brake-esque swathe through the profile.
Now that I’ve seen them side-by-side “in the metal,” as it were, the differences are a little easier to spot. The Sport Turismo is completely different from the B-pillars on back, with a 20-mm higher roofline being the biggest giveaway.
The result? Well, besides having a less awkward profile overall, that means a noticeable amount of increased headroom in the rear. So much so, Porsche has seen fit to offer two rear seat styles: you can either have the two buckets seen in the non-Sport Turismo model (Porsche calls it a “saloon,” so we’ll do the same from here on out) or a flat second row that technically leaves room for three, though the transmission tunnel still makes it so the middle-seat occupant will be in straddle-mode. The rear seats also fold flat, so you can get some real wagon-like storage back there, too.
While you won’t quite get the model choices with the Sport Turismo as you do with the saloon, you do get four, starting at $109,700: Panamera 4, Panamera 4 E-Hybrid ($118,600), Panamera 4S ($124,500) and Panamera Turbo ($175,600). All are AWD—the fact that no RWD model exists is a good indicator that Porsche is positioning the Sport Turismo as an alternative to crossovers and small SUVs, where AWD is king.
While we weren’t given the chance to put all the models through their paces, the time we spent behind the wheel of the 4 E-Hybrid and Turbo gave us a good cross-section of what this latest segment-buster from Porsche had to offer.
We started with the E-Hybrid version, and while Porsche doesn’t like to forecast which model will be the hot seller, you have to think the E-Hybrid is going to be a popular choice. It’s a plug-in model that can cruise for up to 50 km on full EV power, and nab speeds up to 140 – one-hundred forty! – km/h on full-EV power; a 136-hp EV motor will do that.
Now, while speeds like that tend to be reserved for the Autobahn or the racetrack, we did manage to cruise comfortably at 100 km/h for long stretches of time. I’ll tell you, it’s quite a thing to see the speedometer reading 100, and the tachometer – centrally mounted, as is the Porsche way – reading zero. It’s appealing because of the environmental aspects, of course, but also for comfort as you don’t get any engine vibrations or noise. That’s a big deal for a highway cruiser like this, and it looks good while doing it, with its Hybrid-specific yellow accents and brake calipers.
Speaking of EV driving, in the E-Hybrid, you’ve got four drive modes: E-Power, Hybrid Auto, Sport and Sport Plus, all selectable from a handy wheel attached to the wheel rim at the four o’clock position. E-Power is pretty self-explanatory; it keeps the Panamera locked to EV mode as long as you’ve got the necessary juice. Hybrid Auto is a little more complex as you get two sub-modes – E-Hold and E-Charge – in addition, accessed via the central infotainment screen.
The former uses a mix of engine power and coasting to maintain the batteries’ charge at the level it was at once the mode was selected, while the former does whatever it takes to ensure the battery gets its full charge.
Sport and Sport Plus, for their part, are interesting in that they do a pretty good job of making you forget you’re in a hybrid at all. You’ll never be able to totally defeat the fact the E-Hybrid’s battery adds an additional 130 kilos of weight, but the power on tap – 362 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque combined between the twin-turbo V6 and EV motor – makes for some properly enthralling progress, with that fantastic Porsche dual-exhaust howl along for the ride.
You see, in addition to allowing for emission-free EV driving, the EV motor acts as a bit of a buffer between the engine and the two turbos; as the turbos begin to spool, the EV engine steps in to alleviate some of that turbo lag. A little delay remains between throttle tip-in and forward progress, but it does adjust depending on how hard you throttle in, and how far you depress the throttle.
It’s all a very neat trick, and you’re always left feeling you’re driving a technological tour-de-force from a brand that has managed a masterclass in how to take the DNA from their bread-and-butter, sports cars, and imbue it in a whole new class of vehicle, be it performance sedans or SUVs.
The Sport Turismo Turbo may not push quite the technological envelope quite so far, but it does lean toward giving you a little more of that first part of its name, “Sport”. We mentioned the 130 kilos of battery, and while that may not seem like much, when you consider the fact the car weighs almost 3,000 kilos, you do notice it when you step into the Turbo.
Why? Well, if you thought the E-Hybrid’s power was generous, the Turbo’s 550 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque may make you forget that all real quick. It’s fed through the same eight-speed dual clutch automatic as found in the E-Hybrid, and while you lose the Hybrid’s EV boost, the rush of acceleration from the twin-turbo V8 is enough to forgive that loss pretty quickly. Then, as you start to tackle a bend or two, the Turbo feels the more tossable car to a surprisingly tangible degree.
Amongst all this driving love, it’s easier to forget that along with the Sport Turismo being a bit of a Tasmanian Devil in the performance department, it could just as easily be used – and indeed, likely will be used by most buyers – as an everyday luxury cruiser. We mentioned that it has the space to compete in that class, but a host of other creature comforts need not be forgotten.
Chief among these is the infotainment display, which sits at 12.3-inches and has some of the slickest graphics you’ll see in the industry. All sorts of info from your power flow, to navi, to music choices are displayed here and activated via touch. The response is very tablet-esque, which I like, but there’s so much here – especially when it comes to drive mode selection – that it almost becomes a little too much at the outset. It took us a while to learn the ins and outs, that’s for sure. Forget feeling like a tablet; it looks like there’s as much content here as you’d find on your typical tablet.
Then there’s the gauge cluster that looks like a traditional Porsche five-gauge number at first blush, but is more than that. The rightmost gauge can be configured to show everything from a full-colour navi display, to the optional night-vision-assist system.
Other than that, both the front- and rear-seat passengers get touch panels for most of the other controls ranging from the seat heaters to the drive modes. If you’re afraid of touch panels – as I am – those fears are alleviated a little by the fact the touch buttons offer some notable haptic feedback to the point you can hardly tell they’re touch surfaces at all.
From the powertrains (and power) on offer, to the room inside, to the creature comforts and various Hybrid/EV drive modes, the Sport Turismo is loaded to the point where you have to wonder if perhaps it should have come to market before the saloon in the first place. I know which body style would have had my vote.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.