Michael Mauer has one of the biggest jobs in the automotive industry. Recently he was promoted from head of Porsche’s design department, to head of design for Volkswagen Group, the largest automaker in the world. Through its various brands, it sold over 10 million cars last year alone, and is planning 60 new models for 2017.
One of them is this: the Panamera Sport Turismo, Porsche’s first station wagon, unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show.
Did you ever think you’d see those words – “Porsche,” “Station,” and “Wagon” – together? Well, many people didn’t expect there’d be a Porsche sedan or a Porsche SUV either, but it’s 2017 and here we are. The Macan SUV is, in fact, Porsche’s best-selling model in Canada by a huge margin.
Mauer has steered Porsche through the biggest upheaval in company history, while somehow keeping its design DNA intact.
“I strongly believe that if you would like to have impact with a car, it has to have a strong character. And that always means you have people that don’t like it,” Mauer said, in defense of the original, controversial Panamera.
The Panamera Sport Turismo wagon concept was first unveiled in 2012. It received nothing but praise. “Build it!” everyone chanted. Now, five years later, it’s finally here, built on the second-generation Panamera chassis.
“Would the Sport Turismo have been the more adequate body style to start with? I don’t think so,” said Mauer. He stands by the original because it broke new ground for Porsche and no matter what you thought of it, it did have a strong character.
The Panamera Sport Turismo offers useful improvements over the standard Panamera. There’s 50 litres more trunk space, increased headroom for rear passengers, and what Porsche calls a “4+1 seating concept.” In English, that means the Sport Turismo has seating for five – a first for a Panamera – but that the rear middle seat will be quite uncomfortable. It’s probably a compromise many can live with.
“I am convinced that so far there is no comparable offer [to the Sport Turismo]. I think it has the potential to steal customers from other brands, and other body styles,” he said.
The only direct competition in Canada will come from Mercedes, with its E-Class wagon.
In Europe, Porsche knows its first station wagon will sell. In North America? It’s a big question mark. When it goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2017, we’ll find out.
Prices for the Sport Turismo start at $109,700 in Canada. All Sport Turismo models come standard with all-wheel drive and air suspension, which are optional on the base Panamera.
The most interesting model in the new lineup will be the – deep breath – Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. Priced at $118,600, it offers 462 horsepower and a limited electric-only driving range. Quite a compelling proposition, if you can stomach the price.
From there the lineup jumps to the 4S ($124,500 with 440 hp) and then to the range-topping Turbo ($175,600 with 550 hp).
The family station wagon has never looked more exciting than this. Michael Mauer has done the impossible once again.