Porsche re-defines the station wagon
WHEN I WAS YOUNG, cars fell into neat categories… sedan, station wagon, convertible, and so on. Now, the descriptions and categories are ever more confusing, with SUVs divided into CUVs and crossovers for example. What is a BMW Gran Coupe? It roughly means Big Short, in my opinion..
This brings me to the 2018 Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo… Porsche’s longest title. It’s not quite a sedan, nor is it a station wagon. Perhaps the best way to describe it is as a performance hatchback. When the concept showed up in Paris in 2012, it was the first Panamera that looked attractive to me. The styling on the first Panamera was an awkward attempt to echo the 911 rear styling resulting in a somewhat bloated appearance. The current sedan is a big improvement. Still, I was only tempted to go for the car when the concept reached production.
While there is not a huge difference from the sedan, the hatchback styling is more balanced and coherent. It offers a little more luggage space than the sedan and a big improvement in rear passenger headroom. However, the low roofline means it has a lot less load capacity than my Cayenne, so I cannot transport my Great Dane in the rear.
The Turbo is the second most powerful model with a 550 BHP V8, compared to the 680 BHP of the V8 Hybrid. Apart from the cost factor, I did not particularly need the extra performance… 3.6 sec to 100Km/h is adequate for a road car. I did not like the regenerative braking either.
As usual, with Porsche, the list of options is endless. I have no need of many of the electronic driving aids, the $6000 Burmeister sound system for one and see little advantage in ceramic brakes. I chose a number of options that make a difference to how it drives, including torque vectoring and Sport Chrono which has a useful push to pass button on the steering wheel. The interior is plain, full black leather and CF with Porsche’s very comfortable 18-way seats. I also added thermally and noise insulated glass.
What’s it like to drive? Quite simply superb! It’s a big car, but the handling is surgically precise. I tried emergency braking on an empty snow-covered icy road and it stopped completely straight in a surprisingly short distance.
The interior styling is clean and uncluttered with a large touch screen and haptic buttons, a big change from the preceding model. However, the menu system is not at all intuitive and it took me some time to set up the car the way I wanted. Once done, there is little reason to revisit most of it, thankfully. As with all touch screens and high gloss finishes it best to keep a microfibre cloth in the car to clean off the inevitable fingerprints. One option I would have liked was HUD1 like some of the excellent systems in other marques, but Porsche will not be offering this until next year.
What’s it like to drive? Quite simply superb! It’s a big car, but the handling is surgically precise. I tried emergency braking on an empty snow-covered icy road and it stopped completely straight in a surprisingly short distance. When being driven at normal road speeds it is very quiet and the V8 has a muted rumble, but it roars magnificently under hard acceleration. The 8-speed PDK is smooth and works at lightning speed manually.
Overall, it is the best handling big car I have personally driven. Porsche has made huge strides in the electric steering from the time I drove the first 991.
There are three setup modes; base and two performance options. I generally use the sport mode but irritatingly, the car always returns to default once switched off. Overall, it is the best handling big car I have personally driven. Porsche has made huge strides in the electric steering from the time I drove the first 991. The 21” wheels with low profile tires practically beg to be curbed, so even with parking cameras it is very easy to do.
I will try it on a track, but I have no doubt it will not handle as well as my 911s – this is not its main purpose in life. However, for a long trip it is unbeatable and when I spend some time in Germany in the Fall there will be an opportunity to do some high-speed runs on the Autobahns. It was also a part of the Porsche 70th anniversary display at the Concours of America in Detroit in July.
My collector instincts tend to make me keep cars for a long time and I have no doubt this will be the case here. It’s definitely a niche car. It is relatively expensive for the spec I chose… $206k plus tax. Many people cross-shop it with the AMG Mercedes wagon will find equivalent performance for a lower price.
This Panamera feels a lot more special to me and I had no hesitation in choosing it. </>
By Ronan McGrath, UCR Member