Road Tests

First Drive: 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

New wagon has design appeal, added utility, and plenty of performance

VICTORIA, Canada — A revealed silhouette formed a disarmingly sleek shape at the 2012 Paris auto show, transforming the bubble-tailed Panamera into an elegant, easier-on-the-eyes wagon. The peanut gallery begged, “Build it!” Five years later, Porsche has obliged. From design experiment to a serially produced car, the 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo is a more utilitarian – and some would say better looking – take on the Panamera form.

If not for a quick walkaround before climbing into the driver’s seat of the Panamera Sport Turismo, you wouldn’t know you’re piloting a wagonized version of the sports sedan that was widely adored for its driving dynamics and only recently appreciated for its facelifted looks. While piloting a 2018 Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo down a gravelly b-road on the outskirts of town in British Columbia, character lines and cargo capacity are the last things on my reptile mind as I focus instead on the abject absurdity of a 550 horsepower grocery getting wagon that can punch to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and dance the fandango like a banshee. Strange days we face indeed, when enthusiast-appeasing niches are tackled with such earnest gusto.

Real World Ready

Unlike countless concept car cul de sacs, the Sport Turismo’s compromises are nearly nil, with less than 100 pounds of weight gain countered by a three-person rear seat that makes it the first five-passenger Panamera in history (though the small middle seat really makes it more of a four-plus-one). Volumetric gains are incremental, achieving between 4 and 5.5 cu-ft of space depending on seat fold-down configurations. Sure, the power operated fifth door offers a lower load-in and a slightly friendlier form factor for payload, but let’s stay sober: the Sport Turismo is more an aesthetic power play couched under the veil of practicality (“Honey, it’ll fit the kids!”) than a low-slung answer to the eternal crossover question.

Four Sport Turismo variants are available: Panamera 4 ($97,250), 4 E-Hybrid ($105,050), 4S ($110,250), and Turbo ($155,050). Corresponding powerplants are a 330 hp single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, an electrified 462 hp twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6, a 440 hp twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6, and a 550 hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. All are mated to an eight-speed PDK transmission.

Predictably, Porsche didn’t just sloppily tack on the hunchback and let physics fall to the wayside. Key to managing the hatch’s aerodynamic stability is a Sport Turismo-specific, three-position active rear spoiler that reduces drag below 105 mph and creates up to 110 pounds of downforce at higher speeds. The spoiler also works in conjunction with the optional panoramic roof in order to reduce wind noise. Also employed are electromechanical anti-roll bars which activate more quickly than hydraulic setups, enabling stiffer suspension in the curves.

Road (Trip) Warrior

The 4 E-Hybrid makes full use of the spoiler’s noise reducing effect with its electric-only “E” mode, which seamlessly propels the Panamera at speeds up to 87 mph. Expect an average EV-only range of 31 miles. Press the right pedal hard enough and the twin-turbo V-6 kicks in, but not obtrusively enough to lose the silky smooth storyline. Though the hybrid doesn’t hit you over the head with its peakiness or surprise surges, its broad powerband makes for swift acceleration. Countering that tendency for facile forward motion is a brake pedal that feels counterintuitively light at lower speeds, until the regenerative braking switches to a traditional caliper-squeezing endeavor. Haters may hate the idea of a partially electrified Porsche, but the Hybrid’s 4.4 second 0 to 60 mph time and 170 mph top speed should quell those critics. While the 4 E-Hybrid does remarkably well at masking its 4,828 lb curb weight on mountain passes (my tester was aided by $1,620 rear axle steering and $8,970 carbon ceramic brakes), the mass becomes evident during challenging corners when road irregularities involve heave motion in addition to cornering. Pressing the shock-stiffening button makes the Panamera feel more planted, but compliance suffers and it makes it more difficult to tackle the bumpy bits without upsetting the chassis. Admittedly, it’s a bit nitpicky to criticize the hybrid’s handling at speeds that would challenge some sports cars. For some perspective, consider the crucial data point that you’re in a full-size five-passenger car, not a focused two-seater.

Switch to the Turbo Sport Turismo, and the sensations of grunt increase considerably. Without an electric motor assisting with thrust there’s a suspense-building crescendo that feels fiercer and can sprint to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. If you can do without the wagon part of the equation, the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid produces an even more stunning 680 horsepower. Regardless of range-topping stablemates, our tester, kitted out at $198,360, offered arrest-me-now performance with a suspension that felt better equipped to handle the inevitable imperfections of real world roads. Its 4,486 lb curb weight is likely the greatest contributor to the improved handling. Switch the steering wheel mounted dial to Sport or Sport +, and the Turbo feels spooled and ready to tackle the next high speed pass.

Weapon of Choice

For all the aesthetic appeal inherent to the Orthodox School of Wagons, Porsche’s Sport Turismo models do satisfy some practical considerations the Panamera can’t answer. But the true appeal lies in their ability to tie an elongated silhouette to performance that defies the usual trappings of utility. Though the Turbo delivers more cohesively engaging high-speed handling, the 4-E Hybrid’s quiet coasting and discreet power reserves offer a novel combination of city-friendly EV power and balls-to-the-wall grunt when you want it. The standard Panamera’s updated styling already lends the four-door a certain appeal, but the Sport Turismo adds an element of inscrutable whimsy. Choose your weapon wisely, though it’s hard to go wrong if you have the means to indulge in either variant of these six-figure sleds.

2018 Porsche Panamera SporTurismo Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $96,200 (base)
ENGINES 3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/330 hp @ 5,400-6,400 rpm, 331 lb-ft @ 1,340-4,900 rpm
2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/440 hp @ 5,650-6,600 rpm, 405 lb-ft @ 1,750-5,500 rpm
2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/330 hp @ 5,250-6,500 rpm,331 lb-ft @ 1,750-5,000 rpm plus electric motor/136 hp @ 2,800 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 100-2,300 rpm; combined/462 hp @ 6,00 rpm, 516 lb-ft @ 1,100-4,500 rpm
4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/550 hp @ 5,750-6,000 rpm, 567 lb-ft @ 1,960-4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD/AWD wagon
EPA MILEAGE 18-21/25-28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 198.8 x 76.3 x 56.2 in
WHEELBASE 116.1 in
WEIGHT 4,144-4,828 lb
0-60 MPH 3.4-5.2 sec
TOP SPEED 160-188 mph

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EPA MPG:

21 City / 28 Hwy

Horse Power:

330 @ 5400

Torque:

331 @ 1340