Do it again!”
This was the command from my 3-year-old back-seat passenger after I pressed the Sport Response button on the Porsche’s steering wheel for the third time. We felt the eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox smoothly and almost instantly skip down four gears; the car accelerated strongly from 45 mph to 75 mph—also for the third time in about 1.5 miles of deserted highway.
“I think that’s enough,” I said through laughter, which was met with a contemplative pause and then a resigned conclusion: “Well, I like this race car,” he said happily from his child seat.
It was my turn to pause. Not only was this not a race car, of course, but it wasn’t even a model honed by Porsche’s motorsports-influenced GT division. From my co-driver’s innocent perspective, though, I’m not sure he would have been any happier or impressed if I had managed to find a way to strap him into a 911 GT3; in his fresh world view, the 2018 Panamera 4S Sport Turismo provided as much of a thrill as anyone reasonably needs. GT3? In all likelihood he would have just complained about its “Exorcist”-worthy, “too loud” screams as its flat-six ripped toward 9,000 rpm. The Sport Turismo was made for him.
Funny how a kid’s perspective can, at least in the moment, melt away a lifetime’s worth of accumulated definitions of what constitutes driving fun. I commandeered this Sapphire Blue Metallic Sport Turismo for an end-of-summer vacation to Michigan that included a 500-mile round-trip drive from the Detroit area to a rural northern part of the state, and I initially found it a semi-polarizing conveyance.
“I don’t like this four-door Porsche thing,” a friend said as I drove him to Dairy Queen. I replied, “But it’s a wagon. Wagons are cool.” He looked at me like I had just grown a third head. Understandable, as he’s ridden shotgun in my Cayman S and other sports cars as I’ve cracked off a heel-toe downshift or three and chucked those cars around corners with abandon, laughing all the way. This Panamera didn’t make sense from his world outlook, which—as a non-car guy on his own time—essentially came from me in the first place.
True enough, there’s nothing singularly mind-blowing about this wagon in today’s performance-car terms. But during my week of using it for all manner of mundane errands and routes, it grew on me with each passing day.
The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 is a growly little engine that makes 440 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque, but the 4S Sport Turismo is not particularly sharp off of the line in any of its various driving modes, including Sport Plus. There is a brief delay when you tip the throttle, and the car weighs 4,221 pounds. Still, Porsche says it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. That is bloody impressive when you consider it in the context of the big (and especially the big-car) picture, but the delay in response tricks you into thinking it’s a bit slower than it actually is.
You forget about that as soon as you find yourself blitzing down the freeway. I found myself happy I needed to make that road trip to the woods because the 4S Sport Turismo immediately proved itself as the ultimate Family Truckster. It’s an exceptional cruiser, including when loaded up with people and luggage; its midrange punch above 4,000 rpm exploits gaps in traffic and leaves other weekending families moving over into the right lane as they see you coming. Some of them actually raise their thumbs as the German wagon flashes past, and we saw more than one kid in a back seat laugh as the Porsche hauled on by. It’s not difficult to imagine them questioning their parents, “Why can’t we get one of those?” I’m sure my own father got tired of hearing those same words out of me as I observed all manner of much cooler cars overtake us from the back seat of our Ford Aerostar or, much worse, the old Chevrolet Caprice wagon complete with faux-wood (read: glorified sticker) side paneling. The Aerostar was actually kind of fun, but I still get nauseated when I think of that Chevy.
The Panamera 4S Sport Turismo is no Caprice wagon, and if you have similar memories, they will enhance your appreciation for it. The steering delivers nice weight and feel, and you only need to apply small inputs to place the car precisely. While everyone else on board reads, sleeps, or falls into tablet hypnosis, you can have plenty of fun by picking off unmarked apexes within your lane lines all day long, with barely a thought given to doing so.
Ride quality is superb in all PASM suspension settings, as the difference between them felt negligible on the back roads, highways, and freeways we encountered. More than once I silently cycled between settings for miles at a time to see if anyone noted a change; no one piped up. That was due mostly to the rare-for-Michigan reality that all the asphalt we encountered on this trip was smooth; surely washboard-rough roads expose the stiffer damping rates more noticeably. In almost 640 miles of driving the Sport Turismo (it averaged 24.4 mpg), road and wind noise were the only ride-related “complaints” lodged by anyone who rode in it. This example rode on Pirelli rubber mounted on optional 21-inch Porsche Sport Design wheels, which certainly accounted for at least part of what was at worst a minor ruckus. Consider it a very small trade-off (er, along with the $3,640 charge) for running the aggressively handsome multi-spoke rims, arguably one of our test car’s sharpest features.
Porsche’s wagon overall, though, is not particularly aggressive in the appearance department, and it looks, as many modern cars do, noticeably better from some angles than others. The rear three-quarter view presents a nicely compact, beefy silhouette with a nice little fender bulge you might not notice at first. Likewise the classic Porsche flared haunches.
The interior presents a clean layout. The bucket seats front and rear lend the car more than a hint of sportiness and its passengers a nice level of support, containment, and excellent comfort without taking the sports-car theme too far inside a family vehicle. The rear buckets work well with a child seat, which we found a snap to install and remove on the fly (easier than in the Ford Edge it usually resides in). The electronically operated rear side-glass sunshades are useful and quite welcome, especially so with a sun-sensitive little boy seated next to them. For the enthusiast driver, the chunky, smallish-diameter steering wheel is a nice touch, and the front left seat delivers a great driving position. At 6-foot-1, I was surprised to find this is one of the few cars I can think of—perhaps the only one at the moment—in which I didn’t adjust the seat to its lowest position. Doing so puts me so low that it becomes difficult to see out toward the rear, due in part to the wide B-pillars. The wide range of seat adjustment will accommodate a preponderance of driver sizes nicely.
As the days with the Sport Turismo counted down, I found a few opportunities to push it a little harder, though never to a level anyone would consider hardcore enthusiast driving. And that was entirely the point, to use it as almost certainly every real-life buyer or potential buyer would. Even at that level of moderate briskness, you find the exhaust rumbling on the overrun in Sport Plus mode, the brakes are stellar, and the handling, grip, and traction inspire endless confidence. Every driver interface, from the steering to the brake pedal to the throttle, is superb. The entire package responds predictably and exactly as you want it to, a fact you might consider an active safety feature in itself. The cohesiveness of those individual little things adds up to a grand sum that never lets you forget you are driving a Porsche. My girlfriend, who has almost zero affinity for quick sports cars and therefore rolled her eyes when I noted the company builds 550-hp Turbo versions of the Sport Turismo, noted aloud, “That’s ridiculous. It’s just fine as is: a very smooth, comfortable, well-riding car I think any woman would also be thrilled to drive—especially given what it will really be used for.” I naturally don’t agree with her that such “ridiculousness” is a bad thing, but for once I found it difficult to argue the point—or when she complained about the small cupholder in the center console, or the fiddly air-conditioning vent-flow adjustments that must be done via the center-stack touchscreen. At this point, I grasped just how far into “the real world” I had fallen.
That’s exactly what sleepy vacations are for, though. Do it again? In the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo? Gladly—even at 75 mph or less.
2018 Porsche Panamera 4S Sport Turismo Specifications
|PRICE||$110,250 (base)/$121,770 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/440 hp @ 5,650-6,600 rpm, 405 lb-ft @ 1,750-5,500 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD wagon|
|EPA MILEAGE||20/26 (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||198.8 x 85.2 x 56.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||177 mph|