The ultimate Porsche Panamera
If the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is a conventionally powered rocketship, then the Turbo S E-Hybrid has warp drive
Whenever the question is posed – "What's the ultimate Porsche 911?" – not a few voices point out that the firm's best comes from the era of air-cooling. The strong market in vintage 911s seems to bear the theory out. A 911 is all about sensation; while modern versions are faster, they can't match the old stuff for charm. But what about those Porsche products that embrace technology as a raison d'être?
The Panamera doesn't have to compete with the past; it has to plan for the future. Porsche's super-sedan was enormously complex at its inception (and pretty questionable looking, if we're being blunt), so adding complexity in the pursuit of speed doesn't feel like a betrayal of sports-car simplicity. It feels like evolution.
To the new Panamera sedan, Porsche adds two new variants that aim to combine both exhilaration and practicality. The first is the Sport Turismo, the long-awaited wagon version of the Panamera first shown at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. The second is the polysyllabic Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid, the electrified new king atop Porsche's luxury throne.
Let's begin with the Sport Turismo, simply because it's prettier. From $7,200 more than the sedan version, the Sport Turismo range offers multiple drive-trains: twin-turbo V6s in two power levels, a twin-turbo V6 hybrid and a mighty twin-turbo V8.
Because of the vagaries of Porsche's naming system, only this last is called the Turbo, and it's a monster. With 550-hp on tap from 5,750 rpm, it lunges forward with moon-rocket thrust. Zero-to-100 km/h comes in 3.6 seconds, with passing power even more vehement.
However, you've already got near-escape-velocity speed with the Panamera Turbo. What the Sport Turismo adds is space. The deployable spoiler has been moved to the roof. The result is a lower load floor and a total capacity of 520 litres with the seats up, and 1,390 litres with the rears folded. You never got the kids moved off to university so fast.
The Sport Turismo is a far better handling machine as an alternative to the obvious luxury-brand crossover. Further, the V6 E-hybrid version is only a second slower to 100 km/h.
The new Turbo S E-Hybrid moves the hybridized version of the Panamera from an alternative to the fastest Turbo models, to Porsche's crowning achievement. To show it off, Porsche lined us up at Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit, and sent us chasing a 911 Turbo S.
Once, the turbocharger was Porsche's engineering trick to squeeze more from less. Now, their electrification program does the same. If the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is a conventionally powered rocket ship, then the Turbo S E-Hybrid has warp drive.
Total power is a staggering 680 hp, but it feels much faster. The electric motor throws full torque to the wheels while the turbos spool, giving the throttle incredibly quick responsiveness. There's no surge, just wallop.
On the track, the power combines with standard rear-wheel steering to shrink this huge dreadnought into a speedboat. Reeling in the 911 is a simple matter of drawing a bead on its whale-tail spoiler and unleashing blitzkrieg.
And, at the same time, both the capacious Turismo and heavy hitter hybrid deliver a spooky quiet ride when called upon. Either would function perfectly well for squiring around an assortment of retired superheroes. Or supervillains (you might need to extort the Turbo S E-hybrid's colossal price tag by holding the world hostage with a moon-based laser).
Bring up the ultimate 911, and you're bound to have a quarrel or two. The ultimate Panamera? Now there's an argument to be had here, too.
- Base price: $109,700 (Sport Turismo); $208,900 (SE)
- Engines: Turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6; turbocharged 4.0-litre V-8 hybrid
- Transmission/drive: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic/all-wheel
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): tba
- Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz E-class; Tesla Model S
The first-generation Panamera was quite unattractive. The new sedan is better, and the Sport Turismo is positively pretty. Resist the urge for businesslike grey, and go for the wonderful Sapphire Blue.
Replacing Porsche's button-heavy centre console with one that relies on capacitive touch buttons makes for a far cleaner look. Moving the controls for the drive modes up to the steering wheel makes switching back and forth easy. Less wonderful is changing the hybrid charging modes, which requires a reach and taking your eyes off the wheel to flick through the options.
Top speed … 0-100 km/h … lap times … never mind the traditional metrics. Instead, focus on the E-hybrid's ability to creep around town in hushed all-electric mode, causing not a single pedestrian to roll their eyes. The E-hybrid's 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery holds enough power for the E-hybrid to travel up to 50 kilometres on electrons only. You can store that charge on your highway commute, then creep through downtown without bothering a soul.
With available air suspension to iron out the bumps, and a range of powerful stereos, the Panamera excels as a grand tourer. Of particular note, as semi-autonomy becomes an expected feature in luxury cars, is the InnoDrive adaptive cruise control. Capable of reading upcoming corners, gradients and traffic, it makes for a smoother driving experience.
Porsche offers the Sport Turismo as a "four+1" configuration, by which they mean a small middle seat in the rear row for short trips (or your least favourite child). The seats fold 40/20/40 for maximum versatility, and the low-load floor means this Panamera variant would work well for dog owners.
Sport Turismo: 8.5
Turbo S E-hybrid: 9.0
Expanded space and available technology makes the Panamera roomier and faster, and it's so quiet you won't hear the howls of outrage from Porsche purists.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.Special to The Globe and Mail.