With 550 horsepower, this grand touring wagon belies its heavy weight in spirited driving
COWICHAN, British Columbia – Aside from the occasional cringe-worthy swath of denuded forest, the interior of Vancouver Island is a scantily populated oasis of towering pine, rugged stone, and narrow meandering roads perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive. They’re less than ideal, however, for rather large German luxury cars. The patchwork surface is cracked and pockmarked and the occasional wince-inducing thump was inevitable when 21-inch low-profile sport Michelin meets the bottom of a pothole. To its credit, the active air suspension system on the Porsche we’re driving does an admirable job of absorbing a surface better suited to the camper vans and 4x4s we pass along the route.
Cruising through the small towns, we receive several thumbs up from the locals – but surprisingly, didn’t rate so much as a second glance from the other Porsche drivers we encountered. Curious, because this car, the new Panamera Sport Turismo, was a sensation at its Paris Motor Show debut as a concept five years ago.
The Panamera certainly has its detractors – and the criticism isn’t entirely unfounded. While most of it came from hard-core sports car enthusiasts appalled at the soiling of their beloved brand by a heavy four-door with a wrongly situated power plant, the original car’s rather ungainly design earned its fair share of barbs from public and motoring press alike.
The Sport Turismo’s estate wagon configuration completely alleviates the sedan’s biggest flaw – the awkward roofline. The most elegant of the Panamera lineup, the Sport Turismo is identical to the sedan from the B-pillar forward. But instead of ending in a curvaceous bulge, the roofline continues to a tidy squared-off tailgate with a jaunty three-position spoiler, which automatically adjusts depending on downforce requirements.
From the driver’s seat, the cabin is indistinguishable from the standard Panamera, but the rear has been reworked to make what Porsche calls “4+1” seating. Fortunately, they hadn’t the audacity to call it a five-seater, as they basically just replaced the bisecting rear console with a narrow seating space fit only for a child or very small adult. More importantly, the raised roofline and wider hatch with lower loading height creates a more useable luggage compartment. At 520 litres (425L for the E-Hybrid), the Sport Turismo’s trunk space is 20L larger than the sedan. Drop the 40/20/40 rear seats and that increases to 1,390L (1,295 for the hybrid). Length and wheelbase remain the same as the sedan, but curb weight increases by 30 kilograms.
Like the sedan, the Turismo’s cockpit is bisected, private jet-like, by a bank of switchgear. However, the swath of hard buttons has been replaced by a sleek, modern touch surface. A clean, uncluttered design, like most of its ilk, this sort of interface can be overly sensitive, and marks easily with fingerprints. The familiar aluminum gear selector has been replaced with one that’s a little too similar in both style and function to BMW’s universally loathed auto shifter. It’s confusing to operate and we spend far too much time at each waypoint trying to figure out how to put it in park.
The “Advanced Cockpit” features two 7-inch displays , and a 12.3″ screen embedded in the centre console. On-board safety features include Night Vision, and “InnoDrive” adaptive cruise control using navigation data to calculate optimum speed, braking and shift patterns three kilometres in advance.
As with the sedan, there are four models available to us (European markets also receive a diesel): Panamera 4 Sport Tursimo with 330 hp Turbo V6, 4 E-Hybrid Sport deriving a combined 462hp from an electric motor and biturbo V6, 4S Sport Sport Turismo with 440 hp biturbo V6 and the Turbo Sport Turismo with a biturbo V8 that delivers 550 hp. All come with the eight-speed PDK transmission and standard four-wheel drive.
Entry Sport Turismo comes standard with steel suspension, and upper models get Porsche Active Suspension Management System (PASM) which continuously adapts each individual wheel according to road surface. A three-chamber air spring provides a range of flexibility depending on which drive mode is selected – choose “Sport Plus” and it’s nearly track-day firm. The air suspension can also raise the chassis 20 mm for clearance, or lower it at speed 28 mm in front and 20mm behind to improve dynamics. Rear axle steering adds 2.8 degrees of angle adjustment to the rear wheels: turning opposite to the fronts at low speeds to reduce turning circles, and in the same direction as the front wheels over 50km/hr to enhance stability and cornering ability. Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control adds a an electronically controlled rear differential lock for more traction while accelerating out of turns, and brake-generated torque vectoring (PTV)for more agile turn in.
Behind the wheel of the Turbo Sport Turismo, it’s easy to forget you’re driving a 2,035 kg station wagon. With 550hp and 536 lb ft of torque, it’s a silken rocket ship. The PDK transmission responds in milliseconds, although hammering the throttle can induce a moment’s hesitation in downshift. Supple and pliant in normal mode, the Turbo Sport Turismo drives like a much smaller car. Switch to Sport Mode and the ride becomes a bit more punishing, but that’s mostly due to the enormous wheels and low profile tires on a really questionable road surface. Steering is linear and communicative and the wheel has just the right heft. Push the Turbo Sport hard, and it does an admirable job emulating a performance car, but it’s happiest as a grand tourer with stonking great gobs of power on reserve.
The Panamera Sport Turismo will arrive in Canada late 2017. Pricing starts at $109,700 for the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, $118,600 for the 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, $124,500 for the 4S Sport Turismo, and $175,600 for the Turbo Sport Turismo.
By Lesley Wimbush Courtesy Driving.ca