The Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo: One Car to Rule Them All
Any 550-horsepower station wagon would be fun. But that's doubly true when it's made by Porsche.
Calling the Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo a “station wagon” is, perhaps, a bit misleading. The Sport Turismo’s shape certainly isn’t what normally comes to mind when you think of a wagon; far from a boxy caboose, it’s more of an odd middle ground between a regular wagon rear and the normal Panamera’s hatch. (Actually, the term “hot hatch” would be pretty great for it, were it not already taken.) There are a pair of sleek D-pillars raked counter to the direction of forward travel, and a stubby flat wing perched atop it all to stretch the roofline out a few inches more for the sake of aerodynamic excellence. (There’s even a teeny retractable spoiler within it that elevates at speed; sadly, the expanding three-piece spoiler of normal Panamera Turbos wasn’t invited to the Sport Turismo party.)
To be frank, it’s arguable how much it improves the car’s looks. Compared with the first-gen Panny’s bubble butt, it’s the sort of positive amendment that high-end Miami Beach plastic surgeons strive for—but the second-generation Panamera sedan looks far more elegant than its forbear. Some of the Sport Turismo's design elements look a tad incongruous when considered separately; from some angles, the stretched shape makes the car look even longer, lower, and meaner than the hatch; from others, it looks like some Weissach wiseass took a hair dryer to the clay model and melted the rear of the roof down when no one was looking.
Still, even if you’re in the group that finds the Sport Turismo less attractive than the regular Panamera, there’s no arguing with the added benefits it brings in terms of space. The Panamera in general is something of a Goldilocks car, in terms of sizing. It's big enough for four adults to sit comfortably, yet still small enough that it’s doesn’t feel like the USS Iowa transiting the Panama Canal when driving down a back road. Going turismo doesn’t add that much room—the wagon has 18.3 cubic feet behind the second row versus the sedan’s 17.6—but every added inch counts when you’re dealing with a car that seems as well-suited to a long road trip as they come. More importantly, though, the Sport Turismo is the only Panamera with fold-flat second-row seats. Knock ‘em down, and there’s enough room in there for all six-feet-four-inches of your humble author to lie flat and close the hatch behind him (though with barely any room to spare).
The cockpit is home to the car’s biggest flaw: an infotainment system that seems designed strictly for laboratory use. People didn’t switch over from physical keyboards to touchscreens because they preferred touching a cold glass panel; they did it for packaging reasons, in order to fit the full QWERTY into a space the size of a child’s palm. A center console doesn’t suffer from that problem. Yet Porsche’s interior designers seem to think people will be happier with cool glass panels that simulate the feel of actual buttons, instead of…actual buttons. Not only are the buttons ill-defined—there aren’t even drawn-on lines to visually delineate them—they’re often hard, as the glossy piano black plastic their circuitry is embedded in seems to reflect 99.9997 percent of any available sunlight. (The wheel’s controls are better, offering physical buttons for most of the important features.)
But all those infotainment quibbles are really just distractions. This is a Porsche, after all, and more so than almost any other car company, a Porsche is about driving. And the Sport Turismo is more fun to drive than just about any other station wagon on sale today.
Launch control, for example, is a goddamn event. Set it to Sport Plus, full brake, full gas, and it revs to just shy of 5K rpm; lift the brake and it launches hard enough to bang your head into the seat even if you’re expecting it. 0 to 60 should take about 3 seconds on the dot, according to Car and Driver's test of the non-Sport Turismo Panny Turbo, and it feels every bit as fast as a supercar—at least, down in the sub-100 mph ranges that even autobahn-adjacent Germans spend most of their time driving at. Likewise, the Sport response button—which cues the car for maximum attack by dialing the turbos to overboost and dropping the gearbox to the primo passing gear—is a gimmick, but an entertaining one. Blur’s “Song 2” came on the radio when I was driving down Manhattan's West Side Highway, and I could’t help but jab it and start passing fools left and right. I'd like to think Clive Owen would be proud.
It handles, well, like a Porsche—which is to say, phenomenally. The steering is as good as it gets in a two-ton wagon with an electrically-boosted rack—sharp, immediate, serving up plentiful feedback but never overloading you with information. It holds speed through turns so well, with the magic 4D Chassis Control, torque-vectoring system, electronically-controlled dampers, and all the rest of the carmaker's tech absolutely planting this car to the ground. It’s borderline-magical.
That said, the Turbo is undeniably sporty, even at its most relaxed. Anybody looking for Maybach levels of ride comfort is better left looking for…well, a Maybach. But most people who wander into a Porsche dealership considering dropping $150K-plus on a four-door (more on that in a sec) probably know what that logo stands for. Besides, the car never beats you up—it just bumps you around a bit more than most competitors would. (Those optional 21-inch wheels definitely don’t help the ride any, though; do yourself a favor and stick with the standard 20-inch rims.)
As with all Porsches, though, all this tastiness comes at a hefty cost. In the case of my tester, that cost was $175,170 out the door. That is, as equipped with a plentiful helping of options, including such must-haves as the Sport Exhaust system, Sport Chrono package, and parking sonar and cameras, and some less-essential ones like power rear-window blinds and four-zone climate control. Even so, the cheapest (a relative term if it ever were one) Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo costs $155,050 with destination.
Which brings things back to the question of its two-box crosstown nemesis, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon. Equipped similarly to this Panny tester, it costs around $125,000. Granted, the AMG might lack that Porsche magic…but for the difference in price between them, you could take home the E63 and a CPO Boxster with four digits on the odometer. If I had room in my garage for two cars, it'd be hard to pass up that Stuttgart-sourced pair. But if I had to choose just one single car to drive...
...well, it'd be hard to pass up this Panamera.
Want to read more about the Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo? Check out The Drive's group review of the car here.
2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo, By the Numbers:
Base Price (Price as Tested): $155,050 ($175,170)
Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, 550 horsepower, 567 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic; all-wheel-drive
0-60 MPH: 3.6 seconds, according to Porsche, but independent tests and the ol' gluteal accelerometer peg it closer to three seconds flat
Top Speed: 188 miles per hour (manufacturer estimate)
Fuel Economy: 18 city, 23 highway
Least-necessary item on the options list: "Power Sunblind for Rear Side Windows," $490