The humble sport wagon has never seen much love in the US. Low, long practical cars with big engines capable of big speeds have never captivated the minds of many here, and so when Porsche announced the Panamera Sport Turismo at the New York Auto Show in 2017, I was frankly astonished that it promised to sell the thing here. And now, a year later, here it is.
The Sport Turismo flavor of the Panamera adds a few key inches to the rear roofline, creating a more upright silhouette than the base car. Call it a sport wagon, call it a shooting brake, hell you can call it Nancy if you want -- those few added inches create a stunning shape that will turn heads. And, as I would learn, when this car is paired with the outrageously fast and yet strikingly frugal plug-in hybrid powertrain, the $188,400 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is a nigh-unbeatable combination.
The Panamera is the closest thing to a sedan that Porsche makes, a front-engine, four-door hatchback that caused many loyalists to call blasphemy when it was launched in 2009. Somewhat ungainly styling in that first generation didn't help the car's case, but few questioned its performance capabilities.
The new Panamera, unveiled in 2016, did much to silence the critics of its visual design, but it's the Sport Turismo variation that really clicked with me. I am, you see, an owner of a couple of dogs, and I want nothing more than to load up the pups and a bunch of gear and head into the hills on the weekend. And you can be sure I'll be taking the twistiest route I can find.
Being frugal by nature, however, I confess that I'd struggle to load a pair of muddy, post-hike pups into a $210,940 as-configured car. Beyond that, Sport Turismo isn't exactly a leap forward over the base Panamera when it comes to practicality. That extra room in the rear only adds 5 cubic feet of cargo space, and of course that's all up high. So it's more about the look, then, plus a little more headroom for your back-seat passengers.
Even so, the Sport Turismo successfully swallowed enough luggage for my in-laws' three-month trip abroad, the only complication was having to move the car's massive onboard charger. Once everything was loaded, the Sport Turismo became exactly the kind of car you'll want to slot into after stepping off an endless series of flights.
The front seats are comfortable yet supportive enough for spirited driving, and the (optional) massage makes really long hauls more bearable. The rear seats are relaxed and enveloping, and a separate touchscreen infotainment interface ensures passengers back there can still be in control.
Really, though, in a car like this, you'll want to be in the driver's seat.
It's rare that I focus too much on fuel efficiency when reviewing a car that costs in excess of $200,000, but I'm going to start there because it's part of what makes this machine so special. The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is rated for a frankly astounding 49 miles per gallon equivalent. This from an all-wheel-drive car that delivers 680 horsepower from its combination of a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 and electric motors.
Granted, you won't see anywhere near that mpg figure if you're attempting to match the car's rated 3.2-second 0-to-60 time, but if you make good use of the 20 miles of all-electric range offered by the 14.1 kilowatt-hour battery pack, you'll find this to be a surprisingly frugal companion.
I did my best to resist, but with frequent dips into the go pedal during my week of testing, I averaged 27 mpg. Yes, that's far short of the maximum, but far better than any other car I've ever tested offering this kind of performance. It's a full 10 higher than we saw on the 2018 Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon.
Interestingly, the car's efficiency shines through in another way. If you hit a twisty road in the car's Sport+ mode, its highest performance, the car works aggressively to recharge the battery pack. I found that after a 20-mile blast through the countryside in Sport+ the car had recaptured 10 miles worth of electricity. That's impressive stuff.
Still, it's not perfect on the powertrain front. The transition from electric drive to gasoline can be a bit abrupt and unsettling, and indeed simple tasks like accelerating cleanly at low speed from a stop require a little finesse.
Regardless, the car is a remarkable performer, a machine that handles far better than any car this size has any right to. With its all-wheel drive and giant, 325/30ZR21 tires at the rear, it has grip in spades -- enough to make me want another go in the winter time. (Ideally, though, on something more winter-friendly than the summer-focused Michelin Pilot Sports.)
The new Panamera offers Porsche's latest infotainment system in a beautiful, wide-aspect-ratio display that measures 12.3 inches on the diagonal. It's snappy to respond and not lacking in any functionality save one glaring omission: Android Auto. Apple CarPlay is, at least, present.
Most physical buttons in the car have been replaced by a long, sweeping, piano-black capacitive touch interface. Touch any "button" and you get a little haptic buzz that feels for all the world like a click. It looks great and works well, but boy is it a fingerprint-magnet. One of those buttons toggles the $1,200 Surround View package, delivering a crisp, clear overhead view of the car, which makes parallel parking a breeze.
Being a top-shelf luxury car, the Panamera also offers a comprehensive adaptive safety system, including Porsche's InnoDrive, as part of a $5,370 package. This mixes adaptive cruise plus advanced lane-keep departure, and a system that will (optionally) automatically adjust speed based on posted speed limits. I found the autosteer functionality to be on par with the best on the road today, which is to say, very helpful on the highway and a bit questionable on secondary roads.
For many, the beauty of a car like this is in the customization, and indeed the options list here is about a mile long. For example, you'll have your choice of nine separate color combinations for the centrally mounted tachometer and the dashboard-mounted Sport Chrono clock. Excessive? Absolutely not.
I'll keep it pretty simple and, honestly, I wouldn't stray too far from the configuration in the car I tested. $1,340 for the rear-axle steering package is worthwhile in a car this long, and while $3,490 feels a bit excessive for the sport exhaust system, if you want the ability to go loud or go stealthy, it's a must-have.
Summer tires on the 21-inch wheels are a no-cost option, but you'll want the $1,200 Surround View package to ensure you don't curb them while parallel parking. I'd skip the Premium Package Plus, which adds lane-change assist and soft-close doors, but the $5,370 for the Assistance Package is well worth the cost. That beautiful sapphire blue metallic paint comes standard, at least, and complements the chartreuse calipers.
All that, plus a few other odds and ends, would have me clocking in at $203,800 after a $1,050 destination charge. It seems I'd better start saving.
I had sky-high expectations going into my week with the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, and frankly the car exceeded even those. It's an eminently comfortable electric car, a ballistic long-distance cruiser and the kind of comfortable, practical family hauler that dreams are made of. That it can be all those things and still light up my life on my favorite roads is a truly wonderful thing.