At dinner the topic turns taboo.
“Shooting brake?!” exclaims Porsche’s marketing man Florian Klingbeil. “Don’t say those words at this table…”
It’s simple, Mercedes-Benz got there first, and graciously in defeat Porsche was forced to come up with something else for their own shooting… I mean, station wagon.
And that’s how we find ourselves in Spain for the launch of the new — deep breath now — 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.
“We hope that Sport Turismo will mean something one day,” Klingbeil says. “Along the iconic lines of Turbo or Targa, we want Turismo to grow.”
And don’t forget the E-Hybrid bit too, that’s also growing.
There’s no end in sight. You can put 700 horsepower through two wheels of a 911 now. You can put foot, eyeballs shaken, perceptions stirred. And get this, Porsche’s guys over at Flacht, the racing department, reckon a pair of 365-wide rear Michelins can handle even more in the future.
The big, bad Sport Turismo puts it all down to all four wheels though, and for the company’s new flagship model they’ve been a little more sensible. So you only get 680 horsepower.
Off the line, in S+ mode with everything dialed up, the thing launches so viciously you think something’s broken, like the front end with you holding onto the wheel has torn itself away from the rear half of the car. Except you can repeat the trick another dozen times, and unlike your nephew who got a magic party set for his birthday last week, this trick doesn’t get old. By the time you’ve regained composure and stolen a glance at the speedometer you’re seeing two-hundred-something. Coast back down to a nice, legal 120kph, and the Turbo S E-Hybrid feels like it’s crawling, bogged and bored, snapping at 200 again.
That’s where Porsche’s new flagship seems comfortable enough to be itself, cruising at speeds not possible anywhere off the autobahn. Everywhere else it’s like a Golf. A Golf with 21in wheels, carbon ceramic brakes, and an extra boost mode from the 918 Spyder.
This duality is possible because of the car’s drivetrain, the 680 horsepower split between a 550bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 combustion engine and an electric motor for the front axle. With an eight-speed PDK automatic transmission you get zero to 100kph in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 310kph reached in sixth. The two final gears are for cruising.
If you aren’t corroborating these claims at every opportunity the car is as docile as some sensible EV runabout, because at times it is an EV. There are even some efficiency benefits in there, but honestly, Porsche’s own people readily admit that the entire point of electrifying the Panamera is to make it go fast.
See, in Zuffenhausen (or rather Leipzig where the Panamera comes from) the term shooting brake might be a no-go but the word hybrid isn’t stigmatic. Notice Porsche proudly includes it in the official nomenclature, signifying flagship status, and warming us all up for the inevitable electrified 911s so we don’t collapse in a faint when it finally happens. That’s why anyone you talk to at the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo launch is quick with the rehearsed line, “At Porsche we use hybrid technology for performance gain.”
Some of them are starting to sound like those cops on TV who slackly have to get the official business out of the way, you know, “You have the right to remain silent…”
But they have a point. You can drive around a little bit on electric power alone, otherwise when you’re on it you get torque instantaneously, all 850Nm of it, and the 2.3-tonne weight of the machine hardly figures.
The car is as docile as some sensible EV runabout, because at times it is an EV. There are even some efficiency benefits in there, but honestly, Porsche’s own people readily admit that the entire point of electrifying the Panamera is to make it go fast.
With torque vectoring coupled to the optional rear-wheel steering on our tester, and the flagship’s standard adaptive air suspension, it’s bizarre how well this car handles with so much weight and sheer size. Yes, you can see the fenders of the car so far apart spanning the width of the entire road, but it’ll go exactly where you tell it so reactively that you only ever worry about the huge dimensions at very low speeds, treading through narrow hillside towns and backing into a parking spot. From behind the wheel it is deceptively capable yet distant, and so insulating you can hardly hear your own horn sounding if the windows are closed.
You can hear the 21s though — the big wheels and low profile rubber let tyre roar and road noise intrude into the cabin a bit, otherwise the Sport Turismo will undramatically tour at 220kph or so.
If you require more specified luxury you can sacrifice the three-seat rear bench for two individual seats, and of course the Sport Turismo’s practical benefits of easier entry and exit and nearly 1,300 liters of luggage capacity remain. Additionally besides all the kit you could want, there’s a neat adaptive cruise control system on board that can think three kilometers ahead with navigational and sensor data, and decide on the ideal speed taking into account gradients and corners. It’s pretty clever, and the voice control system is also worth noting because you can talk to it like a normal person and the computer woman understands you.
In fact there is a fairly wide range of assistive tech in Porsche’s Turismo flagship — it’ll happily drive itself in slow moving traffic at speeds of up to 60kph. This is very thoughtful of Porsche actually, because like I said at those sorts of speeds this car feels quite ordinary, apart from the grabby regenerative brakes giving the high-tech electrified game away. They do that for efficiency. Everywhere else it’s all about performance.
Now I’m starting to sound like one of them…