What image does your mind conjure when you hear the words ‘grand tourer’? Back in the day, the car in question would have no doubt been defined by its graceful but surprisingly spacious coupé bodywork, a long bonnet that houses a magnificently powerful and aristocratic powerplant and a suspension set-up capable of delivering a compliant long-distance ride and heightened agility on properly twisting roads.
Today, the ‘GT’ church is far broader, owing largely to our considerably more liberal use of that initialism on everything from fast hatchbacks to mid-engined supercars and four-seat convertibles.
So this list is made up of the cars we’d be happiest driving over a very long distance. The vast majority have their fair share of luxury appeal, although some are more obviously designed to put driver engagement at the forefront of their motive experience. Some have four doors, four adult-sized seats and enough luggage space for a weekend away.
So what are best four-wheeled, £100,000-and-under options on sale right now in which to while away miles in style, at pace, in some luxury – and with a broad smile on your face?
The concept of a four-door Porsche saloon was controversial when the first-generation Panamera was launched in 2009. Despite being vulnerable to criticism for its awkward styling, this was a spectacularly well-engineered true driver’s car and an effortless continent cruiser.
Now freed from some of that initial controversy and much improved for its design, the second-generation Panamera feels like it’s finally cemented its place in Porsche’s model catalogue. We road tested this car in 2017, powered by a remarkable V8 turbo diesel engine producing 416bhp and 627lb ft of torque that was, in many ways, ideally suited to the car’s long-legged brief. Porsche later removed the Panamera Diesel from sale when it abandoned diesel engine technology in 2018, but it left a fairly wide choice of engines in the showroom range.
And for 2021, this range has been tweaked yet again. The 542bhp Turbo model has been dropped in favour of an even more powerful Turbo S variant, whose 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 now kicks out 621bhp. The GTS model has also had its V8 tickled, so that it now develops 473bhp and better fills the gap between it and the Turbo S.
Elsewhere, the remarkable Turbo S E-Hybrid range-topper now has a combined 690bhp from its petrol and electric motors. This isn’t the only low-emissions plug-in hybrid in the range, either. The 552bhp 4S E-Hybrid model is now joined by a 456bhp Panamera 4 E-Hybrid variant as well. A selection of twin-turbo V6 engines fill the rest of the range.
At its best, the Panamera blends dynamic driver appeal with distinguishing touring credentials better than any other car of its ilk. It steers with reassuring weight, handles with precision, grips assuredly and accelerates urgently, and although it’s a sizeable and heavy car, it doesn't suffer much for the additional weight of hybrid drive batteries.
The regular four-door, four-seat version has a 495-litre boot, with 1263 litres of storage if you fold the rear seats down, and impressive in-car tech and infotainment. However, we prefer the five-door Sport Turismo shooting brake bodystyle, which adds a fifth passenger seat, adds useful boot space and puts a little more notional fresh air between the car’s exterior styling and that of a current Porsche 911, which is no bad thing.