After our look at the 456bhp Panamera 4 E-Hybrid version, which we liked in spite of its slightly mannered and underwhelming petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, now’s our chance to find out if the 542bhp V8-engined Turbo version feels more like the definitive flavour.
The rest of the Sport Turismo engine range mirrors the standard Panamera, with the 4 powered by a 3.0-litre V6, the 4S by a 2.9-litre V6 while completing the range is the ballistic 4.0-litre V8 oilburner powering the 4S Diesel Sport Turismo.
Understanding the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
The Panamera's estate makeover consists of a longer, straighter and higher roofline, along with slightly larger rear passenger door and boot openings.
The car’s wheelbase and rear overhang measurements remain the same as the standard-wheelbase Panamera’s. Boot space grows by 25 litres to 520 measured up to the windowline, rising to just under 1400 to the roof with the rear seatbacks folded.
And with those seatbacks in place, the Sport Turismo is also the first Panamera able to carry five passengers – although Porsche prefers to call it a 4+1.
What separates this car from a normal four-door Panamera Turbo technically amounts to very little. Adaptively damped air suspension comes as standard, just as it does on the equivalent liftback, while both Porsche’s PDCC Sport package (which bundles active anti-roll bars and a torque-vectoring active rear differential) and its four-wheel steering system are options.
On kerbweight, the difference between the standard Panamera and the Sport Turismo is just 40kg; on price, it’s less than £4000, with the wagon the marginally more expensive car of the two; and for 0-62mph acceleration, the two models are identical.
For reasons that may already be obvious, I don’t really buy Porsche’s principal argument for ownership of this car: practicality. But I freely accept that you need do no more than lay eyes on the Sport Turismo to instantly understand another very convincing one.
Is the Panamera Sport Turismo a true fast estate?
It’s true that the car’s wider rear passenger door openings, improvement in rear head room and extended side window section make it a roomier-feeling car for four adults, but it’s hardly any more of a true five-seater than the existing car is. The thin middle seat, wide transmission tunnel and reduced head room would make life distinctly uncomfortable for even an older youngster travelling in that seat over any distance.
The Sport Turismo’s boot is fairly large, but would miss the overall cargo capacity of something like the Mercedes-AMG E63 by a wider and more conspicuous margin than that by which it improves on the standard of the four-door Panamera.
It’s not as if Porsche has converted a car with a saloon-style, separate boot here, but rather one with an accessible hatchback-style boot. Porsche's admission is that, while the regular car’s boot will swallow four typically sized suitcases, the Sport Turismo’s may manage five – depending on how you load them. Hardly the stuff of utility-car legend.
The car’s bodystyle has, however, answered this tester’s biggest reservation about the Panamera; it has finally given Porsche's big passenger car the design identity and visual charisma that it has thus far lacked.
You could even call it the final jigsaw puzzle piece if you consider how much more dynamically accomplished the second-generation Panamera is than the first was, and how much more star quality is contained within its range of engines.
The simple fact that the Sport Turismo no longer seems so desperate to be mistaken for some curious, overgrown four-door 911, thanks to its elongated profile and windowline and smart, raked D-pillars. These make all the difference.
Unleashing the Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo
To drive, the Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo caters to the duality required of a sporting GT car superbly well.
When we road-tested the Panamera 4S Diesel, we praised an air suspension system capable of mixing a pleasing layer of ride comfort and isolation with unusually good close body control and an encouraging and consistent sense of connectedness with the surface of the road.
This car achieves precisely the same trick. Its relative superiority on handling precision and poise, roll control, steering weight and feedback and overall driver engagement over cars of the Audi RS6's ilk is quite clear; and yet it’s not produced without a sense of suppleness and quiet from the ride, or without assured all-wheel-drive traction or big-car stability.
Whether you want to stride quickly through the miles or lose yourself in the detail of every successive corner, the Panamera is singularly well placed to oblige you.
Porsche’s new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 (all-new for the Panamera, destined for service in the next Bentley Continental GT) is a rich and enticing motor, great to listen to and appealing in so many modes of use.
It doesn’t deliver this car a turn of pace quite as ridiculously urgent as the new E63 S, nor even quite as savage as Audi’s latest bigger RS cars, and given the Panamera Turbo’s price positioning, there’s a chance that this may be a slight sticking point for some.
But away from the inevitable trading of statistical might, few could find fault with the way the V8 performs on the road. It responds quickly and with prodigious torque, revs smoothly and keenly, sounds authentic and drives through an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox that has just the right instincts about when to kick down and how to balance shift speed with refinement in manual mode.
A Panamera or a Sport Turismo?
If you’re wavering between this and the regular Panamera, you should absolutely go for this. There’s a very strong chance you should even if your shopping list’s a whole lot more broadly encompassing, too.
The critical thing seems to me to avoid confusing the Panamera Sport Turismo for some kind of even-better-handling alternative to a performance estate from Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Alpina or anyone else. The Porsche’s practicality and broader usability, while improved, still isn’t quite of that order.
The Sport Turismo should better be thought of as the Panamera brought into bloom, optimised and made sense of as a big grand touring sports car in its own right.
Eight years after the original model's introduction, by allowing it to strike out in a new direction and to develop a more distinct positioning and character than ever it possessed before, Porsche might just have created the circumstances in which its problem child can finally thrive.