Porsche’s most niche model to date could be the quintessential Panamera
IT’S amazing how things can change in the space of 15 years. Prior to 2002, mobile phones were mainly used for actually phoning folks; Twitter was for the birds; and Porsche’s model line-up was firmly entrenched in flat-six, two-door sportscar territory.
Then the Cayenne arrived, sending the SUV brigade into raptures and Porsche’s purists glaring reproachfully over the rims of their Philippe Starck glasses and pondering just what the Stuttgart sportscar maker was thinking. Fast-forward to 2017 – a compact SUV, fastback sedan and a flat-four engine later – and the launch of a sports wagon should hardly elicit so much as a raised eyebrow from even the firm’s most ardent supporters. Except that in the case of the Sport Turismo, it really should, as there are elements at play here that could make it the pick of the Panamera litter.
Over eight years, the Panamera four-door has worn its elongated wheelbase and short, curved rump with varying degrees of success. And, when public response to the 2012 Panamera Sport Turismo concept proved favourable, it was inevitable that Porsche wasn’t going to mess with the aesthetic recipe that much. Everything aft of the ST’S B-pillar is completely new and the continuation of the roof to a more steeply raked tail with more upright glazing and a neat bar-shaped brakelamp array lends the Panamera’s profile the rearward visual weight to neatly balance out the car’s long nose.
Although the new body shape does afford rear passengers a spot more headroom, it sees the standard-fitment electric tailgate opening onto a luggage compartment that’s only 50 litres up on that of the fastback with the rear seats folded, and 20 litres with them in place.
As its new body shape carries a mere 40 kg weight penalty over the fastback, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any discernable difference in the handling stakes. Thanks to steering that’s still the most direct, weighty and feelsome in its segment, formidable allwheel grip and the impressive fluidity of its body control,
the ST has the sort of poise that allows it to smooth itself organically round the driver in a way most cars of this size cannot emulate.
Although the air-suspended ride is wonderfully supple, the ST’S body control is well balanced and it’s only when really throwing the car into sharp corners in an ham-fisted fashion that the ST’S two-tonne kerb weight announces itself with a touch of mid-corner lightness and the tiniest bit of tyre skip.
Even when the drivetrainmanagement system is in its mildest setting, the throttle response is crisp and the new eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission both smooth and quick firing. With 404 kw and 770 N.m underfoot in this Turbo model, it needs to be on point. Acceleration is both linear and brutal. There’s almost none of that turbocharged pause-and-hunker hesitance present when mashing the ST’S throttle; instead, it dips its tail a touch before hooking its heels into the tarmac and sucking the road under its nose at an eye-widening lick, all while the 4,0-litre biturbo V8’s guttural rasp distantly permeates the quiet of the ST’S cabin.
Performance hasn’t really been curtailed by the incremental increase in overall mass and is formidable enough to give more focused performance cars a run for their money, the Turbo ST hitting 100 km/h from standstill in 3,8 seconds (3,6 in sport+ guise) on the way to a 304 km/h top speed.
But it is in its role as a longlegged tourer where the ST really shines. The cabin is a wellinsulated and beautifully crafted place to be on a long haul, with the previous Panamera’s overly complex, button-studded centre console and ageing satnav making way for a cleaner look that incorporates glossblack ancillary control panels and a wonderfully expansive infotainment system. Porsche has labelled the ST’S seating a four-plus-one configuration and with good reason. Although the central rear seat has a threepoint safety belt, its narrow cushion and raised position atop the drive tunnel make it an occasional perch at best.
Although the ST doesn’t rewrite the Panamera book, only adding modest steps in terms of practicality, its visual balance is more resolved. Its execution also means that the impressive blend of savage power, involving dynamics and stately cruising ability that’s garnered the fastback many plaudits have passed on largely undiluted. It’s fair to view the ST as a further maturation of an already impressive car more than anything else, but when taking everything into account, the feeling that this car is what the Panamera should always have been does tend to tug at the psyche.
clockwise from above Smooth, uncluttered surfaces in the beautifully crafted cabin; revised rear brings only marginal gains in luggage capacity; rear passengers get a comprehensive climate-control system; individual rear seats can be specified....