Estate of the art
Finally, a roomier car with panache as the Porsche Panamera goes large in new ‘shooting brake’ form
Why is it that good-looking estate cars are so hard to find? The obvious answer is that traditionally they seem to have been designed on the basic principle that bolting on a blocky chunk of metal to a saloon car will do the job, resulting in an aesthetic style not dissimilar to the government buildings of post-war Bulgaria.
The other reason, of course, is what such cars have come to represent ie, compromise, practicality, the end of youth, death and trips to the dump. In descending order. Combine the two and you have one major image problem. Just to rub it in, now the
SUV has come on to its patch, rubbed its face in the mud and nicked its lunch money.
Yes, attempts have been made in recent years to sex up the estate car dossier. The Audi RS 6 added muscle but, for all its power and aggression and those knowing nods it might elicit from middle-aged men, to the rest of humanity it still looked, well, like another family estate.
But does it have to be this way? Evidence that estate cars can indeed be beautiful exists in the strange little sub-genre known as the “shooting brake” — which, unsurprisingly, originated as a car for shooting parties — with two side doors like a coupé but a rear estate boot for easy access to dogs, guns, dead birds, tartan rugs and chocolate digestives.
Niche? Certainly. Which is why its (relative) heyday was pre-WWII and its best examples are bespoke novelty builds like the stunning Ferrari 365 GTB 4 by Panther Westwinds (see right). As ridiculous as these cars might appear on the face of it, their design chutzpah at least disputes the idea that estate cars have to be boring. Back in the real world, the term shooting brake has now been loosened to mean pretty much any attempt to design a sporty, curvy and, yes, good-looking estate car.
This year, the banana-shaped Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake has gamely confronted the problem rear-on with its exaggerated sweeping roof, while the new Jaguar XF SportBrake also attempts to cleverly disguise itself as a coupé with a tapered roofline.
This autumn, the stakes are raised again with the introduction of the Panamera Sport Turismo, Porsche’s first ever attempt at an estate car.
Due to an additional central seat, higher roofline and marginally improved luggage space over the conventional Panamera, it has hints of the retro style of the long and lean Reliant Scimitar estate from the Seventies (see right). Just to be clear, that’s definitely a compliment.
The Panamera saloon version is a car that was originally criticised for its odd backside but now, in shooting brake guise, it has never looked better. It has somehow achieved the estate car gold standard — it looks as if it was born to be this way and not just a designer’s reluctant attempt at converting a saloon.
There’s even a spoiler, the first for an estate, according to Porsche. It may only deploy at 106mph but I’ll repeat — this is an estate car with a spoiler. And that can only be a great thing for the estate car’s future PR strategy.
As with the existing saloon version, being in the Sport Turismo is a pretty serene experience. The interior is right up there with the best cabins around and there’s no compromise on how it drives — this car is as good at cruising quietly and comfortably as it is at cornering like a sports saloon when driven on the limit. The 542bhp Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is the range-topper and obviously grabs the headline stats, including an astonishing 0–100mph in
8.2 seconds. Handy when the dump’s about to close.
The 330bhp Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, E-Hybrid, Panamera 4S and Panamera 4S Diesel make up the full line-up.
OK, so it’s not going to be quite “estatey” enough for a house move, canoeing holiday or bringing a new washing machine home from Currys, but at the very least this car delivers hope, real hope, for those of us who want an estate car without feeling like we’ve already turned into our dads. porsche.com