Es­tate of the art

Fi­nally, a roomier car with panache as the Porsche Panam­era goes large in new ‘shoot­ing brake’ form

Esquire (UK) - - Style - by Will Hersey

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.

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