Porsche Panam­era Sport Turismo

Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents -

Trans­port­ing $14 mil­lion worth of bul­lion through Lon­don. In Porsches. An­gus Macken­zie

A low, leaden sky shrouds dis­tant of­fice blocks, and win­try rain threat­ens to es­ca­late into snow. We’re stand­ing out­side a non­de­script build­ing in a non­de­script in­dus­trial park in East Lon­don, look­ing at three Porsche Panam­era Sport Turis­mos parked in a small com­pound. There’s mil­i­tary-spec fenc­ing all around, and strate­gi­cally placed cam­eras stare bale­fully back at us. Po­lice mo­tor­cy­cle out­rid­ers are parked in for­ma­tion at the end of the street.

The se­cu­rity here is real—and for good rea­son. We are all about to trans­port $14 mil­lion worth of gold bars 12 miles through the streets of cen­tral Lon­don. In th­ese Porsches.

Lon­don bul­lion mer­chant Baird & Co. buys and sells gold, along with plat­inum, pal­la­dium, rhodium, sil­ver, and other pre­cious met­als. It re­fines gold, too, turn­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of the pre­cious metal into 99.99 per­cent pure “mar­ket bars.” Mar­ket bars are a stan­dard size that’s used for se­ri­ous gold traders and in­vestors. About 10 inches long, 3 inches wide, and an inch and a half deep, each glit­ter­ing brick weighs just over 27.5 pounds and is worth about $580,000. There are eight of them packed neatly in two sealed wooden crates in each Sport Turismo.

That’s $4.6 mil­lion worth of junk in each Porsche’s trunk.

OK, trans­port­ing 24 gold mar­ket bars across Lon­don in a con­voy of shiny new Panam­era Sport Turis­mos is a bit of a stunt: Baird & Co. has just opened a new vault in Hat­ton Gar­den—the heart of Lon­don’s gold and di­a­mond trade since the 1800s—and we’re mak­ing the first bul­lion de­liv­ery to it from the com­pany’s gold re­fin­ery. But Sgt. Mark Blake, the Lon­don Metropoli­tan Po­lice of­fi­cer head­ing the mo­tor­cy­cle out­rider squad, is deadly se­ri­ous dur­ing the brief­ing: “Keep it tight,” he says of con­voy dis­ci­pline. “And if we go, you all go.”

We’re also ad­vised to not at­tempt to de­fend the cargo in the event of an at­tack. “That’s what in­surance is for,” con­voy

or­ga­nizer Ben Sa­muel­son says cheer­ily, to ner­vous laughs among the driv­ers. Blake doesn’t smile.

I’m shar­ing one of the Porsches with Head 2 Head and Ig­ni­tion co-host Jethro Bov­ing­don, who’s along for the ride on be­half of our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, Au­to­mo­bile. Hav­ing at­tended the launch of the Panam­era Turbo S E-hy­brid Sport Turismo in Spain last year, I’ve al­ready had plenty of miles in Porsche’s up­scale wagon-type thingy. Jethro has yet to drive one, how­ever, so I of­fer him the wheel. I’ll ride shot­gun, ra­dio in hand, watch­ing for bad guys.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s not true: Sit­ting be­hind me is a po­lite man from the Brinks ar­mored car com­pany who we’ll just call ... the man from Brinks. He’ll be watch­ing for bad guys. I don’t feel the need to ask

the man from Brinks if he’s car­ry­ing a gun, though, be­cause I fig­ure we’re hid­ing in plain sight. Bad guys bent on a bul­lion heist would be look­ing for a con­voy of lum­ber­ing ar­mored cars, not a trio of Porsches. Wouldn’t they?

It’s a Sun­day morn­ing, so traf­fic is light by Lon­don stan­dards. We head west, the broad reach of the River Thames to our left as we dash through Lon­don’s Dock­lands dis­trict. Cars dive-bomb­ing you through traf­fic cir­cles? Mo­tor­cy­cles sneak­ing up the blind side? Late brak­ing to avoid run­ning a red light? Such things don’t ex­ist in­side the con­voy cor­don, as the po­lice out­rid­ers scoot around us, blue lights flash­ing, to block junc­tions, shoo off interlopers, and pre­vent choke points, all to keep the con­voy rolling. This is how heads of state com­mute. You could get used to it.

A city 2,000 years in the mak­ing, Lon­don is a mass of con­trasts and con­tra­dic­tions, con­stantly rein­vent­ing it­self. We cross the Thames at Tower Bridge. The Tower of Lon­don marks the east­ern edge of what was Ro­man-ruled Lon­don more than a mil­len­nium ago. Beyond it re­side the stacks of glit­ter­ing steel and glass 21st cen­tury sky­scrapers. We head west along the south bank of the river, work­ing our way through a maze of what were once some of Lon­don’s dirt­i­est, most danger­ous streets but are now packed with trendy bars and restau­rants and mar­kets.

Our orig­i­nal plan was to cross back to the north side of the Thames at Black­fri­ars Bridge to bring us quickly and eas­ily to Hat­ton Gar­den and Baird & Co.’s new vault. But Tom Cruise is us­ing it. Well, the peo­ple film­ing Cruise’s lat­est Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble movie are us­ing it. Im­pro­vi­sa­tion is key in the se­cu­rity busi­ness, so we head far­ther west to cross Water­loo Bridge be­fore cut­ting back east past the loom­ing pres­ence of St. Paul’s Cathe­dral and jink­ing north.

We roll down Hat­ton Gar­den, past dozens of glit­ter­ing jew­elry shops and through a se­cu­rity cor­don be­fore stop­ping

Bad guys bent on a bul­lion heist wouldn’t be look­ing for a trio of Porsche Panam­eras. Would they?

right out­side Baird & Co.’s front door. (What, no se­cret pas­sage?) Shrug­ging off the anti-cli­max, Jethro pops the hatch, and our pre­cious cargo is quickly un­loaded and taken in­side. Job done.

We al­ready knew the lav­ishly equipped, beau­ti­fully fin­ished Panam­era Sport Turismo is fast and com­fort­able. Now we can tell you, with ab­so­lute author­ity, that the air sus­pen­sion ef­fort­lessly copes with a 220-pound load in the trunk. And it only took a small for­tune to find out. n

Words An­gus Macken­zie


GOLDEN GRINS An­gus Macken­zie and Mo­tor Trend On­de­mand host Jethro Bov­ing­don heft more than a mil­lion bucks worth of pre­cious metal be­tween them. Out of shot: watch­ful se­cu­rity guards en­sur­ing they don’t make a dash for the door.

CON­VOY Who needs ar­mored cars for a bul­lion run when you can have Porsche Panam­eras? And a po­lice es­cort.

STEALTH Just three Porsche Panam­eras cross­ing Lon­don’s Tower Bridge with $14 mil­lion.

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