Weissach’s first estate car fits a family, without the dreaded ‘performance SUV’ tag. Words Jack Phillips. Photography Will Williams/John Bradsahw.
This is a car that won’t sit well with all, not least Porsche purists. Not only is it a four-door – technically an estate, in fact – but its 4-litre twin-turbo V8 is boosted by an electric motor. Ye gads. Yet this is a car that will beat the Mercedes SLR McLaren featured last month to 60mph by a full two tenths, and will carry the kids and luggage in sheer comfort. And instead of the cynicism of owning an excessively big Chelsea Tractor, comes kudos.
That’s not to say this five-seat (ish) Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo 971 isn’t big – those last two words add 20 litres of boot space compared to the standard 405-litre Panamera.
But once in the comfortably snug driving position the car soon shrinks, and it’s only when you look left that you realise any correspondence with your passenger will cost you a stamp. Porsche and four-doors is not a modern-day matter, mind. Texan William Dick contracted Troutman-Barnes to convert a 911 for his wife as far back as 1967. Porsche reacted by commissioning a Pininfarina version and an in-house 915, only for the board to sign off the 928 instead. In the late 1980s Porsche worked up a four-door 989 concept that with hindsight really leaked the 996, while Giugiaro styled a stillborn 932 saloon at the same time. Both remained but a footnote until the 2009 Panamera 970.
A decade later came the hybrid, rolling in amid the fanfare of World (Endurance) domination, benefiting from those Le Mans wins and supposedly sharing technology. Plugging in overnight or charging on the go, just like Mark Webber & Co, provides 20 miles’ running in one stint. But it will also boost your getaways with instant power and take over in traffic with low speed electric motoring, until the quad pipes fire up and growl that the V8 has got it from here. Explain that its genesis is in the ’60s, it was revived in the ’80s and since refined on the racetrack, and you have your counterargument to the naysayers. Place them in the driver’s seat and it’s game set and match, for this is also the third most- powerful Porsche road car ever.
Despite knowing the numbers (a 3.4 secs 0-62mph time and 671bhp output), its performance is staggering. The digital speed counter barely even tries to keep up, and it’s the midrange leap that is perhaps the most startling, turning other cars to but a speck in the mirror. The PDK transmission quietly does its work unnoticed, still the best ’box around, while the various settings turn the Panamera from distance cruiser to flat-cornering sports car, and petrol consumption even tips 30mpg. It’s a remarkable thing, quicker than its cheaper rival Mercedes-AMG E63, yet it’s no 911 in terms of spectacle. But that’s the trade off. It’s time for acceptance.
Engine twin-turbo 3996cc V8 hybrid;
Max Power 671bhp @ 6000-6250rpm;
Max Torque 627lb ft @ 1400-5500rpm
Transmission eight-speed dual-clutch auto, RWD
0-62mph 3.4 secs
Top speed 192mph