If you’re a believer that nothing exceeds quite like excess, the latest super grand tourer from Zuffenhausen could well be all the Porsche you’ll ever want and need. Even its name, the 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, is fittingly over the top for a flagship model variant that boasts some dizzying claims and numbers on its form guide.
While Porsche’s marketeers might’ve missed a trick with the lacklustre ‘PPTSEHST’ acronym, its long-form badge (which we doubt would fit across the tailgate) explains away its core credentials. In translation, then, it’s a five-door hatch (Panamera) with bi-turbo V8 power (Turbo) in flagship output and trim (S) with electric drive boost (E-Hybrid) in an expanded, more spacious wagon body style (Sport Turismo).
Before getting too bogged in the big numbers puddle, it’s worth highlighting two key metrics at play that combine to make Panamera With The Lot’s credentials quite extraordinary, if not downright game changing. In a world where a pair of sixes for 0–100km/h acceleration and per-hundred combined fuel consumption claims are impressive, and two ‘fives’ are rave worthy, the King of Panameras strides over the outstanding fours and lands in rarefied eco-performance territory few vehicles of any segment and price can match.
The Be-All-Porsche’s great party trick is nailing 0–100km/h in a stunning 3.4sec while returning, if claims are to be believed, an incredible 3.0L/100km best. Such boasts for a featherweight, carbon-fibre chassis, squillion-buck sports car would be shouted from the rooftops. The same numbers applied to a full-fat, mega-luxurious, five-seater wagon weighing a portly 2.325 tonnes is, superlatives aside, quite an achievement to marvel.
Strapping Junior or Fido into the palatial, leather-dipped second-row seating to share the experience of lung-busting ‘mid-three’ acceleration is a very rare treat – even Audi’s mighty RS6 Avant war wagon, at 3.7sec, falls somewhat short. And of course, there’s some serious hardware producing other serious numbers doing the heavy lifting.
The 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 makes 404kW from 5750rpm and a robust 770Nm from a smidge under 2000rpm. Add the boost effect of the hybrid system’s 100kW electric motor plying 400 extra Newton metres between 1000–2300rpm, and you arrive at combined system outputs of a heady 500kW (5750–6000rpm) and herculean 850Nm (1400–5500rpm).
The narrow, snaking and often slippery back roads of southern Spain where we sampled Mega-Panamera aren’t ideal for warp-speed acceleration frivolity, even just 3.4 seconds worth, but a couple of sneaky and swift ‘Sport Plus’ getaways suggest how it launches is just as impressive as the sheer thrust generated. The silent torque boost from the e-motor is instantaneous, and the synchronisation between electric and combustion drive (via an electromechanical coupling) is utterly seamless.
Better yet, all of the parallel hybrid drive goes through the eight-speed automatic transmission, so regardless of whether the system is adopting electric or combustion power exclusively, or in tandem as it does under full-noise progress, the accompanying upshifts provide natural and familiar sensations of acceleration and road speed. In fact, such is the sonic dominance of the bi-turbo V8 – rich if a little muted for our tastes – that you’d almost swear motivation was purely delivered by one engine much larger in capacity than just four litres.
If there’s one downside, though, it really doesn’t feel as quick as claimed. Nigh on brutal? Sure. Take your breath away? Not quite.
Its all electric, more environmentally feelgood party trick is less dramatic if no less impressive. Selecting ‘E-Power’ – the sole electric-only mode of four ‘regular’ driving modes – provides up to 49 emissions-free kilometres of driving if you’ve plugged its 14kWh lithium-ion battery pack into 230V mains power for the requisite six-hour recharge. So far, so conventional. But it’s the driving flexibility of this mode that’s a real winner.
Just 400Nm of E-Power shouldn’t allow two-plus tonnes of wagon to dispatch slow-moving traffic with reasonable ease, to accelerate up mountain passes without struggle, to outrun any posted speed limit through to 140km/h, and not need the bi-turbo V8 to chime in over the balance of normal driving and grand touring. Thus set, it’s not quick – 0–60km/h in 6.1sec – but sedately driven the smooth, quiet and seamless electric-only drive mode is rarely caught short-changed.
With a mere 150km loop of mostly mountainous corner carving in which to try every drive-mode combination, little of the Ultimate Panamera experience was typically pedestrian or everyday. The worst consumption we saw was around 14L/100km, the best zero. Somewhere in between that golden 3L/100km average consumption claim is, we reckon, fairly realistic if very much conditional.
There's rear-wheel steering, Sport Chrono-fettled active suspension damping and tricky ‘Plus’-spec torque vectoring for its all-paw traction, active electromechanical anti-roll smarts, and all governed by so-called ‘4D Chassis Control’ synchronicity. Linking wagon to tarmac are massive 275mm front and 325mm rear 21-inch tyres with rims wrapping 10- and four-piston carbon-ceramic brakes. Clearly big measures have gone into imbuing the Boss Panamera with dynamic talent.
And yet, while you’d hardly call these systems’ battle with portly kerb weight inertia a defeat, it’s certainly a hard battle constantly fought. From behind the wheel, the wagon’s huge dimensions and heft govern the driving experience. You can hustle it to some vigorous degree when road – or track – conditions permit, but this much Porsche doesn’t like to be manhandled. Actually, correction, it doesn’t respond with sports car-like agility regardless of how animated the driver’s inputs.
It’s no four-door 911. ‘Sports’ is a bow long drawn. Super grand tourer with sledgehammer performance and impressive eco-sensibility perhaps, yes, but its happiest place is the autobahn – 0–200km/h in under 12 seconds – and clocking up big trips with serious seat time. With a head of steam on the Spanish motorways, it sits absolutely rock solid.
Standard is the Cayenne-style adaptive roof spoiler that, depending on mode and conditions, can add up to 50 kilograms of rear downforce through to the wagon’s lofty 310km/h v-max. While those big wheels do add a slight abruptness to ride quality across hard edges, for the broader cruising experience the comfort, compliance and cosseting are exemplary at any road speed.
Inside it’s the now familiar ‘new Porsche’ – fewer buttons, large expanses of smartphone-like glass interface, with neat Germanic austerity in some areas (dash design, material and stitching) and touches of opulence elsewhere (the fabulously comfy 14-way electric leather seats).
The five-roundel instrumentation design blends traditional central-tacho classicisms with new-school displays, mostly containing hybrid drive/mode information. The 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system is also miles better, friendlier and faster than the ageing system Porsche persists with in some of its sports cars.
It’s at its five star, first-class best as a four-seater, with the gloriously dominant centre console, complete with individual passenger controls, that bisect the roomy cabin space through the two rows. This is rear adult luxury accommodation at its finest. You can opt, though, for a ‘four plus one’ configuration, with a sort of backup middle rear position that’s not terribly comfortable, complete with some rear leg room thanks to much smaller console with simpler controls.
Not only does the Sport Turismo wagon format look better than the liftback, there’s an extra 20-litre benefit in luggage space (425 litres) rear seats up, a 50-litre advantage (1295L) with the 40:20:40 rear split-fold seating stowed. No, it’s not as commodious as a proper SUV – that’s why Cayenne exists – though there are plenty of useable everyday mod cons: a low load height, an electric tailgate with foot gesture operation (if need be), a 230V outlet, floor rails with four lashing points and a partition net.
Porsche is also keeping up with the German Joneses with conveniences, be it (Apple only) smartphone/smartwatch remote control of various functions via Porsche Connect apps, camera-based speed sign recognition, the clever InnoDrive function in the adaptive cruise control (which optimises powertrain calibration for the road ahead, three kilometres in advance) and ‘traffic jam assist’ for autonomous around town driving up to 60km/h.
Space, practicality, luxury, efficiency and sheer bloody pace, the Want For Little Porsche comes at a handsome price. At $466,400 before on-roads (launches May 2018), yes, you’re buying into the exclusivity of a technical marvel, but equally you’ll want to utilise the breadth of its various talents.
Otherwise, you could opt out of the stonking lunge-for-the-horizon prowess, cop a slight hit in the bells and whistles department, and instead opt for the equally multifaceted if slower V6-engined Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. At a mere $255,800 for a fine all-purpose daily, the $210K you save could just about also squeeze a properly sporting base 911 Carrera – parking permitting – as an added weekend indulgence.