Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo: the future of hybrid design?
What price innovation? If we were tasked with drawing up a dream specification for a contemporary car, chances are that the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo would come very close to ticking every box on a very long wishlist. Few motor cars can claim to be quite a complex as this mighty new machine from the legendary Stuttgart manufacturer, a company founded around the celebration and deployment of rigorous engineering. The Sport Turismo is the big booted version of Porsche’s four-door saloon, a model that’s always teetered on the brink of irrelevance, stranded as it is between the company’s famous line-up of two-door sports cars, the 911, Cayman and Boxster, and the profitable and big-selling Macan and Cayenne SUVs. The Panamera is the best of both worlds, offering space and pace, albeit without the grace of the former or the genuine utility of the latter.
Instead, the company has chosen the model to be its technological tour-de-force, the platform on which it debuts the newest drivetrain and in-car technology. The Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo is the summit of the company’s current achievement, mating a hugely sophisticated plug-in hybrid drivetrain with its most ferocious twin turbo-charged V8. The combination required hugely complex engineering but the end result is seamlessly satisfying. With space for five adults and their luggage – thanks to the extended Sport Turismo bodyshape, almost like a cut-down estate car – the 5m-long Panamera will hit 62mph in just 3.4 seconds and best 190mph on the autobahn. It will also waft along in blissful silence for 22 miles, using pure electric power alone, with batteries that can be topped up at a charge point or simply by using power siphoned off its regenerative braking system.
If the internal combustion engine is going to survive as an object of intrinsic desire, then a car like this is surely the purest indication of the future. The Panamera’s EV mode lets it slip unaccosted into urban centres and loiter guilt-free in traffic. The space on offer suggests a multiplicity of uses, while the interior cabin quality, switchgear and infotainment system are amongst the very best you can buy. This is a car to love for its all-round ability, not its devastating good looks (which are very much a matter of taste), nor its lithe dynamics (it handles beautifully for such a big car, but is unsurprisingly no match for a 911 or Cayman).
The Panamera E-Hybrid is pitched at pioneering Silicon Valley types, people for whom a Tesla is too much of a cliché but who still want to eschew the old world symbolism of a conventional car without having to give up the fabled Porsche badge. But the cutting edge moves fast. The forthcoming Mission E – freshly christened the Porsche Taycan in advance of sales starting in 2019 – will surely wrest the lion’s share of sporting saloon sales away from its more conventional sibling. The Taycan is at the vanguard of the change sweeping through the industry, a pure electric machine backed up with a new network of fast-charging stations. When it arrives, there’s every chance that the Panamera will be allowed to slip quietly into oblivion, mission accomplished. For now, it offers a window into the future without completely cutting links with the past. §