In one of his many quotes, Ferry Porsche once said “It has always been a principle of our company that function and beauty are inseparable”, and truth be told, 70-years on, any Porsche model arguably holds true in spirit and in execution.
Porsches are the iPhones of the car world. Think about it – yes there was Motorola, Nokia, and Blackberry before – but once the iPhone came along with its distinctive design, quality finish, and new-age functionality – phones became smartphones. Those who failed to adapt (or mimic), were almost destined to fail.
And despite the various newer versions that have since come along – the overall execution, the roundness of the body’s edges, the depth and clarity of the display, that default ringtone, and the characteristic ‘Home’ function at the lower edge of the screen (which has now evolved into a touch-based gesture) – don't essentially change but get better with time. Not forgetting the various hardware and software that make any iPhone a joy to use.
Yes, before Porsche, there was Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar, all with equally rich histories steeped in performance and ingenuity, but few have matched Porsche for its iconic Porsche 911. A transcendent ambassador that has come to define the company in its entirety for nearly seven decades, not to mention fostered an illustrious and much-envied motorsports heritage through the years.
Arguably, the defining trait of a 911 is still its precision, performance, and usability. Yes, Ferraris and Lamborghinis are more exotic, and in many cases better to look at, but the 911, or indeed any other Porsche model works and works very well. The more focussed they are – cue RS and GT3 models – the more beautiful and desirable they are. Again drawing back to that guiding principle of form that follows function, and function is first defined by a clear purpose.
Which raises some questions as to the clarity of purpose with the first-of-its-kind Panamera Sport Turismo, Porsche’s first station wagon which was launched locally earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the Sport Turismo, I’m utterly smitten, but for the most part, the purchase decision isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Not in the least at the price tags Porsche Malaysia stipulates for the three variants on offer:
- Panamera 4 Sport Turismo: RM990,000
- Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo: RM1,125,000
- Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo: RM1,940,000
Featured here is the base model Panamera 4 Sport Turismo which, after some tastefully selected options, will cost close to RM1.1 million. Now, even if we exclude the tech-laden 4 E-Hybrid and almighty Turbo model, we are still left with the conundrum of why would one sign a check for upwards of a million dollars for a station wagon that might at first seem like a jack of all trades but a master of none. Bear with me.
For starters, if you’re looking for the most practical station wagon, it’s hard to beat Volvo’s V90 T6 – it seats five in supreme comfort, is superbly finished, and with 913 litres of boot space (without folding the rear seats), it’s nearly double the 520 litres (just 20 litres more than a Panamera sedan) available in the Sport Turismo. Keep in mind that it comes fully loaded at half the price of the Porsche, and with almost as much power.
And if you're looking for outright thrills - your dollar is better stretched with blitzkrieg chariots like the Mercedes-AMG E63S or BMW M5. However, spiritually, the Panamera Sport Turismo only has one competitor: the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso T. An Italian thoroughbred powered by a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 that outputs 601 hp and 760 Nm. But the GTC4 Lusso T is a two-door "hatchback" and is considered a 2+2 seater, which starts at around RM1.8 million in Malaysia inclusive of taxes and before options, which makes the Sport Turismo look like a bit of a bargain.
So if it isn't the best or the most powerful station wagon out there for the money, why then am I still head-over-heels for the Sport Turismo?
Specifications of the Porsche Panamera 4 Sport Turismo:
- Price: RM990,000 after duties and before options
- Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, single-turbocharger, petrol
- Power: 330 HP @ 5,400 – 6,400 rpm
- Torque: 450 Nm @ 1,340rpm – 4,900 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, paddle shifters, AWD
- Performance: 5.5 seconds 0-100km/h (5.3 secs with Launch Control), top speed: 259 km/h
- Active safety: Nightview Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Change Assist
- Origin: Fully imported from Leipzig, Germany.
Much of the Sport Turismo’s appeal revolves around the fact that it’s never been done before. Save a few custom built examples (based of the Porsche 944) by German aftermarket tuner DP Motorsport and as far as we know, a few examples of the Porsche 928 Shooting Brake – there has never been a Porsche station wagon.
The rationale is sound; if you’re going to have a station wagon, why not have it built by one of the most illustrious sports car makers in the world.
Exterior and Interior
I could argue the Sport Turismo is how the Panamera should have always looked like. Save a slight difference in the front bumper design, the Sport Turismo is mostly the same as the sedan model right up to the A-Pillar. In terms of dimensions, the Sport Turismo is virtually identical to the sedan model, save a 5 mm (taller) difference in height, at 1,428 mm.
B-Pillar onwards, where the roofline tapers off in the sedan, the Sport Turismo’s roofline remains horizontal past the C-Pillar until it meets the roof spoiler section which houses an active spoiler. The rear windscreen elegantly arcs downwards from the roof section reminiscent of the Porsche 968 from the early 80s.
When viewed in its entirety, the rear section of the Sport Turismo reveals a rounded and superbly contoured architecture. The optional 21-inch Exclusive Design wheels fitted to this car go a long way to accentuating the side profile and stance of the Sport Turismo; we suspect the standard fit 19-inch wheels might be a wee bit small given the cars huge wheel arches.
On the inside, it’s more of a modern touch to the familiar Porsche fair; the cockpit is meticulously finished and oozes quality as always. From the door panels to the leather seats, centre armrest and steering wheel switchgear; every component delivers wonderful tactility and feels like it will last forever.
The ultra-modern touches come in the form of the digital displays, laid out amongst the five circular sections (with rev counter at dead centre) in iconic Porsche fashion. The centre console is – for lack of a better phrase – space age, with warmly lit capacitive switches contrasted against knurled metal toggles for the temperature controls. All-in-all, it delivers a sublime sense of tradition and modernity.
Perhaps the most novel feature about the Sport Turismo’s interior are the controls for the air-con vents; instead of physical levers, one has to augment the electrically powered vents via selecting points on the digital display – despite the fact that I doubt anyone would be able to accurately use them while driving, it think it’s a masterclass of showmanship and creativity on Porsche’s part.
The infotainment system is much the same, dubbed the Porsche Communication Management (PCM); the system is centred on a 12-inch touchscreen display which is controlled via voice commands, or a rotary dial to access the various features and control the 4-zone climate control. But, with an array of sub-menus, and customisable layouts, rest assured, it will take considerable time before one truly gets acquainted with all the PCM's functions.
In terms of interior accommodation, the front seats are superbly designed and offer ample lateral support without being uncomfortable around the torso area. The seating and pedal positions are spot-on in typical Porsche fashion and the steering wheel is a joy to grasp.
The rear seat space is closer in capacity to a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with two individual seats, split down the centre by the air-conditioning interface and centre tray. Crucially the elevated roofline of the Sport Turismo creates a much roomier feel at the back, with head and shoulder room in much healthier supply now. Also, both entry and egress at the back are much improved given the Sport Turimos’s larger rear door aperture.
Buyers can also opt for the 4+1 seating options which does away with the centre tray for a thin seat, but the centre passenger will still have to straddle the central interface which we suspect will be uncomfortable at best.
Within minutes of driving any Porsche, one is treated to a plethora of sensory feedback; the lightness of the steering effort and yet the precision in which it directs the front wheels, the tautness of the pedal response, the cohesive movement of the chassis, and the seamless but authoritative gearshifts that are announced by delicate jolts of the drivetrain.
The Sport Turismo is no different. The aforementioned sensory feedback creates a driving experience that crucially disguises the Sport Turismo’s circa 1.9-tonne weight; it feels extremely light and agile on its feet in the corners, and tracks straight and true well into three-figure speeds.
The massive brakes (390 mm up front and 365 mm at the rear) shed excess speed with ease and respond predictably every single time. Granted most of our drive time involved barrelling down highways; for the most part, the Sport Turismo would inspire confidence on any road almost instantly.
Like I’ve said before, with 330 hp delivered from its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, the Sport Turismo is quick, but it won’t set your pants on fire. The 5.5 second century sprint time certainly feels attainable, but don’t expect to lose sight of a Honda Civic Type R that might be tailing you, much less a BMW M5, which can be had for the same money as the Sport Turismo.
It goes with authority but for the most part, the Sport Turismo 4 is a mega-mile cruiser, and at that – it’s phenomenal.
The Porsche PDK double-clutch transmission in the Sport Turismo now gets 8-ratios, and with almost intuitive response and trigger-quick shift times, its second to none in my opinion. Gears 1 to 6 have closer ratios and the top speed (of 259 km/h) is actually reached in 6th gear. The long 7th and 8th gears are meant for long distance cruising, which in practice, allows the Sport Turismo to cruise at 170 km/h with the engine speeds of less than 3,000 rpm.
The precise gearshifts take place in milliseconds with no discernible interruption in the flow of power, once again proving that while it may be a station wagon, it’s still first and foremost, a sporting Porsche.
Suffice to say, buying a Porsche is and has always been a calculated consensus between heart and mind. As opposed to a Ferrari or Lamborghini, where you buy a vehicle for how it looks and how it makes you feel, and then decide to put up with its intricacies later. One buys a Porsche because of its duality of being both a weapon on the road and a vehicle that still complements other aspects of your lifestyle. So that purchase decision is made more tactical.
Which isn’t the case with the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, bridging the so-called gap between all the reasons to love it, and the essential function that it delivers is a touch more vague. It's perhaps, the first Porsche that you buy with the heart and not the mind. Simply because, despite its shortcomings – price, lack of room, and cargo carrying capacity – it’s quite possibly the most imaginative and stylish station wagon ever created.
Perhaps more than ever, Ferry Porsche’s statement rings true, function and beauty are truly inseparable.