by Adam Lynton
Despite dwindling station wagon sales in favor of the growing SUV segment, lovers of performance wagons in the last few years have been treated by a number of luxury car manufacturers. While BMW might not offer hot M wagons, Alpina does, and in the case of Mercedes-AMG, the E63 Wagon is simply epic. That's before we get to the kings of performance wagonry, Audi and its RS6. Porsche hasn't left its fans unaccounted for, either, and the Panamera Sport Turismo has gleefully come along to provide incredible speed, immersive luxury, and style that's arguably superior to the standard Panamera. In base form, the Panamera 4 and 4S make use of turbocharged six-cylinder engines, meanwhile, the new-for-2019 GTS takes things to the eight-cylinder realm with 453 horsepower on tap. While on paper, the Sport Turismo isn't quite as potent as the AMG and Audi Sport offerings, it's important to remember that Porsches don't live on paper, they live in the real world. Out there, the Panamera Sport Turismo is ready for the fight.
A new model joins the non-Turbo Panamera Sport Turismo line-up for 2019, with the addition of the 453 hp V8-powered GTS model introducing more focus and performance to the lower end of the spectrum. Small, but meaningful is the best way to describe the rest of the updates made for the 2019 model year, though. A few options have been added to the order list, including a head-up display and Power Steering Plus (speed-sensitive steering). Otherwise, the changes are limited to package adjustments, like the Brushed Aluminum Interior package offering a new finish - anodized black - and the interior finish packages now not including the center console cover.
See trim levels and configurations:
Much of the regular Panamera's design remains at play on the Sport Turismo, with one glaring difference. Instead of the hunchback body, the Sport Turismo packs a sleek wagon design that we find vastly more appealing. 19-inch wheels are standard on the 4 and 4S derivatives, while the GTS gets standard satin black 20-inch designs. The GTS is further differentiated by the standard Sport Design package, which adds a black front lip spoiler beneath the standard LED headlights, black sport design side skirts, black window trimming with GTS embellishments, a black Sport Design rear fascia with quad tailpipes, shared with the 4S, while the 4 gets simple twin-trapezoidal exhaust tips.
The Panamera Sport Turismo is a behemoth of a luxury wagon, tipping the scales at 4,348 lbs in standard 4 guise while the GTS has a curb weight of 4,606 lbs by virtue of the larger V8 beneath the hood. It's also marginally larger than the base models, measuring in at 198.9 inches long (198.8 on the 4), but stands lower at 56 inches dead - the 4 stands 56.2 inches tall. All three trims share the same 116.1-inch wheelbase, however, and measure 85.2 inches from wing mirror to wing mirror.
Three engines make up the non-Turbo Panamera Sport Turismo lineup, with the base Panamera 4 housing a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 developing 330 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The 4S drops this motor in favor of a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, boosting power outputs to 440 hp and 405 lb-ft in the process, while the GTS gains two cylinders and more than a liter of extra capacity - a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 plating up 453 hp and 457 lb-ft. All three make use of Porsche's second-generation eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission, which deals the power to all four corners and manages shifts almost telepathically - negating the need for the standard paddle shifters almost entirely. Lightning-quick shifts and all-wheel grip ensure the Sport Turismo is devastating off the line, reaching 60 mph in 5.2 seconds as a 4, 4.2 seconds as a 4S, and 3.9 seconds as a GTS - half-a-second slower than a Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Wagon. The 4 and 4S can shave a further two-tenths off their times with the optional Sport Chrono Package - the GTS already has this as standard.
Porsche designs every car they build as a sports car first and foremost, everything else comes second. So it's a pity then that the Panamera's steering is as numb as it is. It's still sharp, direct, and quick to respond, but there's just not much feedback present - and the newly available speed-sensitive steering exacerbates this somewhat. However, the rest of the package is hugely impressive. The standard air suspension is supple, but not floaty, and sticky summer tires mean the grip is immense, while there's just enough roll to communicate grip, but not enough to unsettle the ride. NVH levels are some of the best in the business, and the Panamera never feels harsh or crashy. But it's a big, heavy wagon, and it feels its weight around corners, more so than an E 63 wagon despite being 100 lbs lighter. But it's still nimble, particularly with rear-wheel steering equipped, and while it doesn't boast 911 levels of engagement, it'll still outhandle many a more powerful sports car, all in sublime comfort.
If you're looking for an efficient Panamera Sport Turismo, direct yourself to the e-Hybrid models: the standard models are far from being eco-warriors. The Panamera 4 Sport Turismo is the most efficient of the 'normal' models, with EPA estimates of 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined - not entirely terrible - while the 4S drops to 18/24/20 mpg on the same cycles. The V8-powered GTS is the worst of the lot, though, with estimates of 15/22/18 mpg. Further insult to injury is the Panamera's thirsty requirement for premium unleaded gasoline, 23.7 gallons of which will grant you more or less 521 miles range on a full tank in mixed driving conditions, should you opt for the 4.
Porsche describes the Panamera Sport Turismo's seating capacity as 4+1 because the rear middle seat is truthfully not suitable for adults. But those four that are fully accommodated get generous head and legroom for all but rear-seat passengers taller than six feet. The seats are comfortable and supportive without being overbearing, and the immense range of upholstery choices and options ranging from heating and ventilation to massage-function seats mean you'll likely enjoy every trip in a Panamera Sport Turismo as if it was the first - even if the awkward infotainment system makes you question Porsche's ergonomic choices.
Why buy a wagon? Because it gives you the storage capacity of an SUV and the performance dynamics of a sedan - simple. But how true is that notion for the Panamera Sport Turismo? Well, it's not far off. Despite the cargo hold having a relatively low roof height, the Panamera Sport Turismo still boasts 18.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, swelling to 49 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. A Cayenne Coupe, on the other hand, boasts more in both aspects - 22 and 54.3 cubic feet respectively. Still, the Sport Turismo can comfortably accommodate seven carry-on suitcases with space to spare behind the rear perches. Internal storage is far less practical, however, with awkwardly small door pockets, limited storage space in the center console, four cupholders throughout, and rubberized storage compartments for the rear passengers.
Unfortunately, the base price is never a case of 'what you see is what you get' with Porsche, as they traditionally don't offer much in the way of features. Sure, you get automatic LED headlights, keyless access, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power-adjustable seats, and a rearview camera, but for nearly $100,000 the Panamera is still missing standard fitment of heated seats, ventilated seats, comfort access, and even adaptive cruise control. Further available options allow you to equip the Panamera with four-zone climate control, ambient lighting, heated rear seats, up to 18-way adjustment for the front seats, and even massage functionality. You can also get a bevy of driver assists like lane-keep assist, front and rear park sensors, surround-view cameras, and even night-vision.
A 12.3-inch infotainment system looks impressive as the standard interface in the Panamera Sport Turismo, but the user interface is frankly appalling. It's unintuitive, sluggish, the menus are overcomplicated, and it's fraught with ergonomic problems. There's decent standard functionality, which, as expected, includes Apple CarPlay, AM/FM radio, navigation, a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, USB charging ports, and the option to add rear-seat entertainment screens. There is also a six-CD/DVD changer, and two available upgrades from the standard 10-speaker sound system: either a 14-speaker Bose system delivering 710 watts, or a 21-speaker Burmester premium audio system with 1,455 watts of auditory force.
Good news! There have been no recalls for the 2019 Panamera Sport Turismo, but this comes on the back of six of them for the 2018 model year, with problems ranging from failure to alert the driver of brake pad wear to an intermittent loss of power steering. Still, Porsche provides warranty coverage with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, and you can purchase extended warranties at a dealership level.
Few Porsches are ever crash-tested by the NHTSA or IIHS, but that doesn't leave any doubt that the Panamera Sport Turismo is safe in the event of an accident. Eight airbags, including dual front knee airbags, are standard, but rear-seat side airbags are optionally available. High-performance brakes and advanced stability control systems also help, as do available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking systems. Search the options list, and you can add night vision, blind-spot monitoring, surround-view cameras, and adaptive cruise control to the Panamera, the latter available with traffic sign recognition. In a car with a base price of nearly $100,000, many of these should be standard.
The Panamera Sport Turismo isn't a perfect product. Despite its station wagon styling, it's the least practical of all its luxury rival wagons, and it also has the fewest safety features, while carrying a heavy price premium. As a Porsche, it lacks the communicative steering we've come to know and love, and the base V6 engine, well, it could do with a little more punch. But the suspension is sublime, the levels of refinement inside are top-class, and the GTS delivers immense performance without compromising on the high points of a wonderfully appointed interior and the ride quality is second to none. That's the one area no rival will ever beat the Panamera Sport Turismo, but at this level, in other areas, it's not so infallible. Both the Audi RS6 and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Wagon provide a higher feature count, more practicality, more performance, and more tech for less money. With the money you'll save, you can afford an extra visit to the physio from the harsher ride presented by either of these. Still, you won't be upset if you opt for the Porsche over either one.
Don't expect budget prices for anything bearing the Stuttgart coat of arms, not least of all the brand's status-wagon that is the Panamera Sport Turismo. Even the entry-level Panamera 4 Sport Turismo carries a hefty MSRP of $97,100 excluding a $1,250 destination charge and any options that could quite quickly drive the price sky-high. The 4S breaks the six-figure barrier at $110,200, while the GTS pushes things further with a starting MSRP of $134,500.
If you've made the decision to purchase a Panamera Sport Turismo, you value performance, luxury, and style. Get the GTS. It combines these three values in one succinct package that represents peak value for money from the Sport Turismo range, giving you performance near that of the Turbo-badged models, while also equipping tech like rear-wheel steering, the Sport Chrono Package, and sumptuous 18-way power-adjustable sports seats. From there it's all about how you'd spec yours from a design and comfort perspective, and our only real recommendations would be to go for the parking sensors, surround-view cameras, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist, because the last thing you want to do is damage your $135k sport-wagon because you forgot to check your blind-spot or didn't see the curb while parking.
This may be an unfair comparison, as the Audi RS6 Avant hasn't even touched down on local soil yet, but sibling rivalry is a compelling enough reason to compare the two German uber-wagons. Both share MQB Evo underpinnings, and in the case of the Panamera GTS Sport Turismo, both share a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, but the Audi generates nearly 140 hp more than the Porsche and almost as much more torque, too. The net result is a 0-60 mph time nearly half a second quicker than the Panamera GTS, but it also comes at the expense of a harsher ride due to a more sporting suspension setup. The RS6 Avant is more practical, though, with 20 cubic feet behind its rear seats compared to the Porsche's 18.3. Audi's MMI infotainment system is easier to understand, and you get more features as standard, all at a discount price of $100,000. The Porsche may have brand cachet and ride comfort on its side, but the RS6 is the better buy.
Is it really worth springing the extra $7,000 or so more to get a station wagon body over the standard Panamera's hunchback design? To spare everybody else the horror of watching on from the sidewalk, it's worth every penny, but what else does it really get you? Both cars can be had in the same trims, with identical power, performance, and specification. But the Sport Turismo gives you 18.3 cubic feet of default storage while the 'sedan' version only has 17.6 cubic feet. That's a surprisingly small discrepancy, all things considered. The standard Panamera has an ace up its sleeve, though, as you can purchase it as a RWD-only base version, which is lighter and has better driving dynamics, as well as a price nearly $11,000 cheaper. The enthusiast in us says the Sport Turismo is better, but the accountant says don't waste your money.
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