The 2019 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo is a dream car in more ways than you might think. Of course it’s expensive; something many of us can only fantasize about buying. But it’s also the literal stuff of dreams. Something that shouldn’t exist in real life. Something that feels impossible.
This is, after all, a 550 horsepower, twin-turbo V8 wagon, from Porsche, based on a popular concept that everyone demanded to see production, and for sale here in North America. And, again, it’s from Porsche.
I don’t know how this thing is even real. But after a week indulging in its crushing acceleration and sheer weirdness, I’m glad it is, even if it’s not always the best at being an actual wagon.
(Full Disclosure: Porsche knows we at Jalopnik appreciate a good wagon or three, so it dropped one off at our New York office for a week with a full tank of gas.)
The second-generation Porsche Panamera sedan (and the first one to look good, honestly) launched in 2016. And for the first time ever for 2018, it comes with a longroof variant called the Sport Turismo. Porsche made a wagon concept for the old Panamera back in 2012, but it never went to production—and even if it had, it’s entirely plausible it would have been denied to North America like so many other fast European wagons. It’s the kind of car we’ve spent years clamoring for.
Now it’s real, and here, probably to take advantage of the inadvertent modern wagon boom that’s come with the skyrocketing popularity of crossovers. If Americans will buy anything with a hatch, why not this?
I’ve been thinking about this, and I believe the Panamera Sport Turismo may be the low-key coolest Porsche you can buy right now. Porsche generally doesn’t make bad cars these days, but it also doesn’t really make weird cars anymore. The 911 is unimpeachable. The Panamera sedan is pretty established at this point. The 718 Boxster and Cayman are great, if perpetually underrated, especially since they went four-cylinder. The Macan and Cayenne look good and perform well—and fulfill their money-printing purpose.
But the Sport Turismo is the oddball. In a family of overachievers, it’s the kid that’s the most interesting to hang out with, the one that can tell you all about good indie hip-hop and manga and Netflix documentaries about murder cults that you should be watching.
But like the rest of the fam, it’s a hell of an athlete and crazy smart to boot.
Let’s start with what you get if you go Sport Turismo. Believe it or not the body’s just as long and as wide as the Panamera sedan, but with a somewhat taller and more pronounced roofline to accommodate a larger hatchback area. All the sheetmetal beyond the B-pillar is new, and it has five seats as opposed to the Panamera sedan’s four.
So yeah, it’s not that different from the sedan, which is both good and bad. And it rides on the same platform as many of the larger Volkswagen Group cars, from the Audi A8 to the Bentley Continental GT.
The car looks really sharp, in my estimation. The last Panamera was rightly dinged for its bulbous proportions, but the new car bears a much sleeker, cleaner design, one that wears the Porsche family front end rather well. I like the sedan but I also think its shape feels more natural as a wagon, so of the two this is the better-looking one.
My tester was a Turbo, which is silly because all Porsches have turbos these days, but hey, marketing. It gets you a 4.0-liter “hot V” twin-turbo V8 beast of an engine pumping out 550 HP and 567 lb-ft of torque, the latter at just 1,960 RPM.
It’s one of this car’s best features, something that legitimately feels like a supercar motor stuffed into a luxury wagon body. Porsche’s superb eight-speed PDK is your sole gearbox option; the manual Panamera died with the first-generation car.
We’ll discuss this in depth later, but like all Porsches, it’s not cheap. The base Panamera 4 Sport Turismo with a single turbo V6 starts at $96,200 and goes all the way up to $194,000 for the most loaded Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive.
See, the car I had isn’t even the most powerful Panamera you can buy. That would be the Turbo S E-Hybrid, due out this spring, which adds 918-style hybrid tech to the V8 to make a somewhat ungodly 680 HP. Having been enthralled by the turbo/hybrid combo on the new Acura NSX, I’m curious to try it, though I can’t realistically imagine you’d need much more than the Turbo’s 550 HP.
Being that this is a Porsche and all, let’s get right down to how it is to drive hard. And the answer is very well.
There is a big difference between what I call Generic Luxury Sedan Fast—you know, all flat turbo torque, no drama, no excitement—and what the Panamera Turbo can do, which is deliver acceleration that is downright violent at times.
There were a few instances where, upon locating a clear on-ramp or open section of road, I found myself just uttering an incomprehensible string of curse words after giving it a hard gas. Zero to 60 mph happens in about three seconds, according to most instrumented tests I checked, and I can promise you it feels that fast. It’s enough to put this wagon in the supercar acceleration range.
While it can send 100 percent of torque to the front or rear axle as needed, the all-wheel drive is rear-biased, and here it feels under control—as long as you’re paying attention. It is not to be underestimated. It sounds good, too. Under hard acceleration you get a thrumming V8 baritone in the cabin and a crackling, popping exhaust note, which is louder in the car’s sport modes.
The earnest sensation of speed was a nice surprise and so was the handling. The Panamera is a big, long car, about three inches longer and three inches wider than the current BMW 5 Series. Yet it never drives big. It felt agile, maneuverable through New York City, and playful on twisty roads.
I attribute this to two things: the inclusion of Porsche’s optional rear-axle steering, which you will want if you buy one of these, and the 48v-controlled Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control roll-control system that keeps the car incredibly flat in the corners. And Porsche’s finally got its electric steering racks to be among the best in the game right now, super direct and with a good amount of feel.
Then there’s the Panamera Turbo’s greatest party trick: Sport Response. When equipped with the Sport Chrono package—which you will also want, sorry!—there’s a little button on the sport mode selector stalk jutting out from the steering wheel column. Hit that button for the FUN TIMES to start.
When it engages, you get 20 seconds of maximum engine and gearbox response, complete with a countdown clock. It’s like push-to-pass in F1, and it gives you a crazy extra boost you’ll need to blast past slower moving cars on the track, or more likely, to catch the light before it goes red. It’s almost like your special attack in an old side-scroller beat ‘em up game.
It’s hilarious and wonderful. Every passenger I showed this feature to would nearly pass out in a fit of giggles. Sport Response is like making 11 the highest setting on the amp. Does it have to be that way? Of course not, but it’s so damned fun to use, you’ll wonder why every car doesn’t have this.
Of course, there’s more to the Panamera than just borderline irresponsible displays of speed and noise. It’s also comfortable and livable, and makes for an excellent daily. The seats aren’t too aggressive, the rear headroom is good, and the hatch area—while not voluminous, as we’ll discuss in a bit—is pretty great for carrying stuff.
When adjusted properly, the driving modes enable a smooth and pliant daily driver. You could easily drive the Panamera Turbo like a reasonable, normal human and never even taste its incredible performance. The PDK’s shifts are rapid-fire quick in manual mode but the gearbox is plenty smooth and fast in automatic mode.
As you’d expect from a modern luxury car, there’s a ton of settings and menus and buttons and a touch screen to navigate. It’s all pretty straightforward. I found it a lot easier to figure out than your average BMW or Mercedes these days. The interior is definitely cleaner and more performance-focused than those cars too. I like the piano black center console, and better yet, I like that there are actual buttons and switches here.
One frustration I had is that there are no dedicated song-back or forward buttons on the steering wheel, but there is a diamond-shaped button you can program to do whatever you like, so I set that to skip tracks since it’s a feature I use a lot.
Despite its size, the Panamera’s not too bad to park either, especially thanks to the surround camera system, one of the better ones we have tested as of late. I never had an issue hunting for spaces in it, in Manhattan or in Brooklyn.
Power. Performance. Noises. Scaring the hell out of people. Feeling like a true Porsche, and not just some rebadged Audi, which is a legitimate risk with all of this Volkswagen Group platform and parts sharing.
More than anything else, I felt this car takes the things that modern enthusiasts gripe about a lot—turbos, electric steering, AWD, complexity, drive modes, menus, etc.—and it just makes it all work exceedingly well in the service of performance. It just works, and in a way that gives the car character to back up its numbers.
Maybe this seems like a minor gripe, but I hated the air vents. They’re flimsy and cheap-feeling strips of plastic that aren’t that great at actually circulating air. Not a huge problem in New York in April, but I can’t say I’d be a fan in Texas in August.
But then there’s the Panamera wagon’s biggest flaw: it’s actually not that great at being a wagon.
By going Sport Turismo, you get a slightly more practical rear opening and a bit more trunk space, but it only translates into two extra cubic feet of rear volume with the back seats folded down.
That comes in at 49 cubic feet, according to Porsche, which is eviscerated by the 64 cubic feet on the Mercedes E400 wagon we tested in February—arguably the longroof Panamera’s closest competitor in price and performance, when we start comparing its Turbo variants to the AMG one. (In case you’re curious, a Cayenne has 63 cubic feet with the seats down.)
Indeed, the trunk area just isn’t as voluminous and all encompassing as a lot of wagons. It’s more like a glorified hatchback than anything else, a Panamera that offers a bit more room and a different shape. I don’t mind that much, as this is still the version I like better. But don’t buy it and expect to own a Porsche you can move house with. One of its SUVs can do that better.
I went back and forth a lot about this Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo’s $175,170 price tag. Yes, you get a lot. But is it worth that much, I wondered? Is it really better than the last $75,000 luxury car I was in? Was it really that much better than the BMW M550Xi I got into immediately after, which is also expensive, but comes in right below $90,000? And I can see the Turbo S Hybrid easily topping $200,000 with options. Easily. That’s a lot to swallow.
I can’t imagine a world where I’d spend $175,000 on a single car, even if I had that much to spend. (I don’t, in case you’re curious.) But I would daily drive this car. I was sad to give it back, which doesn’t happen to me much anymore. I’d drive it over any SUV, and probably most sedans at this price range. I dig it.
At the same, this combination of performance and practicality is hard to find at any price. It ranks among the best in those departments, something that can match supercars with a lot more practicality.
And a Panamera 4 Sport Turismo with the V6 for $96,000 should be a compelling proposition for buyers in this range who want something a little different from the slew of Bimmers, Benzes and Audis out there. The Panamera feels kind of underrated. That could stand to change.
I’m just glad this thing exists. It’s ridiculous in almost every single way, and it’s incredibly competent. As cars get ever more boring, we need more that are fun and absurd and a little hard to figure out. And I can say that if I did own one of these, I don’t think I’d regret pulling the trigger.