2018 Porsche Panamera: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAlmost a Wagon
In 2003 when Porsche introduced the Cayenne SUV, we initially thought it should mimic a sport wagon to fit the brand’s high-performance profile. Then a few years later the German automaker introduced the Panamera, which performed exactly as we would expect a 4-door sedan from Porsche to perform — although we still thought it would look much better as a sport wagon. In 2012 Porsche showed a concept Panamera with a more wagonlike profile and increased cargo space. called the Sport Turismo. Porsche fans loved it, and so the German automaker finally added the Sport Turismo to its Panamera lineup. And it was juuuust right.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMore Power
Porsche invited auto journos to British Columbia, Canada, not only to experience the new Sport Turismo, but also to get behind the wheel of the brand’s latest alt-fuel vehicle, the Turbo S E-Hybrid. Porsche has offered a hybrid version of the Panamera in the past, but this one is the most powerful the company has ever produced. With a total of 680 horsepower on tap, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the “fastest hybrid sedan on earth,” according to Porsche Panamera product line manager Dr. Stefan Utsch.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNew Sport Turismo
The new Panamera Sport Turismo stands out from the standard Panamera via a unique rear area that features a large tailgate, a low load floor, increased cargo capacity and more headroom for rear-seat passengers. The Sport Turismo can also be configured with space for five passengers — a first for the Panamera — although Porsche calls it a 4 + 1 configuration.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSport Turismo Lineup
Currently four Sport Turismo variants are available in the U.S. — Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, Panamera 4S Sport Turismo and Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePanamera 4 Sport Turismo
With a starting price of $96,200, this is the least-expensive way to get into a Sport Turismo. Standard equipment includes heated power front seats with partial leather trim, 4+1 seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a 10-speaker 150-watt sound system. Also included is a panoramic sunroof, an adaptive rear spoiler, twin exhaust outlets, black brake calipers and 19-inch wheels. Power spools through a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 330 horsepower, sent to all four wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePanamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
The only hybrid option in the Sport Turismo line has a starting price of $104,000. Total power output of 462 horses comes from the twin-turbo V6 combined with an electric motor. The hybrid Panamera is easily identified by its Acid Green brake calipers and green hybrid badging. The E-Hybrid Panamera Sport Turismo can also be plugged in for up to 32 miles of electric-only driving.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePanamera 4S Sport Turismo
Priced at $109,200, the 4S gets a bit more power with a twin-turbocharged V6 that bumps output to 440 horsepower, which sends this big sedan to 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds. The 4S stands out from the Panamera 4 with Titanium Gray brake calipers and quad exhaust outlets.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePanamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The top-level Panamera Sport Turismo is the Turbo. Priced at $154,000, the Turbo can hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds thanks to its 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine. Red brake calipers, 20-inch wheels and brushed stainless steel quad exhaust outlets let others know that this is one hot Panamera. The Turbo also upgrades the other Sport Turismos with a 710-watt Bose audio system, dark walnut interior trim, Alcantara roof lining, 14-way power front seats and heated front and rear seats.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePanamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
With a starting price of $184,400, the Turbo S E-Hybrid is currently only available as a Panamera — no Sport Turismo at this time. The Turbo S E-Hybrid sits at the top of the performance ladder for Panamera, with a twin-turbo V8 that when combined with an electric motor generates an impressive 680 horsepower. Standout features include ceramic-composite brakes, 21-inch wheels and Porsche’s Torque Vectoring Plus system.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
One look inside the Panamera and you’ll immediately appreciate the perfect blend of technology and luxury. The wide display screen is easy to read and provides audio, navigation, mobile and other details all at once.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHigh-Tech Look
Panamera’s additional controls are nicely laid out on either side of the transmission lever, providing easy access to climate controls as well as vehicle settings. The black panel makes the whole display appear very high tech.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceVent Control
Perhaps a bit over the top, instead of a lever the Panamera’s middle vent has a touchscreen interface to adjust vent direction independently for driver and passenger.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExcellent Front Seats
Front seats are multi-adjustable and incredibly comfortable — a long day of driving in a Panamera certainly wouldn’t be a problem.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
Even though the Sport Turismo now offers rear seating for three, we prefer the 2-passenger configuration. The rear seat’s center console is just as high tech as the one in front, providing climate and seat information. Legroom is decent and the Sport Turismo provides additional headroom over the standard Panamera.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience4+1 Seating
For those who need the extra seat, Porsche properly refers to the Sport Turismo’s seating as 4+1 — meaning that you can fit a fifth person, but this Panamera is really a 4-passenger vehicle with a convenient additional rear seat that can be used in a pinch. The middle seat has almost no legroom and the seatback is quite hard — not a place you would want to sit for any length of time.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
Although the Panamera always offered a decent amount of usable space in its cargo area, this is a place where the Sport Turismo shines. The large tailgate provides a lower floor for easier loading. The flat load floor offers space for plenty of cargo or luggage — more than many crossovers on the market. Because the Sport Turismo offers increased load weight, front and rear brakes have been enlarged for the new bodystyle.

© Porsche Cars North AmericaUnder the Hood
Panamera is available in the U.S. with a selection of gas and hybrid powertrains. The base engine for Panamera is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 330 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. This engine powers base-level Panameras as well as the Panamera 4 Sport Turismo. Porsche says the Panamera with this engine can reach 60 mph in a bit over 5 seconds with a top track speed of 160 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTwin-Turbo V6
The next step up the power ladder is a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 found in the 4S variants. Power output bumps to 440 horses and 405 lb-ft of torque, dropping the time for a sprint to 60 mph to 4.2 seconds. All Panameras equipped with this engine feature full-time all-wheel drive and have a top track speed of 177 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTwin-Turbo V8
The final gasoline-only engine in the lineup is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that puts out 550 horsepower and 567 lb-ft of torque. This motor can be found in the Panamera Turbo and Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo. The time to 60 mph drops to 3.6 seconds and the top speed rises to 188 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience4 E-Hybrid
Two hybrid powertrains are available for the Panamera. Powering the 4 E-Hybrid and Sport Turismo 4 E-Hybrid is the 2.9-liter twin-turbo teamed with an electric motor to produce a combined 462 horses and 516 lb-ft of torque. The 4 E-Hybrid can reach a top speed of 170 mph, or 86 mph on electric power alone. The sprint to 60 mph takes 4.4 seconds.

© Porsche Cars North AmericaTurbo S E-Hybrid
The highest-output motor available in the Panamera is under the hood of the Turbo S E-Hybrid. The already-powerful twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine adds the kick of an electric motor for a combined 680 horsepower and 626 lb-ft of torque. This car is wickedly quick, reaching 60 mph in a mere 3.2 seconds with a top track speed of 192 mph. Clearly this is not your typical hybrid powertrain.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePDK Transmission
All Panamera engines are teamed with Porsche’s 8-speed Porsche Doppelkupplung dual-clutch gearboxes. Shifts with the PDK can be actuated via paddle shifters — if drivers prefer shifting on their own — or with the automatic gearbox.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSport Chrono Package
Porsche owners have the ability to customize the driving experience while giving their Panamera extra boost. The Sport Chrono Package includes a switch that toggles between four driving modes: Normal, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. A Sport Response button located in the center of the mode switch acts like a turbo-boost button — it delivers the maximum power possible for 20 seconds. In addition, the responsiveness of the engine becomes sharper and the 8-speed PDK switches to more aggressive shift programming.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHybrid Power
The Sport Chrono package is standard on Panamera E-Hybrid trims, since it also provides modes for electric-only driving as well as “e-hold,” which retains battery power for later use. Most impressive is Sport Plus mode, which not only increases the performance attributes (shifting, throttle response) but keeps the batteries charged so electric power is always available for additional boost on acceleration.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road / Track
We had the opportunity to drive the Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo with a variety of powertrain options, and aside from the style and additional space there’s no noticeable difference in driving between the two.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTouring Car
After only a few minutes behind the wheel of a Panamera, we realized this is where we wanted to be for the whole day. The ride is comfortable and smooth, with seats that support in all the right places. Panamera’s quiet ride is a pleasant surprise, even when cruising on the highway at high speed. As a grand tourer, the Panamera truly feels like a luxury sedan.

© Porsche Cars North AmericaSports Car
We started our day in the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo, and with more than 500 horsepower on tap there always seems to be power available. Acceleration is impressive considering the considerable size of the Sport Turismo. As the road gets twisty, the smile on your face gets bigger as the car seems to get smaller and lighter the harder you push it.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHybrid Fun
Driving the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo doesn’t offer quite the same level of performance, but it certainly is no slouch — in fact, this may be our favorite option for day-to-day driving. When you find roads befitting a sports car, select Sport Plus mode and this hybrid Panamera provides all the power all the time. As a bonus, the batteries remain fully charged —when you arrive in town, switch to hybrid mode and cruise for about 30 miles in pure electric mode.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUltimate Performance
The ultimate performer in the Panamera lineup is the new Turbo S E-Hybrid. It offers the flexibility of the 4 E-Hybrid, but with a total output of almost 700 horsepower this car is a scream to drive. We took the Turbo S E-Hybrid on the track at Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit in Vancouver, British Columbia, to see what it could do and it didn’t disappoint. Torque peaks at a low 1400 rpm than stays at peak to 5500 rpm, meaning that acceleration never seems to diminish.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTrue Sports Car
Not only is the Turbo S E-Hybrid enormously fast, it handled the tight track like a true sports car, staying flat in the turns and accelerating onto the straights with no drama — just solid power. It’s still hard to believe that a large luxury sedan can do what the Panamera can do.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
For the driving enthusiast, owning a Porsche has always represented the ultimate achievement — a sports car that is a joy to pilot while easily fulfilling the role of daily driver. The Panamera and Panamera Sport Turismo take this to the next level, offering a luxury sedan for driving in comfort every day but with the performance of a true sports car. We prefer the look of the new Sport Turismo — the proportions achieve more of an aesthetic balance than the standard Panamera, and we appreciate the added rear-seat headroom as well as additional cargo space. For someone in the market for a luxury family vehicle who doesn’t want to give an inch on performance, the Panamera and new Sport Turismo may be the perfect blends of luxury, utility, technology and ultimate performance.

Rating: 9.5
Pros: Amazing performance; luxurious interior; innovative hybrid powertrain.
Cons: Expensive options; no Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.
Bottom Line: Panamera offers surprising utility for a car that feels like a luxury sedan and drives like a sports car.

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