And... is it actually a wagon at all?
Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo Review: Who Exactly Buys an Aggressive, High-Performance Wagon?
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The Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo ($154,000 base; $174,740 as tested) is the top-end, high-performance version of the latest iteration of Porsche’s popular premium, 911-esque sedan. Instead of the Panamera’s usual trunk-hatch, it features a decidedly wagon-like rear liftgate and wider, deeper load floor. There’s more car over the rear axle and slightly more room in the easier-to-access cargo area. The Sport Turismo Turbo seats five in a pinch, thanks to a middle seat in back, and in Turbo trim is powered by a 550-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 that moves all four of the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. At $96,200 (base MSRP), the “standard” Sport Turismo — there are four models, one of which is a hybrid — is not an inexpensive proposition, even in non-Turbo guise, so… why not go for it and spend 60 grand more? (Only kidding, but if you enjoy a life so obscenely absurd that you could conceivably make that happen… wow.)
There has been a lot of heated (as Slack conversations go) debate in the Gear Patrol office over whether the Sport Turismo is indeed a station wagon. Some highlights from the six of us:
Is the Porsche Sport Turismo a Wagon?
Two think it’s not a wagon.
Two think it is, in fact, a wagon.
“If it’s a hatchback that’s not an SUV and a pair of skis placed lengthwise don’t go past the rear seats it’s a wagon.” And: “If the angle between roof panel and the D-Pillar is less than 125 degrees, it is a wagon.” – Henry Phillips
“I’m going to say it’s a wagon [because there’s] a D-pillar. Doesn’t it just feel right to call the Panamera a wagon?” – Andrew Connor
But what I do know is that the Sport Turismo Turbo is a thing that I like a lot. It has very few flaws, and I even kinda like those too.
The Good: Porsche. Turbo. Lots of tech, lots of sports car-derived engineering. Probably perfect handling and dynamics for a car shaped like this. Fast as a goddamn streak. Luxurious and comfortable (opt for massaging seats at all four corners). One guy in Manhattan leaned in my passenger window at a freshly green light and told me it was ‘the best Panamera he had ever seen.’ Having driven the standard sedan version, the top-tier of which Eric Adams just spent some time with, I’m inclined to agree. There’s a little more room and an attractive je n’ais se quoi that has to do with its [possibly] being a wagon.
Who It’s For: The part of the money-is-not-a-huge-object crowd that either has a strong practical streak or only wants one vehicle. And also wants the option of outrunning the cops. Families, probably four-person squads and not five, unless the fifth is relatively small or just very bad at sticking up for themselves. And the anti-SUV crowd. I spent my time with the Sport Turismo Turbo in the Hamptons, where it felt very, very much at home. This is a four-person grand tourer and stuff-hauler for those with good but fun taste.
Watch Out For: It’s not a sports car. The Sport Tursimo Turbo is lightning fast — faster than it has a right to be — but it would be far from my first choice for carving up canyon roads. That’s because it’s also big, as in ‘seats four full-grown adults comfortably’ big and, unless you missed the above bit, it has a wagon-like hatchback. It should also be noted that though it can fit that many people, there isn’t a whole lot of leg or arm room — big car, medium interior. It doesn’t sound quite as gnarly as I’d hoped — this is, no doubt, to cater more directly to the refined luxe crowd, but if my Porsche says “Turbo” on the decklid, it had better bark.
Alternatives: Hot wagons: the automotive journalist’s dream segment. The reigning champ here is probably the Mercedes-AMG E63 ($106,950, base). It’s been a bonkers car since its inception, and the latest version is no slouch. We’ll have a review soon, but suffice it to say, the E63 is shaped like an actual wagon — it hangs farther off the rear axle than the Sport Turismo Turbo does. Or, you could lean harder into the sedan-ness angle and opt for an Audi RS7 ($113,900, base), which is more of a hatchback and one of my favorite cars ever (it’ll do at least a buck-fifty-five in the Vegas desert — I think). Lastly, you could give convention a solid “fuck it” and pick up a Ferrari GTC4Lusso ($369,172 as tested) for yourself. It’s a four-seat, four-wheel-drive, V12-powered hatchback and sounds like it, thankyouverymuch.
Review: My time with the Porsche began with a trip east from Brooklyn, which should have taken far less than two hours but took five. After groaning through city bumper-to-bumper, I must have averaged only 25 miles an hour until I was literally (literally) parked on an off-ramp for the better part of 30 minutes. This was halfway through my trip, which should have been very frustrating. It absolutely, one hundred percent sucks to be made to idle in a Very Fast Car. It. SUCKS. But Porsche has done a wonderful thing with its interiors, especially on higher-end models like this one: they’re objectively great. When I was told weeks prior to my drive that I’d get a burgundy red car with a tan interior, I literally (figuratively) fell asleep on the phone. It sounded so L-A-M-E for a brute-force Porsche sturmwagen. But, as I found out later, there would be time to rev the engine and go fast. Sitting in this delicious, tech- and leather-riddled cabin is a delight for the driver.
After I ironically resigned myself to the navigation system’s “dynamic route” setting — supposedly, it finds not necessarily the fastest turn-by-turn, but one that avoids traffic to at least keeps you moving — I began to enjoy being captive in the Sport Turismo Turbo. I began to feel… the Wagon Effect: that feeling you get as a driver when you feel fully in control of a vehicle that is exactly the right size. For my money (figurative, sadly), Porsche got the proportions right. The Panamera sedan affords just over 17 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats; the Sport Turismo Turbo adds only about a cubic foot overall, but because its load floor is wider and more easily accessible, the car’s shape is drawn backward and to some might look a bit heavy or disproportioned. That’s probably because it’s not quite typically wagon-sized. Instead, it’s somewhere in between, and I like the extended roofline and more rounded butt. The Sport Turismo is just long enough that folks might not even realize the difference.
I missed dinner by a long shot, but I knew the beer I brought was still cold — I’d stored it in the cargo area in a burly cooler. And speaking of cooler, I felt the Wagon Effect (which is a thing now) as I retrieved my things — I had to walk just a little farther, and I didn’t have to contort to reach things at the back of a trunk. I had no passengers, but in that moment I knew two things: that I could fit a small family and lots of stuff in this wagon-esque wonder, and that this car could absolutely wallop most sports cars in a straight line. Over the weekend, I’d drive that point home a bit more — after Saturday rains cleared, I found dry pavement to give the Launch Control a go, and… it went. Hard. The Sport Turismo Turbo, despite having “only” 550 horsepower, when prompted, puts it down in a violent way, like Paul Bunyan traded his axe for a sledgehammer and cracked me on the ass.
Driving dynamics are mostly great. I used the car’s presets — Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus — and was pretty pleased. As fast as it is and as sharply as it does handle, the Sport Turismo Turbo does one thing even better: it doesn’t let you forget you’re in a big, long car. Fast in a straight line? Yes. It might even be wild fun on a track, though less than effective. This is not a car you want to whip about around sharp bends and mountain passes all day long. You can do that for a little while, but it never goes full-tilt supercar on you. It’s made for cool dads — the type who would roll their eyes at teen drag racers but then absolutely destroy them at a stoplight; the kind who would never dream of going a mile per hour faster than the limit when his own kids are on board. Reckless double standard? Yes, but that’s what a Porsche Turbo wagon is supposed to be.
Reckless or not, the Sport Turismo Turbo’s performance credentials are solid. Porsche Active Suspension Management — the company’s trick suspension system — is standard and controls an adaptive air suspension. Rear-wheel steering is available, as are carbon ceramic brakes. When used in concert with Launch Control, all of these bits do a tremendous job making you forget what planet you’re on. Further, the interior is a techno-luxurious affair, with well-placed and nicely designed buttons to control most everything, and a 12.3-inch multi-touch infotainment screen that is gorgeous, smart and intuitive.
Having no kids or passengers to speak of on my return trip, and fearing the worst, I left early in the day to avoid knots of honking commuters. And made the trip in just over an hour. (Must have taken a wormhole shortcut? Unclear.) Those days with the car proved interesting, for sure, but also a bit enlightening. I further defined what the Wagon Effect means to me: it means a practical car that you can sort of melt into and get used to and appropriately take for granted. I almost forgot at times that I was driving a screaming hot rod Porsche, and I guess that’s sort of cool in and of itself — especially since there were moments when I remembered what the car could do and I found myself profoundly satisfied.
So the question is: Who buys this? Not a station wagon purist. It’s not someone who wants to squeeze off quarter-mile runs at the strip and make Ferrari owners blush. This is, plain and simple, a superlative wagon for the non-stuffy sporting enthusiast who can stand to drop a couple hundred Large on a car his whole family can enjoy. It’s total luxury, a lot of sport and literally (literally!) a fantastic combination of both.
Verdict: So, now I think the Sport Turismo is a wagon. But it isn’t a boring, staid Country Squire from some Waspy Americana catalog. It bucks tradition just a little bit — like a notch lapel tuxedo jacket, or when a comedic actor absolutely crushes a dramatic role out of nowhere. You expect a wagon, yet you get a muscle car that gives off a Wagon Effect without being dull or too adherent to norms. I like the Panamera line as a whole, and I really like wagons as a rule; this seems the perfect marriage. Especially for someone who wants a little utility, a good bit of luxury, a heaping helping of sport and a dollop of panache. Or, as they say these days, “Wagon Effect.”
What Others Are Saying:
• “Perched on the Sport Turismo’s roof is an adaptive rear spoiler, the first for an estate car says Porsche. At speeds below 106mph it stays in its most retracted position of minus-seven degrees, at speeds above this it rises through eight degrees to plus-one degree to deliver up to 50kg of additional downforce depending on your speed. If the optional panoramic roof is open and you are travelling above 56mph the spoiler adopts an angle of 26 degrees to reduce wind noise inside the cabin.” — Stuart Gallagher, EVO
• “Though the Turbo delivers more cohesively engaging high-speed handling, the 4-E Hybrid’s quiet coasting and discreet power reserves offer a novel combination of city-friendly EV power and balls-to-the-wall grunt when you want it. The standard Panamera’s updated styling already lends the four-door a certain appeal, but the Sport Turismo adds an element of inscrutable whimsy.” — Basem Wasef, Automobile
• “I think of it as analogous to a small crossover because a) that’s kinda become the standard for two-box passenger vehicles nowadays, and b) it has AWD, whereas most small hatchbacks and wagons don’t. But yeah, you’re technically correct. [It’s a wagon.]” — The Drive
2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo Specs
Engine: 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8
Transmission: eight-speed dual-clutch automatic (PDK); all-wheel drive
0-60 mph: 3.4 seconds
Top Speed: 188 mph
Seats: Five; 40/20/40 rear seat split
MSRP: $154,000 (base); $174,740 (as tested)
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