Cool estate cars are becoming a rare breed. The inexorable rise of the SUV has gone hand-in-hand with the wagon falling out of favour, and it’s pretty disheartening to see.
There won’t be a Giulia estate, because as far as Alfa Romeo is concerned, the Stelvio already has the practicality box ticked. It’s much the same for Jaguar’s XE, and while the SUV hasn’t ever been directly blamed for the demise of the five-door M5, you can’t help but wonder if the existence of the X5M has meant there just isn’t room for it.
The Panamera Sport Turismo, then, has come as something of a surprise. Particularly given that it comes from Porsche - the majority of the cars it sells now are SUVs, and in the year before the ST arrived, the Macan on its own outsold the 911, Panamera and the 718 twins combined. But it’s a surprise of a thoroughly pleasant nature, as I found in my first drive of the £83,288 E-Hybrid version.
First, let’s consider the looks. How pretty is this thing? The standard ‘fastback’ model is already a huge step forward in the aesthetics department compared to its fugly predecessor, but adding that boot has done wonders for the Panamera. Lower the air suspension, and it looks squat, purposeful and ready to gobble up your favourite road at a moment’s notice.
Is that something it’s able to do? Well, this is where it gets a little complicated, since our test Panamera ST was the E-Hybrid version. And it’s over 300kg heavier than the entry-level V6. Nope, that’s not a typo.
On top of that you can factor in a more minor 30kg weight increase for the ST’s ass, bringing the total figure to over 2100kg. And you do feel that weight as you start to play with the limits of what the all-wheel drive E-Hybrid is capable of. It can be hustled quickly down a twisty road, but this particular ST quickly starts to feel unwieldy and uncomfortable with its mass, as though it’s just been told to run through an obstacle course after scoffing a massive takeaway. Keep the speed down, and you can get into a satisfying, enjoyable rhythm with it.
There’s a hell of a lot of grip and traction on offer - helped by vast rear tyres that are wider than those you’d find on the back of a 911 GT3 - and it certainly doesn’t feel slow. Up front you’ll find a twin-turbocharged V6 producing 326bhp and 332lb ft of torque, teaming up with an electric motor that belts out 134bhp and 295lb ft of delicious, instantly-delivered twist. All told, this gives you a total system power of 456bhp and 516lb ft.
0-62mph takes just 4.6, which is as fast as a base 911 Carrera. But the raw numbers can’t adequately relay the sheer sense of surprise when it comes to the way this thing accelerates, both on the move and from a standstill with launch control. When you’re playing around with the latter feature, the E-Hybrid feels damn near as aggressive as the V8-powered Turbo model as it shoots you off the line.
It’s incredibly addictive, and the power delivery is far more interesting than that of the conventional 4S. It’s also supremely effective at combating turbo lag.
As with a lot of hybrids though, whether or not this is the Sport Turismo for you depends entirely upon how you’re going to drive it. If you do a lot of shorter trips and have somewhere to fully charge the 14kWh battery before you leave the house, the benefits are huge - without really trying, I managed to clock 90mpg on a trip to the next town over, with the engine only kicking in a few times. But then on long distance journeys, you’ll struggle to get much over 35mpg. Plus you’ll have less boot space to play with thanks to all the hybrid guts - with the rear seats up, the E-Hybrid has a 420-litre capacity as opposed to 520. Boo.
There are plenty of other engine options available however, and each is a compelling alternative to the de rigueur posho SUV. The ST’s ride is silky smooth, the cabin is beautifully trimmed and the tech is amazing - I’m in love with that gigantic touch screen, even if it’s not the easiest unit to get used to.
If you’re looking at a premium, high-riding chunk of pomposity from one of the German big three, I can guarantee it’ll be neither this handsome or as good to drive as a Panamera Sport Turismo. Do the right thing and cancel your order. Then get one of these. You won’t regret it.