Porsche = 911 or bust. At least for many of us car nuts this equation makes a lot sense. Yet, if you love Porsches and you have dwelled a little in the history of past models, you’ll discover that the 911 is just a part of a bigger picture. Sure it represents the Brand’s identity, but Porsche has always brought even more excitement in other kind of cars than we all might think.
Making the acquaintance of anything else that is not a 911 has always been difficult, yet Porsche has always provided us with very good reasons to become good friends with their non rear-engined, non air-cooled creations. The Brand’s fans are difficult to convince first, but they will ultimately still be loyal to those great guys from Stuttgart and their ideas. Take the Boxster and the Cayman, for years believed to be choice for those who couldn’t afford a new 911: yet, with the GT4 all seems to have changed; with the 928, the unloved V8 GT which won the “Car of the Year” award in 1978, it stayed in production for more than a decade; and what about the poor 914, who was able to conquer the hearts with its stunning /6 GT version?
In a way, Porsche is like the old friend who inevitably grows up and changes in taste, behaviour and to some extent, ideas. Yet it will always be recognizable as the person we still love to spend time with and maybe enjoy a drive somewhere, where the roads are twisty. In the last 20 years, we’ve seen pretty much anything: diesel suv’s, hybrid hypercars and a whole new range of vehicles that will make any purist faint. Forget about the cult of sportscar perfection: thanks to Centro Porsche Brescia, today we’re talking about all-rounder excellence, with a distinctive Porsche twist: the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo.
So we spent a day with a spanking new one. I must say that I have some nostalgia when car names were limited to 1 or 2 words, but nevertheless this station wagon…ops, shooting brake to use an appropriate definition, is quite astounding. Let’s face it, it takes the fight to the almighty Audi RS6, the king of autobahn-stormers. I’ll be honest and I’ll admit that it is quite a treat going places with that badge on the steering wheel and not worrying about mileage, or anything else associated with collectability. It is a luxurious German workhorse, stylish wagon that will do pretty much anything you want it to do. It sure lacks the subtle flamboyance of any 911 but it will do pretty well in the corners and it will turn green technology to go faster too. The whole car is seemingly a mix of contrasts: the simple and elegant design of the exterior clashes with the advanced engineering under the skin. The fluid change between the electric and combustion engines is seamless and perfectly well matched to real-world driving conditions. Four driving modes give you plentiful choices and its distinctive and simple design makes you feel easily at home: again, simplicity against clever complication. The complex way the Sport Turismo E Hybrid works is easy to use to the average owner, who will find he or herself fiddling happily with the different modes.
For old school people like us, it’s the sport + mode the one that will answer the following question: is it a proper Porsche? With its 3 litre twin turbo V6 and the clever PTM four wheel drive system it sure looks promising to drive. Its everyday sense of occasion is ideal for just anything from a Sunday morning blast through mountain passes to high-speed commuting between cities and meetings. So, with a brand new Sport Turismo under our hands, we launched it for a complete tour of the Lake Garda, in a Tourist Trophy style run. After all, we’re only interested in the infotainment when we’re on the highway or in the middle of nowhere.
As already seen with our escape of the Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, it is a neutral handling car: to get it into under or oversteer you really have to work hard to make it happen. Direct steering and a state-of-the-art chassis development will sure ensure customers quite some satisfaction as it feels like a sportscar with a numb feeling on the steering wheel. The massive 275/40 ZR20 tires at front and 315/35 ZR20 at the rear ensure an incredible amount of grip: in sport + it feels like a splendidly fast and capable sports-touring-shooting brake-limousine-and whatever else you want to call it. The Sport Turismo feels a bit like the old 962 Group C car, to some extent. Bear with me for a few moments: the 962 was a competent racer in many technical aspects but did not excelled in all of them. Nevertheless, it proved to be a great combo of factors that made it the legend that it is today. The new Panamera is a bit like it: great acceleration and cornering, yes, but a well balanced attitude that makes this uber-shooting brake a winner in its segment and a clear threat to the RS6 and many more. Does it excell in any particular area: it is very competent in everyone of them, yet it doesn’t focus solely on comfort or performance. In a way, what seems compromise it is in reality its best weapon.
Upon a trip to the Nurburgring last summer I was amazed to see a Macan with a roll-cage fitted to it and Recaro bucket seats while testing on the roads surrounding the famous track. As a testament to the Porsche development engineers in spite using shared technology with the rest of the VW Group, there is some real work involved in any Porsche that isn’t a 911. So, the verdict: could this be an escape car? Well, yes indeed. As much as we love the GT3 and other track derivatives, sometimes a car capable of being competent in many aspects may be the best solution to quench every need. After all, what else could you possibly want from a great performer?
Many thanks to Centro Porsche Brescia