The Sunday supplement: crown estate

1y ago


The mercury will nudge 25 degrees Celsius on the southern coast of Spain today with less than a month until Christmas. The world’s motoring press have been arriving from all four corners across a hectic fortnight of road testing, filming and photography, and over the middle weekend the tribe has been invited to report on the process.

It’s a logistical challenge months in the planning, seeing road routes recced and mapped, hospitality worked through to the finest details and all the cars transported and maintained alongside the additional headache of installing a temporary hybrid charging infrastructure. Supporting all this is a modest army of engineers, technicians, drivers and media liaisons, there to keep everything running like clockwork.

And it’s hard to imagine a better way to experience a new car than to be handed the keys on a crystal-clear Mediterranean morning, with a full day of driving ahead on some of the most dramatic (and empty) roads in Europe. Supercar power, tectonic torque, hybrid economy, room for the family. Is the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo the definitive single car solution? There’s only one way to find out …

Our test car glides silently through the tree-lined hairpins that climb away from the crowded coastline of the Costa Del Sol to the quiet Andalusian interior. In the passenger seat, young German vlogger Nico Pliquett talks excitedly into a gimbaled camera, a steady stream of information and emotion lost on your tribe scribe’s English-only ears.

An ancient pick-up overladen with rubble is wheezing up the road ahead, bowed back-axle shuddering over the uneven surface as black smoke pops and grunts from a dangling exhaust.

Running solely on its 14kWh lithium-ion battery, the Panamera reels in the ailing truck, seizing an opportunity to pass with a firm prod of throttle that instantly engages that twin turbo V8. The engine note bounces of the high rock wall that lines the road, the chatter on board momentarily overcome by a barrage of noise and a blur of trees and barriers.

Pitched hard into the next bend, the Panamera turns in fast and sharp, with an immediacy that belies its 2325kg kerb weight. There is no discernible body roll as the corner tightens, the chassis composed and eager in a way that cars of this size are just not meant to be.

The asphalt unfurls and the exhaust note redoubles, launching the Sport Turismo up the road with the preternatural potency of a contemporary supercar. The high, arid landscape of olive groves and farms melt in a shimmer of speed and heat, dry tarmac devoured with insatiable appetite.

The Turbo S E-Hybrid is fast in a way that few road cars have ever been. And this one seats five, forward of a 425-litre boot space. The stats are impressive: 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds (combined fuel consumption 3.0 l/100 km; combined energy consumption17.6 kWh/100 km; CO2 emissions combined 69 g/km), a top speed of 192mph, but it is the in-gear grunt available from its combined 850NM of torque that makes this transport without parallel.

Thanks to twin turbo charging and full hybrid drive, that wall of torque is available from as little as 1,400rpm. The Turbo S E-Hybrid’s ability to evoke its LMP1 sisterhood midway through a stately rural road trip is nothing short of astonishing.

Vast ten-piston monoblock front callipers step in smoothly as the next series of gentler bends arrive, and a whispered hush returns to that limo-like cabin. A few minutes later they reel it all in as those 21-inch Turbo rims crunch over bleached white gravel on a wind-swept beauty spot high in the hills east of Ronda.

Nico talks with increasing animation while your tribe scribe holds his camera and surveys the scene. It’s a good moment to reflect on this monument to Porsche in the 21st Century: a 670bhp hybrid flagship, a five-door sports car. One of the most technologically advanced vehicles on the road today. All the car you’ll ever need?

The decision to give hybrid tech the role of standard bearer was a brave one. The fastest and most powerful car in the Panamera range is now the one you plug in when you get home. It’s a huge statement, but one that dovetails perfectly with its recent success in the top tier of endurance racing, and with its vision for the future. This is the first of many, a product boldly sticking its flag in the proverbial no-man’s land.

When the first wave of journalists arrived in Malaga some ten days ago, the traditional airport taxi was replaced with a long line of Sport Turismos; Carmine Red, Sapphire Blue Carrara White. They cut fine figures against the bare concrete backdrop, each box-fresh finish tantalisingly offset by the acid green hallmark of hybrid power.

The Sport Turismo has gained an edge of athleticism over its standard saloon sibling, that lower roofline and shooting brake rear hatch at once uncompromising and accommodating. Its profile is purposeful now, the perfect complement to the performance that lurks somewhere within.

In the back, even six-foot adults sit with space to spare, while the boot, enlarged and easier to access, is big enough with the rear bench upright to handle the luggage requirements of two journalists and a camera crew.

Up front the sheer volume of available technology, be that advanced drivetrain or cutting-edge connectivity, is filtered through an interface both simple and intuitive.

The Panamera cockpit remains an exemplar of quality and luxury, while maintaining vital links both to Porsche’s sporting heritage and its complex, shifting future: analogue rev counter flanked by digital dials, iconic Porsche crest framed by multi-function steering wheel and those acid green visuals on a 12-inch touch screen, relaying hybrid energy usage, recovery and available boost ¬– a direct link, of course, to the 918 Spyder.

On the move, this union of past and present is even more apparent. The Panamera engineers have taken great pains to ensure the Sport Turismo is a driver’s car, and in doing so have loaded the Turbo S E-Hybrid with active air suspension, dynamic Sport chassis, torque vectoring and optional rear wheel steering. It’s a heady mix of hard and software, endlessly adapting the car’s driving characteristics to the roads, to its driver. Searching out the sweet spot, wherever you decide that should be.

You can drive 30 miles on electric power alone, enabling most urban journeys to be dispatched without troubling petrol pump or exhaust system. But flick it into ‘Sport +’ – a popular choice in Spain today – and a Jekyll to Hyde transformation takes place, harvesting all that energy for maximum performance. Polarised, contradictory possibilities that come together to make something extraordinary.

Any launch is an essential starting point, but somehow a day is simply not long enough in the company of a car as capable and intriguing as the Sport Turismo. And Turbo S E-Hybrid guise adds another dimension, asks more questions that need in-depth exploration to find suitably detailed answers.

Back at basecamp, Nico is still talking to camera as the sun begins to dip behind the spindly pines that cover this part of the coast. There is more to say than there is light left in the day. This is a car whose character, abilities, myriad moods and facets, demand real time to fully explore and exploit. All the car you’ll ever need? Surely that. But lots more besides.

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