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Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo (2017) review

Driving enthusiasts finding the Cayenne SUV too cumbersome, overstating and unsporting to drive now have a new choice in the guise of a stylish estate.

You may have heard this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Most Porsche fans in Thailand would either crave for a 911 sports car or the far more practical Cayenne SUV, if travelling with a family is a must.

That explains why the Panamera luxury saloon -- despite its unique fastback-style body -- has never really been on the radar screens of buyers emulating Porsche as their dream-car brand.

Therefore, what can be said for the all-new Panamera Sport Turismo with its Shooting Brake package? Of course, Porsche concedes that SUVs will remain the highlight in the years to come and the Sport Turismo would take up just around 20% of total Panamera sales worldwide. Predictably, it should be the perfect recipe for owners needing a touch more practicality yet with a proper Porsche driving experience. Well, nearly.

But before we end this review too prematurely, let's take a look at how different the Sport Turismo is against the regular Panamera. First seen as a concept car in 2012, it's pretty clear that the Sport Turismo is a stylish estate version of Porsche's second-generation saloon. And because the regular model (with the option of a long wheelbase body) is roughly the size of a BMW 7-series and Mercedes-Benz S-class, the Sport Turismo is actually without a direct rival because the Bimmer and Merc are strictly three-box saloons.

Differences for the Sport Turismo from the regular Panamera only take place from the B-pillar and rearwards in which the roofline is longer and both the D-pillars and rear windscreen are more upright. If there was really any other luxury model to come close to it in concept, it would be no other than the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake from a class below.

Is the Sport Turismo a looker? Judging from international motoring hacks at the car's driving trials in Canada last week, the reaction is kind of mixed. Some like the sleeker side profile of the normal Panamera, while others admired the squat appearance of the Sport Turismo when viewed from the rear. Oh, and that roof-mounted bit at the Sport Turismo's rear can pop up a wing to enhance aerodynamics at high speeds.

The degree of differentiation is also the same in the cabin as on the outside. While the front seats and the fascia -- with those near-excellent digital instrumentation -- are identical to those in the donor car, the rear bench isn't a strict two-seater; there's the choice of the so-called 2+1 layout which is the result of the roof being higher to allow acceptable headroom for the third person.

Yes, it shouldn't be purely called a place for three because the centre perch isn't anywhere near as comfortable or supportive as the other two.

Some understanding also needs to be made pertaining to the boot. Although the Sport Turismo has a lower loading lip, more cargo space and more versatile three-part folding rear seats than in its saloon counterpart, it seemingly isn't as outright spacious as in some other fast estates like the Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E63, both also from a segment under in terms of price and market position.

But when it comes to the driving bit, those aforementioned cargo-hullers are basically on par with the Sport Turismo. Porsche's definite answer for performance-hungry clients is the Turbo model, which comes with 550hp 4.0-litre V8 that can crack the 0-100kph time in 3.6sec. No introduction is really needed for this particular engine variance as it is known to provide super-fast thrust. Although the regular Panamera has just been granted the Turbo S E-Hybrid treatment (see story below), Porsche has yet to extend it into the Sport Turismo.

Another fine option is the 4S Diesel powered by 422hp 4.0-litre V8, which almost sounds like a V8 petrol head yet has a monstrous 850Nm of torque to make real-world driving just as punchy as in the Turbo. And with rumours that Porsche may quit selling oil-burners in 2020, there's good reason to lust for it before you'd never get the chance to own one anymore in the future.

But of most relevance to Thai buyers would be the tax-friendly 4 E-Hybrid featuring 462hp 2.9-litre V6 coupled with to electric motor. This alternative may have a potential all-electric driving range of 50km but sort of lacks the urgency of the 4S Diesel and sheer thrust of the Turbo. Of course, this plug-in hybrid isn't slow by any standards (0-100kph in 4.6sec), but it feels a little lazy and heavier when you have jumped out from the other two variants.

Like the engines, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel-drive transmission, the chassis-tuning is like in the normal Panamera. Porsche says the Sport Turismo's three-chamber air suspension helps maintain the handling and ride balance customers can come to expect from the latest Panamera.

Which is to say that the Sport Turismo can be both comfortable and sporty to drive at the same time, although we must admit that the temptation to drive the car faster than usual is less than wanting to be pampered in. Which, at times, makes it feel more 7-series than genuine Porsche to drive, but definitely un-Cayenne. This is one of the advantages estates have over SUVs when it comes to driving dynamics -- a key asset of Porsche.

But, as we posed earlier, the Sport Turismo isn't exactly the utmost in practicality nor the best in driving manners Porsche fans can come to genuinely expect of. After all, the Panamera itself has evolved with more driving comfort and the Sport Turismo diversification is more about a unique and stylish appearance rather than a true station wagon.

But with the Thai Porsche agent planning to price the Sport Turismo identically to the regular Panamera when sales start later this year, it's actually quite an attractive proposition at some 10 million in 4 E-Hybrid form because it's natural price position -- like in the case of saloons and their estate siblings from other brands -- is supposed to be higher.

Porsche certainly knows that practical-minded buyers would settle for the Cayenne (which is about to be renewed in third-generation form later this year) pointing to that pricing strategy for the Sport Turismo in Thailand. That's quite a nice treat for the minority liking the Panamera for what it is, or how unique it will be, on local roads.

Sport Turismo properly serves up to its SUV antithesis on the move. 

Near-perfect cockpit is carried over straight from the regular Panamera.

Higher rear roof line means better headroom. 

Boot is just as versatile, if not utterly spacious, as in a traditional estate.

That roof-mounted bit can pop up a wing for increased grip at high speeds.

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