One Car To Rule Them All
After years of writing about cars, James Fossdyke reckons he’s finally found perfection...
Back in the early 2000s, Oasis told us true perfection had to be imperfect, and for many years I’ve agreed. I’ve spent hours driving everything from Ferraris to Fiats and from Maseratis to Mazdas in a bid to find the automotive holy grail. And although I’ve been close - the Lexus LC I drove a few months ago, for example, got under my skin like few cars before or since - nothing has ever been spot on.
I always thought it was just me. I thought I was too demanding and too needy. Maybe I was a haughty perfectionist, out of touch with the realities of compromise, or just too cynical to appreciate the qualities before me. Then, this month, all that changed. Because I drove the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.
Essentially an estate version of Porsche’s Panamera four-door saloon (the one that, like an automotive Gareth Southgate, used to be ugly but now looks kind of handsome), it didn’t sound like the most exciting proposition on the planet. But it’s actually quite a handsome devil. I like the full-width light across the back and the four LEDs in the headlights. The proportions are just right, too, with the slightly taller rear end that somehow makes it look more elegant than its four-door sibling.
And it’s great inside, where you sit in sports seats that manage to be unbelievably comfortable without doing anything especially clever. They’re supportive and soft and even kind of cool in a minimalist, German sort of way. Most importantly, though, you can sit in those seats for hours and get out feeling as though you’d only just sat down.
They are, in a way, a metaphor for the Porsche’s cabin as a whole. It isn’t chintzy or ostentatious like some luxury cars, but it’s incredibly well built, everything works as it should and it’s outrageously spacious for what is, when all’s said and done, a Porsche. But that doesn’t make it boring. There’s a massive touchscreen that’s almost infinitely customisable, and you even get a host of displays in the instrument cluster to tell you your lap times or tyre pressures or which junction to take off the M56. You could while away hours just playing with the technology.
But you won’t want to do that, because those hours could be far better spent driving. Porsche’s aptitude for building sports cars is second to none, and that’s rubbed off on the Panamera. It still feels big and heavy, but it’s stable and balanced even if you’re driving it like a bit of an idiot. I’m not saying it’ll outpace or out-corner supercars, but it will run them a lot closer than you might expect.
For all that, though, it’s clear that this was a car designed for the German motorways. It’s incredibly comfortable and serene, with an almost outrageously effortless turn of speed. My test car was the 4 E-Hybrid model, which combines an electric motor with a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine to produce 456bhp. The result is 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, and 0-100mph in about 11 seconds. It doesn’t hang about.
But because it’s a plug-in hybrid, it can be used as an electric car, with a real-world range of about 25 miles or so. That doesn’t sound so amazing when Teslas will manage more than 200 miles with ease, but it’s more than enough for the odd petrol-free jaunt to Sainsbury’s. It’s also enough to ensure exemption from the London Congestion Charge.
And despite the Panamera’s size, it’s just as at home in town as it is anywhere else. Visibility is good, so you can see where everything is, and there’s something quite enjoyable about watching the puzzled faces as your Porsche slides past in silence. It’s not quite as enjoyable, though, as the almost violent soundtrack from that V6 engine. And the V8 versions sound even better.
Aside from proper off-roading, which very few of us ever do, I can’t think of a single situation that the Panamera wouldn’t suit perfectly. It’s fast, it’s comfortable, it handles well, it’s roomy and, if it snows or rains, there’s four-wheel drive to keep you moving. You can even raise it up slightly to give it more ground clearance at low speed.
I do have some criticisms, but I spent a long time trying to find anything to complain about. In the end, though, I realised the cupholders are in a really awkward position that’s just where you want to put your left elbow, so take-out mochas could easily end up all over the leather. I also found I couldn’t work out how to use the buttons on the steering wheel to switch tracks on the in-car hi-fi - although that probably says more about me than the car.
So that’s it. I finally have a one-size-fits-all answer to the question every motoring journalist is asked most often. Yep, I mean the “What’s your favourite car?” question. Well now it’s the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, and nothing else will do.
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
Price from: £83,288
Price as tested: £102,736
Engine: 2.9-litre V6 with electric motor
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 170mph
Porsche Centre Chester Cheshire Oaks, Cheshire, CH65 9LF
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