The streets of Sharjah, the palm-lined avenues of Dubai and the track at Dubai Autodrome were the testing grounds for a new breed of Porsche
When you think of Porsche, the 911 automatically springs to mind. More than an icon, the distinctive, curved silhouette is now a motoring legend, cementing itself in the halls of automotive design. However, no matter what level of motoring spirituality the 911 has reached, it still can’t be used to pick up a large, flat-screen TV from Jumbo Electronics. And this is where the 2020 Panamera Sport Turismo comes in.
Porsche describe it as a shooting brake, a car body style that originated in the 1890s as a horse-drawn wagon used to transport shooting parties with their equipment and game, which by the 1960s had evolved into an estate car with coupé elements. So basically, it could be argued that the Panamera Sport Turismo is a 911 estate – the best of both worlds – pace and space.
What better way to get to know the ‘urban 911’ than by getting lost in the back streets of Sharjah in rush hour? If there was ever a test of man and machine this is it. Google Maps has me driving in a circle around Al Nahda, battling for space on a tight, potholed strip of tarmac against minibuses, vans and Toyota Corollas. There’s nowhere to pull over and the full wrath of Sharjah’s rush hour is upon me, but the Sport Turismo is keeping my blood pressure in check.
It’s a big car: five metres long and 1.9 metres wide, but you don’t feel it. All you notice is the familiar Porsche bonnet, not the large space behind your ears. This makes the shooting brake easy to dodge in and out of Sharjah traffic. After popping a new destination into my iPhone, I finally pick up my pal with his large suitcases, which he pops in the boot no problem – that’s something you can’t say about many sports cars.
Pace and space
Cool, calm and collected
Sitting in rush hour traffic gives me time to look over the Panamera’s features. It’s all familiar Porsche in here, with the five-gauge dash visible through the sports steering wheel, which is trimmed in wood instead of the usual leather. This adds a touch of luxury to the sporty interior, backed up with the optional 14-way power seats, trimmed in two-tone smooth finish Saddle Brown and Luxor Beige leather.
You don’t have to drive fast to enjoy the Panamera. The twin turbo V6 produces 440bhp, matched with 550 Nms of torque. It can move smoothly and safely through traffic, allowing you to enjoy the Bose sound system that is possibly one of the best in-car set ups that I’ve come across and better than many home systems.
With Sharjah out of the way, we stopped by Le Mer and City Walk for coffee. Here, we parked the Turismo next to our table, noticing how subtle the rear end styling is and how it works so well with the Carmine Red paint job and the black chrome detailing, even the tailpipes are black, giving it an aggressive look.
The car has an aggressive look
Putting some miles on the engine, we head down the E311. On the highway, the V6 sups a mere 7.3 l/100 km, making it an ideal GT, and even around town, you will still see 10.9 l/100 km. Performance-wise, the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds with the Sport Chrono package, going on to reach a top speed of 286kmh. In gear acceleration has the big Porsche going from 80 to 120kmh in only 2.9 seconds, making for super safe overtaking – and here lies another 4S Sport Turismo trait: safety.
We sped down to a patch of wasteland just outside Jebel Ali. The sandy, gritty surface was ideal for an ‘emergency start’ so I switched the traction control off. I floored the throttle and turned sharply, hoping/expecting to get the big Porsche to step out of line. It didn’t even flinch, it just gripped, and the more I pushed it, the more I realised that the all-wheel-drive system was totally unflappable.
I was so sure it couldn’t be beaten that I headed off to Dubai Autodrome and its 3.5km circuit, which happened to be empty. Here I met James Burnett of Drive Dynamics. Apart from racing Radicals, James helps out with prototype developments and trains VIP and diplomat security teams. He knows how to drive and I’ve just asked him if he can take the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo out on the track and, well... get it to go a bit squiffy.
Luxurious yet sporty interiors
Helmets on, I ride shotgun. First lap James warms up the tyres. Second lap is a quick one and the third is a hot lap. “It’s quite a large car,” comments James. “You’d expected to feel that in the handling, but most Porsches are built around the race circuit anyway, so it handles extremely well. It stays quite flat for a big car.” He smiles, “Very agile.”
We’re coming into corners at 140kmh and the Porsche is sticking to the track. It’s pushing into the bends a little bit, which is a characteristic of all-wheel drive and also understandable as the 4S is considerably heavier than James’ Radical racing car.
But I want to see if the Panamera’s grip can be defeated, so I instruct James to go full Ken Block. With all the traction control systems switched off, we head out for the final fast lap. With lots of twirling of the steering wheel and four squealing Pirellis, James turns to me apologetically and shrugs, “The stability is so good.”
As we use the last lap to let the brakes cool down, we realise what an extraordinary car the Panamera 4S Sport Turismo is. We started the day in the back streets of Sharjah, packing luggage into its boot, and ended it with a test driver trying his best to upset the chassis on a racetrack. The Panamera 4S Sport Turismo is like a 911 that can accommodate the kids and the dog for a trip to the park. It can handle both with ease, and you really can’t say that about many cars.