“Okay, so click over to Sport Plus and give it a second to squat down”. Right.
This is new to me. There’s a Porsche emblem on the steering wheel and someone’s written Turbo across the back of the car. Before me lies an empty stretch of Cornish road, relatively straight for a hundred metres or so, and my brother James is talking me through the car’s launch control. “Left foot on the brake and keep it there” …okay… ”now, plant your right foot and keep it there” The revs are weirdly static at 5000 rpm despite my foot being planted… Wait, what’s the plan here?
Pretty sure the idea was a road trip from London to Cornwall to catch up with our older brother Tom, travelling down to share the news that I’m about to become a father, and hopefully pick up some advice (and essentials). He’s a seasoned Dad of two so hopefully he’ll have some wisdom to pass on, and fingers crossed a few hand-me-downs.
With the imminent arrival of my first child, I have of course been scouring car classifieds looking for the perfect dad wagon. A long line of Volvos, Skodas and Audis trail out in my search history, but I still haven’t found the wagon that does it for me, gives me that ageing thrill of practicality wrapped in madness. I’m sure any new or soon to be dad will tell you that perspectives change, and we start to look at everything in a different light. So, when James initially rolled up in a Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid Sports Turismo in PTS Oak Green, I was surprised to find myself marvelling not at the massive yellow brake callipers cupping the enormous ceramic disc, but at how much boot space there was. Plenty for a pram.
Hold on, launch control?
“700 horse power” James reminds me.
Ah yes, good point. Shall we go?
Leaving London is a breeze, despite the size of the thing. At 5m long and over 2m wide I’d expected it to feel unwieldy around the East End, but we calmly and quietly exited London via the North Circular, cruising along on the electric engine without drawing much in the way of attention. Understated is the ultimate cool in my opinion.
By the time we’re on the M25 though I’m ready to experience more. The car isn’t crying out for me to boot it, or rip through the congested roads surrounding London, but there’s something there. A feeling of being totally planted and abundantly capable, despite the comfortable manner we’ve been driving in so far. The adaptive cruise control is an unexpected distraction and playing chicken with a computer is a strange thrill. Who’ll brake first? Turns out the computer has it sorted and it’s astonishing how effective it is in stop start traffic, changing lanes and adding to the executive experience the Panamera can summon.
I’m blown away by the comfort on board. I’m not talking cosy couch relaxing, but the comfort of being at ease while driving. Ease is the word; everything is made easy. Heads up display, wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and an abundance of information on the dash lead us to an uninterrupted experience while making our way through the throngs of traffic. So far, no hang ups, although the wireless charger did cook my phone until it overheated…
“Right, traffic’s cleared up now, time to change modes”
Alright then, into Sport Plus. The exhaust note changes and we shift down 4 (!!) gears, the suspension tightens as I watch an icon flash indicating our ride height coming down. The dash is now a sea of new information; stopwatch, boost and G-Force all have their place. Everything feels different; steering and throttle response have entirely changed as the Panamera transforms itself into an entirely different entity. It should be named Janus for the Roman God of duality.
The acceleration is eye opening and we find ourselves at high speeds unexpectedly. But we experience speed in an odd way, it’s far too easy to cruise at phenomenal speeds, as if pootling along at 30mph. Excitement is starting to build for the twisty roads of Cornwall, but we’ve a hundred miles of fairly boring road to deal with before then. Another transformation and we are back into Hybrid mode.
Soon enough we find ourselves on winding roads where it is easy to forget the Panamera weighs the best part of 2.5 tonnes. However, this doesn’t seem to be an issue when overtaking opportunities appear. Hidden within the drive mode dial is a push button which, when pressed, gives the driver 20 seconds of “sports performance”. The PDK gearbox storms down the gears and we’re past any lumbering tractor in moments. But the Cornish hedgerows are somewhat hampering my confidence in thrashing the car down the lanes to my brother Tom’s house. Having been comfortable nipping around London, suddenly I can feel every millimetre of the Panamera’s 2m+ width, and despite my desperation to thrash down these epic little lanes, I just can’t find the opportunity to spool up and go.
Luckily the short spells of clear road are put to good use. The Panamera has more torque than I’ve ever experienced – active all-wheel drive to keep the torque on the road and those carbon ceramic brakes to bring us to an immediate stop before we fly into oncoming traffic. Great fun for me, less so for James who would appear to be holding his breath…and belching every so often.
Arriving at Tom’s we’re greeted by the full family picture, two kids with eyes wide at the spaceship we arrived in, and our envious elder brother dressed in military greens, closely matching the PTS Oak Green. He seems to think the Porsche’s a good fit for him, and I don’t disagree. He’s noticed the ISOFIX too. Luckily James is there to remind us of the 4-litre V8, the 700hp and 870Nm torque.
It was a funny feeling to see Tom and I in such a similar mindset, both equally fascinated by the performance and power of the car as we are by the practicality and comfort. Perspectives bending. For now, beer, dinner and wine.
We are greeted by a grey morning and the promise of a day driving Cornish roads. Fear not, Origin Coffee in Porthleven brightens our spirits if not the dark clouds above, followed with pace by the traditional pasty. All good. Rear axle steering is again tricking us into thinking the Panamera is shorter than it really is, making manoeuvring around Cornish towns and car parks a doddle. Now, left foot on the brake, plant your right foot, 6000rpm…
Stomach flattened against my spine, head plastered into the headrest, sunglasses have left the chat, flying round the backseat somewhere. PDK gearbox is doing the most remarkable work, taking us into orbit. Crikey. That was intense. Actually, I reckon this car is a kid pleaser too. I can imagine a child of mine making a sincere request for launch control at every set of lights. Settle now.
The only thing left to do is to pick up the hand-me-down goods and make the trip back to London. Minor hitch. Turns out Tom’s expecting kid number three. No goods on this trip! The wagon may not have been needed, but it feels good to travel home with more good news to share. Next time we head down I suppose we’ll make use of the ISOFIX.