You may have guessed by now that automotive journalists are a peculiar bunch. Ask us our favorite car, and we're likely to give an oddball answer, like a 550-horsepower all-wheel drive wagon that handles like a sports car. Silly, fantasy stuff like that.

Except the 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo is that thing. After overwhelmingly positive reaction from a similarly styled concept car in 2012, the Panamera Sport Turismo is now a reality. Porsche extended the roof, eliminating the mushy rear-end styling of the standard car and replacing it with a downright sexy long-roof wagon. OK, we admit that no matter what the shape, the Panamera isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but even doubters admit the Sport Turismo is the better looking version.

Under the hood is a choice of four drivetrains in the U.S.; we won't get the fifth, a diesel. At the bottom is the Panamera 4, with a turbocharged V6 and 330 horsepower, and at the high end is the Turbo with its 550-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8; in between is a 4S with a 440-horserpower twin-turbo V6, and a plug-in E-Hybrid that pairs the 4S engine with an electric motor for 462 horsepower. All four send their power to all four wheels through an 8-speed version of Porsche's quick-shifting PDK transmission.

Difference is in the rear

But that's not much different from the regular Panamera. The real difference is in back, specifically, everything behind the front doors. The elongated roofline helps draw out the lines of the Panamera, elegantly emphasizing its length without the squat hindquarters of the regular liftback. The Sport Turismo's hatch also features a larger opening with a lower liftover, making it easier to load cargo. In the back seat there's more headroom, which Porsche has capitalized on by making the Panamera Sport Turismo the first 5-passenger version of the car, although Porsche calls it a "4+1" seating arrangement. It's not meant for long rides, and if the idea of a nearly useless third seatbelt in back offends you for some reason, you can order a rear seating arrangement that restores the full center console.

Porsche invited us to drive its new Panamera Sport Turismo around the island of Vancouver in Canada. We first sampled the E-Hybrid model, its drivetrain second only to the Turbo in power and torque. To its $105,050 base price (which includes the $1,050 destination charge), Porsche added all the goodies you'd likely want in your luxury sport sedan: adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, navigation, leather-covered adaptive sport seats, and so on. The total price came to a little more than $128,000, although there's a wide variety of options Porsche would be happy to sell you to inflate that price further.

It's hard to imagine needing more car than this. The E-Hybrid accelerates with the kind of low-end torque verve that we expect from an electrically assisted drivetrain, yet unlike pure electrics it continues pulling hard well after you pass the 60 mph mark. The brakes on the E-Hybrid we drove weren't quite as positive feeling as the Turbo we drove later in the afternoon, but whether this was because of the hybrid system or the fact that the Hybrid had steel brakes instead of the Turbo's carbon-ceramic ones is an open question. Suffice it to say when you need it to stop, the massive brakes haul this car to a standstill in an eye blink.

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Supple ride, quiet cabin

The roads we drove in Vancouver were more heavily trafficked than we'd prefer, and it limited our exploration of the Panamera Sport Turismo's handling. However, having experienced other Panamera models before, we're confident that the Sport Turismo will gleefully handle whatever you would like to throw its way. We can report without caveats that when treated like the luxury sedan it truly is, the Panamera Sport Turismo gives up virtually nothing to rivals in the same price category. The supple ride, quiet cabin, and exquisitely executed and assembled interior leave you no reason to doubt Porsche's commitment to building one of the world's finest four-doors.

The Turbo reinforces this with a 550-horsepower V8 that cuts a full second off the E-Hybrid's 0-60 time as it pushes the air aside to a top speed of nearly 190 mph. It also came with an as-tested price tag of $198,360, which included a ceramic composite brake package, 20-inch wheels modeled after the 911 Turbo, night vision assist, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus. On the crowded roads around Vancouver Island we got nowhere near that top speed, but the odd thing is that right off the line, the E-Hybrid felt even quicker than the Turbo thanks to the low-end torque delivery of the electric motor. In fact, while we acknowledge the contributions of the more powerful engine and other high-end performance systems that came with that near-$200,000 price tag, we were struck by how fundamentally good the much less expensive (but still pretty pricey) E-Hybrid really is.

Part of that are the shared surroundings, and the interior is something to behold. The new Porsche infotainment system uses a fashionably massive screen, and the "gauges" ahead of the driver are virtual digital displays on another pair of screens flanking an actual needle-and-dial tachometer. The center console is nearly button-free, and instead uses a touch-sensitive set of controls similar to what one would find on the dash of a Cadillac CTS. We have the same praise and criticism here: It looks cool when the car's not running since all the backlighting turns off and leaves the panel black, but that shiny black plastic smudges like crazy. The volume dial's location directly ahead of the gear selector is a huge ergonomic "don't."

As for the rear seat, it's definitely better than the regular Panamera's, but don't expect miracles. Headroom improved to the point where a tall driver and tall passenger won't be arguing, but the middle position is definitely a temporary-only proposition. Any aspirations you may have of using the Panamera to haul a family of five around should be ditched right now, although Porsche would be happy to show you a Cayenne.

We look forward to driving the 2018 Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo on our local roads where at the very least we know where the speed traps are. But if first impressions count, well, count us impressed.


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