Porsche has provided the clearest hint yet that its long-held plans of expanding the Panamera lineup to include a sporting wagon are real with the unveiling of the Panamera Sport Turismo concept at the Paris motor show.
The concept showcases, for the first time, a plug-in version of Porsche's gasoline-electric hybrid system. The car is one of at least three new Panamera-based models that have been under consideration at Porsche since the car was launched in 2009.
Key visual changes over the existing Panamera include an extended roofline, a longer glasshouse and an angled tailgate that opens at bumper height.
Wagon joins the lineup
The unveiling of the rival Mercedes-Benz CLS shooting brake at the Paris show will coincide with Porsche boss Mathias Muller confirming the new style-led wagon will form part of the second-generation Panamera lineup. The new Panamera's platform will be shared with future Bentley models as part of closer engineering ties between the two Volkswagen Group companies.
The new car also gives Porsche a potential four-door challenger to the similarly styled but two-door-only Ferrari FF.
"The body concept of the Panamera Sport Turismo is an outlook on a possible Porsche sports car of tomorrow," says Muller, without providing any official time line for the introduction of the production version. However, sources close to Porsche say the new wagon will debut in 2016, with production set for the company's Leipzig-based factory, which also turns out the Cayenne and is set to handle production of the upcoming Macan.
Porsche says it investigated spinning a wagon off the current Panamera design, but the high cost of re-engineering the rear body structure, including vital changes to the bulkhead to open up the loading area, proved prohibitive.
As such, the new model has been integrated into the development process of the second-generation Panamera lineup from the start, ensuring its production can be amortized with other models.
"In terms of the overall concept, the wagon is not too far removed from the liftback. Both use a large tailgate, with the structure engineered appropriately to suit both," Porsche revealed to Autoweek.
The decision to push ahead with plans for a Panamera wagon has been driven by customer feedback, Porsche says. "We have existing Panamera owners who seek greater practicality but don't necessarily see the Cayenne as a solution."
While no official figures have been quoted for the size of its luggage compartment, the Panamera Sport Turismo is said to offer seven cubic feet more than the Panamera liftback, which holds 15.7 cubic feet, on the European test procedure. This would place it close to the Audi A6 Avant, which is good for 20.0 cubic feet, and the Mercedes CLS shooting brake at 20.8 cubic feet.
New styling previewed
Among the details developed by Porsche design boss Michael Mauer and his team of in-house designers for the new car are newly shaped headlamps with distinctive double-deck LED graphics, a more heavily contoured hood, greater structuring to the flanks with a reinterpreted version of the brake cooling graphic incorporated behind the front wheel arches, a more prominent lip to the rear wheel arches to accentuate the stance and thinner LED taillamps that, in a nod to classic 911 models, are connected by a reflector strip.
In a move that indicates Porsche is looking to adopt new rear view technology on its next generation of cars, the Panamera Sport Turismo does without conventional exterior mirrors. Their job is taken care of by two cameras mounted within the side air outlets, with images shown on a display in the cabin.
At 194.9 inches long, 78.3 inches wide and 55.2 inches tall, the Porsche concept car is 0.8 inch shorter, 2.4 inches wider and 0.7 inch lower than the soon-to-be-facelifted Panamera liftback. By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake is 196.9 inches long, 74.1 inches wide and 55.6 inches high.
New plug-in hybrid system
As well as previewing its plans for a wagon, the concept car showcases a powerful new plug-in hybrid drive system Porsche intends to begin offering with the second-generation Panamera and facelifted second-generation Cayenne in the middle of the decade as part of its Intelligent Performance initiative.
Called e-hybrid, the Porsche-developed system uses an upgraded version of the existing Panamera hybrid's brushless synchronous electric motor mounted within the forward section of the gearbox housing, delivering 94 hp. It is supported by the same Audi-sourced 328-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine used today.
Together, the electric motor and V6 provide a combined system output of 410 hp -- a good 35 hp more than today's Panamera hybrid. The plug-in powertrain will propel the next-generation Panamera from 0 to 62 mph in less than 6 seconds while providing combined fuel consumption on the European test cycle better than 67.2 mpg.
Energy for the electric motor is provided by a 9.4kWh lithium-ion battery mounted in the floor of the trunk. It is planned to replace the nickel-hydride battery used by the current Panamera hybrid, with plug-in compatibility allowing it to be externally charged within 2.5 hours via a high voltage wall mounted charger.
Porsche claims an all-electric range of 18.6 miles at speeds up to 81 mph, values that Zuffenhausen insiders suggest will be reflected on production versions of the second-generation Panamera. To optimize the range, the driver can select an e-charge mode via a button on the steering wheel to increase the amount of kinetic energy that is recuperated under braking and on periods of trailing throttle.
Another facet of the Panamera Sport Turismo that is tipped to be adopted on future Porsche models is its new graphics-based instruments and touch sensitive interior control architecture.
Other new Panamera models wait in the wings
Porsche boss Mathias Muller has constantly indicated a desire to extend the lineup and create added economies of scale in production through the addition of further Panamera models. "The Sport Turismo is the first step in what is likely to be a significant program," an insider privy to Porsche's future model plans told Autoweek.
Other new Panamera-based models that are thought to have already been approved for production during the later half of the decade include a more compact coupe and cabriolet pairing to rival the BMW 6-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class.
They are conceived to sit on a modified version of the Panamera platform with a shortened wheelbase but sharing the same chassis components. The shortened wheelbase platform is also being considered for a smaller sedan/liftback model positioned below the Panamera.
The 2012 Paris motor show—or Mondial de l'Automobile, as it is officially known—will take place Sept. 27 through Oct. 14. It occurs every two years, alternating with the Frankfurt motor show in Germany. Paris is a showcase for design, but automakers will also be showing off their latest concept cars, green cars and supercars. Check out Autoweek's coverage of the Paris motor show here.Greg Kable
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