Forget SUVs, writes Jon Wall.
If you want a car that doesn’t drive like a truck yet will carry everything you need while also travelling very fast indeed, look no further than these three epic wagons.
Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo
Hybridisation generally conjures up warm and fuzzy notions of eco-friendliness; rarely does it mean oodles of power for its own sake. But in Porsche’s answer to the Audi RS6 Avant and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ Estate, which goes under the name of (deep breath) Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, electric assistance is all about oomph – and ridiculous amounts of oomph at that. Porsche starts with 542bhp, 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine and then adds an electric motor good for 134bhp. This boosts total output to a monstrous 676 horses, not to forget 880Nm of torque. So even though this unusually corpulent Porsche weighs around 2.3 tonnes before you load anything into it, that still means 0 to 100km/h acceleration in 3.4 seconds and a maximum that’s knocking at the door of 310. As the Sport Turismo is less a station wagon than a shooting brake, total load space is restricted to 1,400 litres; nor does the weight of the electric motor and batteries translate into an especially nimble chassis either. But ride comfort on air suspension is superb and as Porsche’s take on sporting luxury makes for an especially agreeable cabin, this is an extraordinarily pleasant car to spend time in. Moreover, compared with the regular car’s 911-inspired fastback, the Sport Turismo’s elegantly elongated roofline and rear – plus an added degree of usability – make it the default Panamera in our eyes, as well as a thoroughly desirable and lunatically fast automobile.
Audi RS6 Avant
Audi’s flirtation with insanely fast station wagons dates back almost 30 years, so the Ingolstadt company has had plenty of time to get the concept right. With the latest RS6 Avant it’s honed the recipe almost to perfection: a 4-litre, twin- turbo V8 producing 592bhp and 800Nm; permanent all- wheel drive; adaptive air suspension; a luxurious yet sports- oriented cabin that’s spacious enough for five people, or up to l,680 litres of load space with the rear seats folded; and heart-in-mouth, supercar-shaming performance. Indeed, this Avant can accomplish the 0 to 100km/h run in 3.6 seconds, it has a governed maximum of 250 and by ticking the Dynamic package on the options list there’s also the possibility of seeing considerably more than 300 on the clock. Audi may have festooned the RS6 with all manner of badass clues to its incredible potency, from gaping intakes and blistered wheel arches to side skirts and a pair of fat oval tailpipes, but there’s nothing in the least hooligan-like about the way it goes about its business. Yes, it can race away from the traffic lights like a bat out of hell or devour small countries between breakfast and lunch, but that monstrous speed is reined in for everyday usability by a battery of intelligent safety systems and a supremely capable chassis that combines phenomenal grip with the nimbleness of four- wheel steering. Rapid, practical, handsome and easy to live with – what’s not to like about the RS6?
Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4matic+ Estate
Now halfway through its model life, Mercedes’ contender in the superwagon category has recently been given the full AMG treatment – a 300 SL Carrera Panamericana- style grille that, along with air-grabbing intakes and flared wheel arches, bellows “outta my way” in the rear-view mirror of anyone unfortunate enough to be in front of you. On the inside, revisions to what’s still one of the most striking and luxurious cabins around include an upgraded infotainment system that incorporates “Hey Mercedes” voice control, as well as a new steering wheel featuring a host of buttons and haptic controls. In all key respects, though, the E 63 S Estate remains mercifully unchanged. Its wonderful 4-litre twin-turbo V8 produces a colossal 604bhp and 850Nm, and there’s a nine-speed multi-clutch gearbox, 4Matic+ all-wheel drive and a suite of Dynamic Plus drive modes that stretches all the way to Race and even Drift settings – the latter being something you’re certain to engage on a Saturday morning shopping run. It’s ridiculously fast, of course – 3.5 seconds to 100km/h and 290 flat out – but with up to 1,820 litres of load space, the E 63 S Estate boasts serious load-carrying credentials, while a light foot on the loud pedal turns this ferocious beast into a surprisingly urbane limo. Granted this Merc doesn’t ride quite as softly as its swanky interior might suggest, but the actively damped chassis is otherwise magnificently fettled. So unless you’re completely mad, what on Earth would possess you to choose an SUV over this?
(Main and featured image: Porsche)