If you’re in the market for a Porsche Panamera, you now have more options than ever. From boosted V6s and eights to fuel-sipping, yet potent hybrids, the range has it all covered – there’s even a ‘wagon’ thanks to the Sport Turismo.
The difference between the 4S and the GTS is more than just 14kW, 70Nm and a few cylinders. It’s also about how the 338kW/620Nm 4.0-litre bent eight behaves and performs compared to the V6. The eight is a heavier engine, and it uses more fuel, but at the same time it’s a much more emotional powerplant with a broader range of talents.
It has a stonking torque curve, while in Sport Plus, the bellowing exhaust is unquestionably aggro and the eight-speed PDK hammers through the gears. It can also reach 100km/h from rest in 4.1 seconds with the standard Sport Chrono. Everything about the GTS is firmer, tighter, noisier, less compromising and more focused.
It’s clear that, despite the proportions and weight at play here, driving pleasure is high on the list. In this domain, the GTS scores myriad brownie points. So despite being able to lug vast amounts of luggage and seat five (if they can tolerate motion sickness), this Panamera is first and foremost a driver’s car. Involvement and interaction clearly haven’t been forgotten.
If money is no object, Porsche will equip your GTS with carbon-ceramic brakes, rear-wheel steering, a 48V system complete with electro-hydraulic anti-roll bars and torque vectoring. All of which is nice to have, but adds weight to the already portly 1995kg Panamera. The dynamic improvements are too incremental to justify.
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No, the charm of the GTS variant is its ability to unite the best of both worlds – performance and comfort. It can be a hardcore, high-speed master of the Autobahn or a long-distance cruiser.
Reassuringly, it also has oodles of all-wheel drive grip with pleasing roadholding talent thanks to adaptive dampers and 4D chassis control (the GTS also rides 10mm lower to the ground). Turning it all up to 11 from Normal mode is as simple as selecting Sport Plus (before hitting the Sport Response button, which remains active for twenty seconds). Yet, thanks to the three-chamber air suspension, it won’t shake the marrow out of your bones, even when the going gets really tough.
The steering attempts to make the Panamera feel less of a beast – essentially, it’s trying to channel a lighter, shorter and narrower car. It succeeds to an extent, but brisk turn-in puts about a tonne of front axle weight into your palms and the straight ahead is mainly determined by two substantial 20-inch wheels.
To explore the handling characteristics unique to the GTS, switch ESP off, find a second-gear corner and wait for rain. Thanks to AWD and advanced electronics, the change in attitude from neutral to tail-happy is progressive, balanced and subtle by Porsche standards. The brakes don’t show off, but they aren’t a weak point. Effort is unremarkable, pedal feel is progressive, deceleration is mind-boggling and fading is never an issue.
So, which Panamera is the one to buy? The eco-friendly hybrid six lacks performance-car undertones, while the manic S E-Hybrid is as heavy as a beached whale. The Turbo is a beast, but it comes at a price far greater than the 4S. Ultimately, the GTS fills a Goldilocks gap (it is less GT and more S or Turbo) which affords it menacing grunt without having to forgo the addictive V8 acoustics.
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2019 PORSCHE PANAMERA GTS SPECS
Engine: 3996cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 338kW @ 6000-6500rpm
Torque: 620Nm @ 1800-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.1sec (claimed)
Kerb Weight: 1995kg
Likes: Dynamic talent; weight-defying performance figures; V8 soundtrack; plush interior
Dislikes: It isn’t cheap; can’t totally escape its weight; interior controls complex to use
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars