With the proliferation of vast options lists at premium manufacturers these days, it’d be nice if there was a model that simply packaged all the choice bits up for those customers who would rather spend time driving than scratching their head in the dealership.
In effect, this is the rationale behind Porsche’s GTS range: all the key boxes are ticked as standard to deliver sharper dynamics along with a smattering of extra kilowatts to ensure a pace advantage over the ‘regular’ variants.
In the case of the Panamera GTS, Sport Chrono is standard, as is three-chamber air suspension with the PASM adaptive dampers, er, adapted for a sportier setup and the whole show is 10mm lower thanks to the Sport chassis.
There are larger brakes – 390mm rotors and six-piston calipers up front and 365mm rotors and four-piston calipers at the rear – sitting behind 20-inch wheels (though our test car wears 21s), the snazzy Sport Design package offers blacked-out exterior trim and coats the interior with liberal amounts of Alcantara.
The biggest change, however, occurs under the bonnet, where the Panamera 4S’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 is ditched for the Panamera Turbo’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. Ah, not so fast. To preserve the Turbo’s place in the Panamera pecking order, Porsche turns down the boost pressure from 18.7psi to 11.5psi, limiting power to 338kW/620Nm instead of the full 404kW/770Nm. This is where it gets a bit tricky.
MOTOR comparison: Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo v AMG S63 L
Despite its extra capacity, the GTS offers just 17kW more than the 4S. Factor in the GTS’s added heft, though, and its 169kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio is actually inferior to its six-cylinder sibling (173kW), though its 70Nm advantage does give it 0-100km/h superiority, albeit by just 0.1sec of a second (4.2sec vs 4.1sec). Trouble is, the GTS is expensive, $50,600 dearer than a 4S and just $20K shy of a Turbo, though its higher level of standard kit does somewhat offset that.
Porsche says the decision to use the V8 was an emotional one and it chose wisely; turn the key and a deep bark escapes the tailpipes that no six-cylinder could ever match. Regardless of its power output this is a beautiful engine; buttery-smooth with a great soundtrack, it mightn’t have the outright thrust of the Turbo but with a claimed 0-100km/h in 4.1sec and top speed of 292km/h it’s not exactly lacking performance.
Nevertheless, these numbers aren’t exactly cutting-edge in the crazy world we live in, but in a way the GTS’s (relative!) lack of pace is of benefit as it provides more time to enjoy the engine as it works its way around the tachometer.
Accelerate out of a corner and instead of instantly being transported to licence-losing speeds, there’s a little more time to appreciate the cultured V8 growl before having to lift off. Certainly there is no hint that the engine’s potential has been curtailed, no slackening off as it approaches its 6800rpm limit.
MOTOR review: Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid
Dynamically the GTS is even more impressive. A suite of optional chassis upgrades are available, including active anti-roll bars, torque vectoring, all-wheel steering and carbon-ceramic brakes; our test car has none of these and is no lesser for it, handling with a poise and fluency completely at odds with its size and weight.
It can be driven incredibly hard with confidence thanks to its precision and communication, the unkillable ESP the only thing stopping it displaying its ultimate talents, an increasingly common complaint in the latest Porsches, though forgivable in a car this big and powerful.
Somehow, despite its lower, stiffer setup, the GTS displays outstanding ride quality and refinement, far superior to its most obvious rival, the Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S (though the AMG is five seconds quicker to 200km/h so handily wins the bang for your bucks argument). Combined with an interior that scores top marks for design, quality, ergonomics and technology the Panamera is an utterly first-class sports limo.
The elephant in the room is that the Panamera Turbo is equally accomplished and offers substantially more pace for little extra outlay. The previous Panamera GTS had the USP of a naturally-aspirated engine, whereas this new model feels neatly engineered to fill a gap in the range.
Still, the fact that GTS customers undoubtedly have the means to buy a Turbo but prefer not to suggests they have their own reasons for doing so. On the evidence of our time with the GTS, it’s difficult to argue with their decision.
All about the drive on MOTOR reviews
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)
Price: $364,100 ($395,220 as-tested)
Like: Superb dynamics; delicious powertrain; wonderful interior; brilliant ride
Dislike: Turbo is much faster and little more expensive; unkillable ESP
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars