The new Porsche Panamera GTS model aims to deliver a more focused drive, we see if it deliversVerdict4The GTS is the sweet spot in the Panamera range, delivering the sort of performance and driving dynamics you expect from a Porsche, but without sacrificing the standard car’s luxury and refinement. It’s not cheap, with both the Mercedes E63 S and BMW M5 Competition delivering more performance for less cash, but the Panamera edges both for handling and engagement.
It’s something of a paradox, the Porsche Panamera GTS. After all, here is a car designed to be a cosseting, loping executive four-door, so to then make it all taut and enthusiast-appropriate seems a bit silly. Like taking an off-the-shelf business suit, adding sweatbands and calling it gym wear.
Of course, it’s not silly at all. Making a gnarlier version of a grand tourer is hardly a new idea; just ask Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, or Mercedes-AMG, all of which offer cars with a very similar remit to the Panamera GTS.
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Ultimately, being able to ease through the commute and weekend family duties in a car that also impresses your mates and comes alive on your favourite road is exactly the one-shot motoring solution that many luxury car buyers want. It’s not hard to see why. So is the 453bhp Panamara GTS the shot for you? Well, if the above lifestyle description sums up your needs, then it almost certainly is.
From a fairly lumpy but always well-damped ride comfort through to keen, meaty cornering antics that have an edge of playfulness without being intimidating, it’s a noticeably broader spread of skills than the Panamera 4S that sits beneath it, and the Turbo that sits above it in the model line-up.
Perhaps more importantly, it has a very different character to its Panamera stablemates. From the lovely Alcantara steering wheel, to the way it turns in with more bite even at normal road speeds, the GTS feels a more aggressive take on Porsche’s four-door saloon from the moment you leave home.
If there’s going to be any quibble or UK buyers, it’s likely to be that ride comfort. Every Panamera, including the GTS, comes with three-phase air suspension all-round, but the GTS is set apart by a 10mm lower ride height and anti-roll bars that are 20 per cent stiffer at the front, and 30 per cent stiffer at the back. However, most buyers will also choose to add the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and Torque Vectoring package that our test car came with, at a cost of £3,527.
This package brings active anti-roll bars that prop the car up in corners, thereby reducing roll and keeping things tidier when it matters most. And it works very well in the GTS, which keeps its substantial bulk neatly tied down even through hard switchbacks, adding to the sense that this is a taut, perhaps surprisingly high-strung car even when its in its most relaxed of the three driving modes.
Of course, PDCC is only the beginning of the dynamic and style upgrades on offer; our test car also came with 21-inch alloys (£1,661), ceramic brakes (£6,707) and rear axle steering (£1,536).
All of this extravagant expenditure adds up to a car that will strike a wonderful balance, provided you enjoy a car that feels more enthusiast-oriented than you might expect of a big Porsche saloon. The dampers are brilliant at soaking up bumps and scruffy road surfaces, but the stricter spring movement means that you hear and feel what’s going on at the road surface, even while the dampers prevent it from ever jarring.
Still, by anyone’s standards, it’s a great cruiser. The eight-speed dual-clutch PDK is a snappy-but-smooth delight whether you choose to paddle through the ratios yourself, or just let the car do its thing. Equally, the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is smooth, effortless and unflappable – calm when you want, and raucous at the push of a button. Although it never sounds nor feels as savage as the engine you’ll enjoy in the usefully cheaper Mercedes-AMG E 63 S.
We’d forego the rear-wheel steering unless you regularly tool around torturous multi-storey car parks, when the tighter turning circle becomes invaluable given the Porsche’s expansive bonnet. The system does, of course, work at higher speeds to increase stability and agility. But it can also make the steering response feel oddly inconsistent and over-assisted, and experience of Panameras without the four-wheel steering suggests that the GTS would feel more natural without it.
Even with it, the rear-biased, active four-wheel drive of the Panamera works wonders to make such a heavy car feel willing and playful despite an overall tendency towards understeer. You can fling it through a decent set of corners, and it’ll feel neutral and engaging. Yet there’s a restrained naughtiness to it, even at normal road speeds, which is perfect for a car that aims to be unintimidating but exciting.
As an aside, those ceramic brakes are mind-bogglingly effective, but unless you plan to use your Panamera on track, you’re better off saving the money; they’re great but unnecessary – offering a bit less feel than the steel brakes in road use.
The GTS looks good, too. With the gloss black highlights and special badging to set it apart, it’s a striking-looking yet perfectly comfortable and functional family car. Yet the Sport Turismo version is both more practical and even better looking, in our opinion.
But the Panamera isn’t perfect. We’d like a more exciting engine sound, and the ride comfort might be a little too restless for some. The standard 4S is softer yet still great to drive, while those after even more grit and lairiness will find better value in the Mercedes-AMG E63 S.
Even so, the Panamera GTS feels like a jack-of-all trades and master of most.
- Model: Porsche Panamera GTS
- Price: £105,973
- Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
- Power/torque: 453bhp/620Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
- Top speed: 181mph
- Economy/CO2: 27.8mpg/235g/km
- On sale: Now
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