It seems that every time I have written a review about a Porsche in 2018 I open with the very same line – Porsche are on a roll at the moment. Everything they build is something of a marvel, so it should come as no surprise that they’ve only gone and done it again, this time with the latest iteration of the Porsche Panamera GTS.
The GTS badge means a lot to the entire Porsche family – it means lower suspension, a smidgen more power, a load of alcantara and often, the most appealing car in the line-up. I know this having spent time in the 991.2 GTS and Macan GTS. I took a lengthy flight over to Bahrain to collect the keys to the latest generation Panamera GTS. Now that the styling is more better received and better integrated into the Porsche family look, the Panamera seems to be more enticing than ever before. Add to that the practicality and allure of the Sport Turismo option and you can see why the latest Panamera is a real alternative to the Mercedes-AMG GT 4dr Coupe.
So it looks great, but does it still drive like a real Porsche? Well, the engineering and acronyms would suggest so. This thing packs a real punch. That comes as no surprise given that there is a 4-litre V8 under that long sculpted hood. There is 460 horsepower and a hefty 620Nms of torque to help motor this sizeable saloon down the tarmac. Ahh yes, size – it really does matter.
The Saloon is 1,995 and the Sport Turismo 2,025 kilos, both without fluids. So does it feel lardy? On the boring, straight, speed camera plagued streets around Manama it was hard to tell. Fortunately Bahrain has some more interesting tarmac to indulge in, so good in fact that Lewis Hamilton and Co spend a weekend every year playing there – the Bahrain International Circuit. The lovely folks at Porsche had it closed just for us to see just how much of an athletic injection the G, T and S glued to the backside of the two-tonne saloons had made.
The sun sank over the horizon and the 495 light poles lit up like nuclear lollipops. Time to see if these cars were worthy of wearing a Porsche badge and could put up with twists and turns fit for Formula 1 cars. This really would be a fair test too, usually I would swap the car I was driving on the road for a track prepped twin. Not here, Porsche had so much faith in the resilience of the Panamera GTS that I drove straight off the road and into the pitlane out onto the circuit. Bravo.
Remember those acronyms I mentioned…these are the key chassis elements that are designed to mask the weight – PASM and PDCC with PTV Plus. What are they? Porsche Active Stability Management and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus. What do they do? PASM works to help handling via the adjustable dampers, PDCC is the control of the chassis via the 48-volt system that could be found throughout the VAG family which works to stabilize body roll using hydraulic actuators.
This works in conjunction with the torque vectoring function which allows torque to be split variably through the rear axle. It’s all very complicated, but these systems come together in a spectacular fashion to give the GTS dynamics that a car of this size and weight should just not have. Porsche need to do away with the acronyms and simply offer these options as the ‘magic package’.
It is not the most relevant test for a car that is unlikely to see much track time, but Porsche insist that cars with the GTS badge must be up to such challenges. Drop the kids to school and you can casually saunter onto a race track and not have to hold back. It really is up to hard track work, it’s rewarding and you learn to drive it smoothly to nullify understeer from barrelling into a corner to quickly or inducing oversteer from being too greedy with the loud pedal. That really is a loud pedal, the GTS pops and bangs on downshifts and the V8 is vocal.
Inside its all you would expect from a premium Porsche product. There are lashings of carbon and racy alcantra to stroke in traffic. Leave it in comfort and the air suspension is fabulously supple and cossets the driver and occupants. The infotainment is fantastic, there is a head up display for the first time in a Panamera and more online functions that you could chuck your 16 year old kid at. One thing I’m not such a fan of are the controls for the central air vents. I’ve complained about touch tech going too far and this is a prime example. There is no notch on the vents to simply manoeuvre to adjust the direction and strength of the air – instead you have to go into a menu and use your finger on the screen. It is inaccurate and annoying. We’ve got to go back, who thought that was a good idea?
Aside from this niggle there really isn’t much to complain about. This is a stunning, well equipped car. Yes, there are the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid options, but the GTS presents one of the best all rounders with exploitable power and thrills to be found at every given opportunity. This is the pick of the bunch in my mind. That being said, it is far from cheap and the 4 door 53 AMG maybe a cheaper and just as special package. It would be a tough choice picking between the two, but for me, the lines and cool factor of the GTS Sport Turismo would edge it!