Porsche Panamera GTS (2012) long-term test review

By the CAR road test team

Long Term Tests

16 July 2013 07:00

Month 9 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: final report and verdict on the Panamera GTS

Facts and figures do the Panamera GTS no favours. Take its appetite for unleaded, a pricey 98-octane habit that’s meant 30p-per-mile running costs for the past nine months. That equates to my 35-mile commute stripping me of £21 each day. Or as I actually experienced it, a £140 hit once a week when I brimmed the huge 100-litre tank. When your credit card is declined you know you’re only playing at being a Porsche owner.

I borrowed a Panamera Diesel for the sake of comparison/to avoid bankruptcy and it averaged over 35mpg and went over 100 miles further on its 20-litre smaller tank, making it 40% cheaper to run. And it’s £29k cheaper to buy.

Or you can have a Cayenne GTS for ‘just’ £67,147, a chunky £24k less than the Panamera GTS. It’s got the same 4.8-litre V8, the same four-wheel-drive system, plus more seats (the Panamera only has space for four) and a much bigger boot. And I’d concur with Ben Barry, who reckons that a Cayenne is always sweeter to drive than the equivalent Panamera. Weirdly, the taller, heavier SUV has better body control. Just to keep twisting the knife, let’s throw in a rival too, say the BMW M5, which has 128bhp more power, costs £18k less, and when you drive it hard it’s better than the Panamera – and every other super-saloon on sale.

So where does that leave the GTS? Sorely, sorely missed. I loved having a Porsche key in my pocket, loved having a Porsche in my parking space, and more than anything I loved being in it. Yes, yes, it’s not as fine as an M5 when you’re ‘on the limit’ on a deserted road in north Wales, but you could be in a 911 when you’re sat low in the Alcantara-trimmed seats, grasping the thin steering wheel, looking past the big central rev counter and across the upright dashboard. It feels special before you’ve even started it.

And then you twist the Panamera-shaped key (all Porsches have one, but it only makes sense in the saloon) and the V8 barks wickedly into life with a dirty growl. Natural aspiration means the throttle response is wonderfully crisp, there are no turbochargers to mute its bellow, and with the standard sports exhaust there are few finer-sounding V8s. The twin-clutch PDK gearbox can be smooth or super-sharp, the brakes are mega, four-wheel drive means impeccable traction, and despite the front wheels deploying some of the power it’s got great steering.

Well, it did until we ruined it by fitting winter tyres. The ContiWinterContacts (£4k from a Porsche dealer, including a new set of 20in wheels!) meant the 4wd GTS was unstoppable (in a good way) for the four or so days when the roads were covered in snow, but the Conti’s softer compounds and extra tread robbed the Panamera’s steering of much of its tactility. In hindsight, I’d stick with summer tyres, pull a sickie when the roads were treacherous (will bear that in mind – ed), and save the money for petrol.

But the Panamera wasn’t just practical when it snowed. Annoyingly, the fathers at CAR found the hatchback boot and folding rear seats perfectly suited to cruising their families across the country come the weekends. Still, at least they footed the occasional fuel bill, and because it was a Porsche, extra care seems to have been taken too – rather than the usual back-seat detritus developing (dummies, toys, crisps, raisins, chocolate so deeply ingrained it could have been part of the original cow) the leather and Alcantara cabin has escaped our tenure unscathed.

There were only two faults, one being the V8’s demand for a litre of oil every few thousand miles, and the other the collapsed pop-up rear spoiler we reported last month. It was fixed under warranty after losing a fight with a layer of snow and ice, but you’d think cold weather tests in the Arctic Circle would have revealed these things. Those issues aside, the Panamera felt indestructible, not fragile like, say, an Aston Rapide might. 

The Panamera is gone, it made every drive special and enjoyable, and only in its absence have I realised what a grind my commute really is. That’s high praise. The only upside is I might now be able to afford a shave and some decent shoes (hopefully – ed).

By Ben Pulman


Month 8 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: should you buy the diesel Panamera instead?

The GTS isn’t faultless, but our only real criticism is its 22mpg thirst. No such trouble with the Panamera Diesel, which won’t dip below 30mpg even when thrashed, will top 40mpg on a cruise, and averages in the mid-to-high 30s – depending on how much thrashing and cruising you do.

I’ve seen something in the trip computer of the Panamera Diesel that’s not possible in the GTS either: the promise of a 600-mile range. Granted, if you brimmed the GTS and then ran it dry, at our rate of consumption you’d cover 484 miles – but the gargantuan 100-litre tank disguises its drinking habit. Try the same trick in the Panamera Diesel – at a harsh 35mpg average – and the 80-litre tank would take you 616 miles. Usefully further, and it’d only cost you 18.7p per mile versus 30.1p. Add in the £29k price difference and the GTS is financial folly.

Of course the turbodiesel V6 doesn’t sound nearly as good as a roaring petrol V8, and despite a 40kg weight advantage and more torque, it’s over two seconds slower to 62mph. Plus the Panamera Diesel is only available in rear-drive guise too, so even before the snow arrived its 406lb ft was troubling the traction control more than 384lb ft was in the four-wheel drive GTS.

I’ve formulated the perfect solution. Porsche needs to build a Panamera S Diesel, not with the oil-burning V8 from the Cayenne, but the 309bhp and 479lb ft twin-turbo 3.0 TDI from our A6 Allroad. Add in the Audi’s trick sounds gubbins that make it sound like a petrol V6, and four-wheel drive, and it’d be the ultimate Panamera. With no mechanical knowledge of the Panamera’s packaging limitations, I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

By Ben Pulman


Month 7 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: judging the Panamera as a practical proposition

Just for the record, there's nothing Freudian about my current obsession with car boots, even though I talk about them a lot at the moment. It's just a practical concern: with a new baby and a three-wheeled buggy the size of a JCB, even when it's folded, every car I drive at the moment has to undergo the very serious 'Boot Test'. I was pleasantly surprised by the Panamera – let's face it, it's not the best-looking Porsche ever built, but when you lift that giant hatch it reveals a long, broad boot that swallowed the buggy without it even touching the sides.

So we had a few days using the White Whale as a regular family car, and it worked well: great seats, lovely engine, a totally unruffled motorway cruiser. It's a big car to park if you're on a quick, pull-into-a-loading-bay-and-run shopping trip, but at least there's plenty of room for your shopping bags when you're done. There. See? I'm talking about boot space again.

By coincidence, the Panamera was outside my house when I got the 'tough' job of returning a new 911 Carrera 4S to Porsche GB's Reading HQ. I couldn't leave without taking a shot of the two white cars together: the 4S looked great – all wide-hipped and curvaceous, and fitted with the optional 'SportDesign' aero package, that includes an RS-inspired ducktail spoiler. Which I couldn't stop stroking. And there's nothing weird about that, either.

By Mark Walton


Month 6 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: the GTS wins over its sceptics

Here's why CAR’s long-term tests matter. They give us the chance to get under the skin of a car, forge a true relationship on road and in garage, and to uncover the hidden traits that pass us by on the first date of a press-launch first drive.

I’d always been a Panamera sceptic, but now we’re running one on the fleet I’m beginning to see what all the fuss is about. Why the doubts? Well, it’s not exactly a looker is it, all the more so since we’ve seen the sleeker Sport Turismo concept at Paris. The interior is a mess of buttons, it’s pricey and I’ve always had a nagging feeling that it’s a model borne out of commercial greed more than genuine consumer need.

But after a ten-day stint in the GTS it’s hard not to walk away impressed. Granted this is the racier version that few buyers will pick – £91,239, 25.9mpg and 256g/km of CO2 see to that – but it’s quite an achievement.

Climb onboard and I challenge you not to feel a cut above the hotel-shuttling 7-series or S-class. It’s all Alcantara-lined, purposeful and sporting. And then there’s the way it goes. It’s so damn soulful, that V8, it just loves to rev and there’s no turbocharged trickery to fast-track the rpms and bhp. It feels remarkably like a Porsche behind the wheel – all rumbling bassline and unburstable brakes – and it’s surprisingly nimble too.

But perhaps the Panamera’s trump card is its versatility. The boot’s big. Adults are comfy and pampered in the back. Equipped with winter tyres and four-wheel drive, it’s an unstoppable winter tool.

Your pockets will take a battering in this top-spec GTS trim and the 1920kg kerbweight is obscene, but I can now see why you might be tempted to avoid the obvious choices in this class.

By Tim Pollard


Month 5 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: January 2013's snow causes issues for our GTS

How’s the Panamera handling the winter weather? With four-wheel drive and winter tyres it’s proved priceless over the past fortnight, staying stable and secure on treacherous roads. Obviously you still need to be cautious, but for the most part you can carry on as usual. And those dual carriageways where everyone sticks to the inside lane as the snow creeps across the outside lane? They’re your own VIP highway, not to speed on, but just to travel 5-10mph faster than everyone else who’s trudging along. Just pity the people who pull out behind (on summer tyres) thinking your presence there has given the outside lane the all clear…

But apart from Friday night when the weather was at its worst, the roads I commute on have been largely free from snow thanks to the Highways Agency and the constant stream of traffic. Does that render the winter tyres redundant? To some, yes, especially as the set of Continental ContiWinterContacts and corresponding new 20in alloys on the Panamera (Porsche dealers only sell winter tyres as sets with wheels) are £4060. If you bought the tyres yourself, you’re still looking at over £300 per corner. Even smaller (and thus cheaper) winter tyres on a family hatchback will be considered an utter luxury in these tight times. And if someone ahead gets stuck on summer tyres, there’s little you can do on your winters.

It’s different in parts of Europe, where you buy a set of steel wheels and winters from the dealer at the same time as purchasing your new car, and you’re then decreed by law to make the switch come the winter. Your dealer makes the change, and always stores you spare rims and rubber.

Here in the UK I wouldn’t want to be without them, and our art director, who bought winter tyres for his wife’s VW Golf, swears they’re worth the extra cost, especially as they’ll probably last the lifetime of the car. But if you’re aware of winter tyres, yet can’t afford them, then hopefully you’re expedient enough to realise cold/wet/snowy weather reduces grip and increase stopping distances, and will leave a little extra room, be a little more cautious. Every little helps.

Those who are unaware of them? Even on winters they’ll probably be tailgating too close; you might stop quicker on winter tyres in cold weather, but the person behind on summer tyres won’t. Or like the VW Polo driver I overtook last Friday, you just can’t help some drivers. Having followed behind a lorry and said Polo on an A-road at 30mph, watching the traffic build up behind us, I chose a clear stretch and passed both. The lorry driver did nothing. The Polo driver flashed me until I was out of sight. Strange how he had the mental capacity to do that, but not to realise that he was being a tad too guarded as the snow wasn’t sticking. He didn’t have his lights on either…

So, a four-wheel drive car on winter tyres is good in the snow. No surprise there. But the Panamera’s been ailing elsewhere. After being covered in ice and snow, there was an almighty cracking, like a Cold War sub surfacing in the Arctic, as the pop-up rear spoiler automatically raised itself at 60mph. But it got stuck halfway and a ‘spoiler failure’ warning appeared. Each time I breached 60mph the spoiler rose again, but only in the last five miles of my 35-mile commute did it finally fully extend.

That, and the washers froze yesterday morning. Granted it was -6, but there was a good screenwash/water mix, and even after my 35-mile journey to work there still hadn’t been enough heat soak from the big V8 engine to get them going again. I booked the Panamera into Porsche Centre Silverstone for a fix, but come the end of yesterday they’d defrosted during the day. Strange how they managed that at a standstill in sub-zero temperatures, but not during my earlier commute. Damn thermally efficient engines.

by Ben Pulman


Month 5 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: the GTS gets treated to winter tyres

Last winter, the UK geared itself up for the inevitable bout of bad weather around Christmas by buying more winter tyres than ever before. Then it hardly snowed a flake. And this year it’s been mild, so if you bought winter tyres 12 months ago, they’re probably still cluttering up the back of the garage alongside that unused sledge.

But, tyre-types will tell you, although the special tread of ‘winters’ deal with snow and ice, they’re great in wet weather too – plus their softer compounds outperform ‘summer’ tyres once the temperature drops below 7°C. They retain their flexibility in cold conditions, whereas standard summer tyres become brittle, meaning the contact patch is reduced, grip levels are diminished, braking distances lengthen and you have a big crash.

It probably won’t rise past 7°C until Easter, so our fleet’s most expensive car now wears a set of Continental ContiWinterContacts. What price peace of mind? £4060. I’ll wait while you pick up the magazine. Yes, four grand. I was expecting the GTS to need a set of smaller alloys in place of its current 20in items, and £1800 for Porsche’s fully fitted 18in winters tyres and wheels is a hundred quid less than it cost for our BMW 1M last year. But the big Turbo-spec brakes can’t accommodate anything below 19s, so that’s £3140. But as Porsche offers winters on 20in wheels, we’ve stuck with same-sized rubber for a better back-to-back test.

Why the new RS Spyder-style wheels, then? Because my optional 20in Turbo II alloys aren’t available in Porsche’s winter tyre programme. Just swap the tyres? You can, but few winter tyres customers bother with the faff. Instead, to make the scheme efficient, each dealer buys the wheels and tyres in full sets from Porsche AG so it knows it’s got the stock, rather than having to go through tyre suppliers just for the rubber.

Result? The steering’s a little less precise, but the four-wheel-drive system means it’s not having the traction issues that our 1M so hilariously succumbed to after its switchover.

by Ben Pulman

For CAR's full winter tyre performance road test, click here. And to discover the science behind how winter tyres actually work, read Ollie Kew's blog here.


Month 4 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: Panamera GTS vs BMW M5

When we matched our M5 up against a Panamera, Merc CLS63 and Jag XFR (CAR, March 2012) we fancied the Porsche would win. We’d shunned the £124k Turbo S, instead picking the 158bhp lighter S: similar price to the others, but the only one with a manual gearbox and naturally aspirated engine. Two days and eight rear tyres later, and the Porsche was the only one not awarded five stars. Ah…

Rematch time, with the Panamera now in GTS guise, and our M5 back after a month spent in pieces at BMW HQ. GTS spec means 30bhp more, a 10mm ride-height drop, Turbo brakes, a double-clutch ’box, and four-wheel drive instead of the S’s rear-drive.

Four driven wheels will annoy Mr Barry, but I’ve yet to travel from A to B in the M5 and not see its traction control light flash. Most of the time it’s merely the over-protective electronics, but there are the occasions when it’s wet, when you’re overtaking on an A-road, crossing dashed white lines and cats’ eyes, and seeing the orange symbol of a fishtailing car appear on your dashboard isn’t wholly concerting.

Ben B avoids that blinking light by turning everything off, but while four-wheel drive isn’t infallible in the wet, with increasing engine outputs it makes more sense than ever for super-saloons. The M5 can shred its back tyres, but like a Range Rover’s off-road ability, it’s a talent the majority (Ben excepted) will never use.

Not that the GTS is a point-and-shoot machine. It’s yet to be ‘upgraded’ with the electric rack from the 911, so the steering is detailed and more communicative than the M5’s rather inert helm. And as the atmospheric 4.8-litre crescendos, rather than instantly thumping you in the back with twin-turbo’d torque, it’s simply more exciting and involving. Love the noise too: a lovely V8 woofle when you twist the Panamera-shaped key, then a sweet rumble at higher revs. And it’s not a synthetic sound from the speakers à la M5.
I’ll admit the GTS gives best to the M5 when you’re on it, and even at a brisk pace you need to switch out of the Comfort damper setting to better tie down that slightly wobbly hatchback bodyshell.

Yet I enjoy driving the Porsche more. If feels much more special than the M5 (Porsche badge, not a hotted-up 520d, rarer shape, lovely Alcantara-lined cabin), and it’s more interactive more of the time. Ben couldn’t disagree more…

by Ben Pulman


Month 3 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: living with the Panamera GTS in winter

Have just spent a few days off in Ben Pulman's Panamera GTS. Hands-up – I've never been a big fan of the four-door Porsche. While it's made plenty of business sense and is an impressive driver's device, it never stirred my emotions and I've wondered if Porsche shouldn't have stuck to its sports car roots. Brand dilution and that.

Yet the GTS is such a compelling device. It feels special in there, the cabin lined with smooth, velvety Alcantara; the equipment list towering skywards; the drive is sharp, fast and surprising fun for one so big. It's pleasingly alternative, very Other.

As you can see from the photo above, our pearlescent white paint job has come acropper now that winter has finally descended on our Sceptred Isles. I jetwashed it back to sparkling virgin white yesterday and this morning it's already covered in grime. Hardly the car's fault, but a timely reminder that white cars are a pain to keep clean. Good job it looks mean and purposeful with a layer of filth.

Our car has been switched to Porsche's winter rubber, which has turned the big Porsche into a surprise office go-anywhere tool. With four-wheel drive and a set of Continental ContiWinterContacts on board, I'd wager the Panamera GTS will keep going long after all our other long-termers have foundered come any sprinkling of white stuff.

The steering is a tad less precise on the new compound, but traction is amazing. And not just when you're hoofing it; you can brake deep and in more confidence even on chilled roads. We'll return to these winter tyres in the coming weeks and let you know how we get on. And how much they cost (a lot).

By Tim Pollard


Month 2  running a Porsche Panamera GTS: does the interior feature too many buttons?

I'm as much of a technophobe as is possible in these Higgs Boson times. I have a smartphone but use it only for making calls, and I’ve spent the last five years without the internet at home. I can work BMW’s iDrive, but I prefer a good button. Lots of buttons are even better.

Porsche Panamera buttons - interiorPoints for the Panamera then, as it’s festooned with the things. I just don’t understand the logic of burying your car’s functions in sub-menus. If I’m writing a feature, I won’t sit with my notes stacked in a pile, but laid out around me. And that’s how I like my dashboards too.

Turn on the heated seats in our XF? You’ve got to tap a slow touchscreen several times; in the Panamera you press a single button. After a couple of days you know exactly where each button is and what it does. I can’t touch-type but I can tell you the exact location of the air-con, sat-nav and heated-seat controls, and turning on the sports exhaust and pressing the Sport button is stored in my left hand’s muscle memory. All I crave are some more BMW-style ‘favourite’ buttons into which I can program radio stations – but as Porsche doesn’t offer DAB the GTS has only ever been tuned to 5Live.

By Ben Pulman


Month 1 running a Porsche Panamera GTS: welcome to the Porsche Panamera GTS

Life with our BMW M5 is nearly at an end, so CAR needs a new super-saloon to keep our long-term test fleet’s emissions high and balance out all those eco diesels. Step forward the Porsche Panamera GTS. I can run this because Mark Walton had a 1.7-litre Hyundai estate. Thanks Mark.

The Panamera has been on sale for a couple of years, but the GTS is new, and when Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar are all busy forcefully inducting the V8 engines of their hot-rod-spec exec saloons, this Porsche’s 4.8-litre engine is refreshingly free of a turbocharger or supercharger. Of course you can have a turbocharged Panamera but Porsche would have you believe the naturally aspirated GTS is the sportiest model in the range. Porsche Panamera 2012 long-term test review

GTS means an extra 30bhp and 15lb ft over the Panamera S, plus four-wheel drive, the quick-shifting dual-clutch PDK gearbox, and the Sport Chrono pack with which to tweak it. And then there’s adaptive air suspension with firmer dampers, a 10mm lower ride height than the rest of the range, the beefier brakes, chunkier bumpers and Transformers-spec pop-up rear spoiler from the Panamera Turbo, plus a fruitier switchable exhaust. All in it’s £91,239, versus £105k for the Turbo, £85k for the four-wheel drive 4S, and £79k for the S.

But the SportDesign bodykit is a £3116 extra on the 4S, the sports exhaust is £1772, air suspension a £1327 option, and the Sport Chrono Package Plus an additional £834, so you can kid yourself the GTS is good value. And it’s the same with the options list: 19-inch alloys are standard on the GTS, but it’s 18s on the 4S, so the upgraded 20in Turbo II wheels on our car are only £1133, whereas they’d be £2104 if you specced them on the lesser model. I wonder if 40mpg Mark is seething at my valuable consumer advice…

Porsche actually specced our GTS, but it’s not fully loaded. The Carrara White paint is free, privacy glass for the side and rear window is only £320, heated front and rear seats are a modest £295, but they and the £235 rear wiper and £227 Universal Audio Interface (aux and USB connectivity) really should be standard.

Besides the bigger wheels, the only real extravagance is the GTS Silver interior package – it’s very nice, but the leather and Alcantara interior is already very nice, and £1708 is a lot of money for silver stitching and silver seatbelts. In total there’s only £3918 of extras on our GTS. Pretty modest, and although our optioned-up 552bhp M5 (even with its ludicrous £5445 special leather) is £12k less, you’re never going to mistake a Panamera for a 520d M Sport.

I don’t need to tell you the Panamera Diesel would have been (much) more economical, or that it would have had a (much) longer range, but do you spend £62k on an oil-burning Porsche and lie awake worrying about economy? Yes, the GTS is an extravagance, but it also feels special – much more so than the M5 – from the moment you drop into the 911-low driver’s seat. It’s already making me smile, making life behind the wheel fun and enjoyable, and that’s what driving should be about. Long may such cars thrive. Right, Mark?

By Ben Pulman