► Panamera gets a drivers' GTS version
► UK prices start from £105,963
► Rival to the E63 S, M5 and the rest?
The new Porsche Panamera line-up offers more choice than ever. In the substantial 400-500bhp bracket, there are now three models to choose from: the 4S costs £90,291 features all-wheel-drive and uses a 435bhp 3.0-litre V6. Below that, there’s a 4E Hybrid 3.0-litre which fuses a V6 and an electric motor for a grand total of 456bhp and 516lb ft. And now sitting at the top of them all is this, the new Porsche Panamera GTS.
Priced at £105,963, the new Panamera GTS is pushed along by a 4.0-litre V8 turbo rated at 453bhp. And despite being marginally short of power and torque, the GTS clearly outsprints the heavier Hybrid to 62mph, at 4.1sec against 4.6sec. At the top end, the GTS’s 183mph V-max also has the legs on the hybrid model by 9mph.
So what’s this GTS like compared to the rest of the range, and is it really good enough to tempt you away from a Mercedes-AMG E63 S? Read our review to find out.
The GTS formula
Like all GTS derivatives, the new Panamera GTS comes with a go-faster body kit which includes black wheels, contrasting sill extensions, full-width dark skirts front and rear, black window trim, bespoke quad tailpipes and an interior composed of charcoal alcantara and bright polished aluminium. And to emphasise the matter, you’ll find GTS logos on the striker plates, headrests and the rev-counter.
Inside, the GTS uses the same redesigned dashboard we saw in 2016, and it’s very much a case of ‘great in the brochure, confusingly complex on the road.’ However, there is an improvement in usability here: the GTS is the first Panamera to offer a head-up display, and it’s about time.
At a hefty premium, all three drivetrain options will be packaged in the body of the roomier and more practical Sport Turismo.
If money is no object, Porsche will with great pleasure equip your Panamera GTS with carbon ceramic brakes, rear-wheel steering, a 48-volt system complete with electro-hydraulic anti-roll bars, and torque vectoring. All this is nice to have, but the stuff adds weight, the dynamic improvements are predominantly marginal, and in any case this is not a g-chasing sports car.
Tell me about the Porsche Panamera GTS V8 engine
The difference between the 4S and the GTS is not just 22bhp and 52lb ft of torque, it's also about how the 4.0-litre V8 behaves and performs compared with the 3.0-litre V6. The V8 in this new Panamera 4S is heavier, and uses more fuel (27.4 vs 34.7mpg), but at the same time it’s a much more emotional powerplant with a wider range of talents.
The first section of the torque curve looks like the north face of the Eiger, the polyphonic sports exhaust sweeps the streets clean in bellowing aggro mode, and the eight-speed DCT hammers the gears through in Sport Plus.
But is it still like a GTS to drive?
Power figures aside, what matters most is driving pleasure, and that’s where the GTS scores heavily. In true Porsche style, the new Panamera GTS is all about involvement and interaction, the dialogue between input and response, the balance between confidence and control.
Everything about the GTS is firmer, tighter, noisier, less compromising and more focused. The steering works with an extra dash of enthusiasm, the chassis sits fractionally lower to the ground, the active dampers (PASM) are tuned to a more offensive pattern, the air suspension pumps up its three chambers with growing enthusiasm, the available rear-wheel steering increases the low-speed chuckability while enhancing the high-speed directional coolness.
Although it can seat four (or at a pinch five) and hold 500 litres of luggage, this Panamera GTS is first and foremost a driver’s car which tolerates passengers only as long as they are fearless and immune to motion sickness.
That latter can be an issue when the captain twists the sport response button from Normal to Sport Plus before hitting the Sport Response button which remains active for 20 seconds. In this mode, all occupants should brace themselves for feral throttle response, truly physical gearchanges and a radical mix of very late redline-induced upshifts and shockingly early downshifts.
But to truly explore the handling characteristics unique to the GTS, switch off ESP, find a second-gear corner and wait for the drizzle to turn into rain. Thanks to AWD and the senior chip controller, the change in attitude from neutral to tail-happy is progressive, balanced and quite subtle by Porsche standards. Instead of showing off, the brakes also simply do their job. Effort is unremarkable, pedal feel is progressive, response is immediate, deceleration is mind-boggling, fading is never an issue.
New Porsche Panamera GTS: verdict
Compared to its rivals, the Panamera GTS loses the value-for-money equation; it spends more time at the pumps, and it is not a radical decontented lightweight special like the BMW M5, Mercedes E63 S and Jaguar Project 8 it’s up against. But that’s not really what the new Panamera GTS is about.
Instead, the charm of the GTS is its ability to unite the best of both worlds. It can be a totally laid-back long-distance cruiser, or a hardcore high-speed autobahn-meister that reaches top speed in sixth gear.
The Panamera GTS weighs in with oodles of grip, traction and roadholding, yet it won’t shake the marrow out of your bones even when the going gets really tough. And although it has AWD, ESP, adaptive dampers and 4D chassis control for optimum stability, switching to Sport Plus is all it takes to trigger its tail-happy side.
Read more Porsche reviews by CAR magazine here