Now in its second generation, the Porsche Panamera was created to lure performance-minded buyers away from the top-of-the-range versions of cars like BMW’s 5-Series and 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class and S-Class. The Porsche sedan was also made to give the brand a premium four-door to sell in China, where such luxury machines are especially popular.
Today, the $92,400 base, $97,000 4, and $110,900 4S models make up the bulk of Panamera sales, while the wickedly fast $186,400 Turbo S is the ultimate all-combustion-powered Porsche sedan. There is obviously a price gap between the 4S and Turbo S; that is where the GTS you see here fits in the range.
This enthusiast-centric model is intended to have the best equipment for a sporty driving experience while still functioning as a comfortable daily driver. Our goal today is to put it through its paces on both tight backroads and the freeway in the Deep South to see just how it stacks up relative to other Panameras.
The second-gen Panamera is built on the Volkswagen Group’s MSB (Modularer Standardantriebsbaukasten, or Modular Standard Drivetrain System) platform, which is also used for Bentley’s Continental GT and Flying Spur models. Nestled under the GTS’ hood is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, producing 473 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque that is essentially a de-tuned version of the 620-hp 4.0 V8 found in the Turbo S. Power is sent to the ground through a Porsche Traction Management all-wheel-drive system by means of the ZF-crafted 8DT eight-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission.
Underneath, the Panamera has a double-wishbone suspension in front and a multi-link setup in the back. The GTS gets a standard Sport air suspension that sits 10 mm (0.4 in.) lower than other Panameras. On the front lines of deceleration, the GTS is slowed down via 390 mm (15.35 in.) steel rotors squeezed by six-piston calipers,
while four-piston calipers clamp the rear 365 mm (14.4 in.) discs. Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes are optional. The GTS is also distinguished from other Panameras by having side window trim, side air outlets, the logos on the tail, and the tailpipes finished in gloss black, Exclusive Design taillights, and the adaptive rear spoiler from the Panamera Turbo S.
Our test GTS has a healthy array of options, including the $5,100 Premium Package (which entails four-zone climate control, soft-close doors, Ambient Lighting Plus, Lane Change Assist, and heated rear seats), a $5,940 Burmester 3D High-End Surround Sound System, a $3,270 unique paint color, and $1,790 optional 21-inch wheels.
It also has $610 LED headlights in black with the Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus, and Porsche crests embossed in the headrests for $570. All in our $135,200 base-priced GTS has $18,970 worth of options. With delivery and other fees tacked on, this machine has a sticker price of $155,620.
Settling into the GTS’ well-crafted standard 18-way Adaptive Sport Seat Plus, I immediately notice the combination of Alcantara and leather in this variant, surpassing the standard leather found in other Panameras. It’s nice in here. Porsche did an excellent job creating a cockpit that is both driving enthusiast-minded and comfy. The four digital gauges on either side of the center-mounted analog tachometer take some getting used to initially, but they are easy to navigate with a bit of fiddling. The same can be said of the 12.3-inch control screen mounted in the center of the dashboard.
As I twist the faux key nub to the left of the steering wheel, the V8 engine roars to life, settling into a pleasant growl. The standard Sport exhaust is almost always a plus and sounds excellent in this particular instance. Moving the short shifter on the center console to Drive, I hit the road.
On a narrow two-lane road that runs through the Talladega National Forest in northeastern Alabama, the GTS quickly shows the two things you notice when driving it hard: weight and power. With a curb weight of nearly 4,600 pounds, this machine weighs 1,207 and 1,585 pounds, respectively, more than the 992 Carrera and 718 Boxster T I drove earlier in the day. There’s no question that you can feel those 1,000+ extra pounds. That ultimately doesn’t put me off to the driving experience, though.
Despite its size and heft, the Panamera GTS handles well for a large sedan. It digs in and ultimately proves to have a higher limit than initially thought. You can’t drive or toss it around as aggressively as a two-door Porsche. But when you push it harder, it doesn’t feel like it lacks capability for a machine of this type. However, you must be mindful that it needs to be driven like a front-engine, all-wheel-drive car that is weight-biased toward the front wheels. Driving it with a proper amount of respect yields a far better experience than pushing it like hell.
Even when driving at five-tenths, the GTS produces an enjoyable experience. The fact that it has a nearly 500 horsepower engine that gets things moving in a hurry also helps. This car’s sub-4.0-second 0-60 mph runs throw you back in the seat and make you want to do Launch Control starts again and again. Plus, merging onto the freeway in this thing is effortless. Getting up to highway speeds comes in a blink, and fitting into any gap you want comes equally as fast.
With no options added, the Panamera GTS fits perfectly in the range. Even with a healthy number of options, our test car still costs $30,780 less than a standard Panamera Turbo S. And you’re not getting much less performance by choosing the GTS, relative to its more powerful sibling. Our feature car is only eight-tenths of a second slower from 0-60 (3.7 vs. 2.9 sec.) and 10 mph slower (186 vs. 196 mph) at the top end than the Turbo S.
Compared to the Panamera 4S, which has a 443-hp 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6, the GTS is four-tenths of a second quicker and three miles per hour at the top end. It can be argued that the $110,900 4S offers similar performance for roughly $25,000 less. However, from my perspective, the GTS is worth that extra money for two reasons: more focused performance tuning and the wonderful V8.
Regarding competition from other brands, few other internal-combustion-powered offerings go head-to-head with the GTS; the Audi S6 and Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 are about it, and the Porsche easily outperforms both. Electric offerings like the BMW i5 M60 and Tesla Model S are more competitive with the GTS in terms of 0-60 times. Still, they are not likely what a most combustion-powered Panamera buyers are considering.
At the end of the day, the Panamera GTS is ideal for drivers who want more than the 4S has to offer without dropping close to $200,000 on the Turbo S. The GTS isn’t a sports car, but it does great as a GT sedan that can be pushed harder than most people would expect.