TESTED 23.10.18, BAHRAIN ON SALE NOW PRICE £105,963
Ever since Porsche rejuvenated the ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ moniker for the modern era, hardcore GT-division wares aside, it has been the derivative to have. No wonder you can buy the 911, Boxster, Cayman, Macan, Cayenne and this, the mighty Panamera, all in GTS form.
It was back in 2011 that the recipe first made for a particularly desirable version of Porsche’s four-door saloon. Dropping the ride height, stoking the engine closer to range-topping Turbo heights – but retaining natural aspiration – and sprinkling punchy black trim over the hatchback body gave an added sweetness to the finest-handling luxury saloon on the market.
Now the Mk2 Panamera has come in for a GTS makeover, and although the story is familiar, it does not whet the appetite in the same way.
For one thing, the 4.0-litre 90deg V8 is now turbocharged like every other engine in the Panamera range. Figures of 454bhp and 457lb ft, delivered over a broad range of revs, point to fairly rampant everyday performance, but this is now a ‘mere’ Turbo motor with the boost dialled down. Granted, it’ll do a WLTP-certified 27.4mpg combined compared with the old model’s 26.4mpg, which was recorded on the absurdly optimistic NEDC test. Given the new model is larger, heavier, 20bhp more powerful and 0.3sec quicker to 62mph, at 4.1sec, that’s some improvement.
But the GTS was always meant to be about more than the numbers, so it’s a surprise the mechanical modifications are also in short supply outside of the engine bay.
The standard-fit air suspension sits the chassis no lower than for any other PDCC-equipped Panamera. You get thicker anti-roll bars, at least for the non-PDCC base model, but relatively few will buy with such austerity. For PDCC cars with active anti-roll bars (and a torque-vectoring rear differential), the electronic actuator is instead ordered to massage quite a bit more tension into the set-up when required. Damper rates are also up, but the existing hardware remains. The same applies to the sports exhaust, whose software is altered for more muscle-car woofle. All things considered, the GTS feels a lot like a tuning exercise using code instead of compression testers.
Not that any of this stops the latest Panamera from feeling unnaturally athletic for its 1995kg kerb weight. Our time on the road was limited but stints on track highlighted its ability to summon truly tenacious grip one moment and then indulge the driver with tiptoe poise the next.
There are more genial super-saloons, and quicker ones, but no comparable car dials you into the driving experience like a Panamera, and that is more palpable than ever in the GTS. It’s responsive to the sort of subtle throttle inputs lost on other big-boned cars and devastatingly accurate right up to the point the Pirelli P Zeros begin to wilt. You’re not conscious of the body control, either, which suggests it is superbly effective. Caveats? Blemishes, more like. There’s some latency to paddle-prompted shifts from the eight-speed PDK gearbox and there’s no question this engine is blown.
Admittedly, our test car was fitted with eerily effective rear-wheel steering, the PDCC chassis and carbon-ceramic brakes, which together add the cost of a Volkswagen Up to a £105,963 starting point. That price, by the way, rises to £108,110 for the more practical (and prettier) Sport Turismo shooting brake model.
If the GTS leaves you puffing out your cheeks with admiration, it also suffers the same affliction as so many modern performance cars. You’ll have to contrive to find any meaningful objective fault but, as the driver, your window of opportunity to appreciate Porsche’s detailed changes is simply too high to be relevant on the road. There’s also the fact that the ever-present charm of the old 4.8-litre V8 has left the building. Brilliant as this GTS is, it leaves us wondering why you’d get one of these instead of the already excellent Panamera 4S.
Porsche has tuned the four-wheel drive in the GTS to remain rear biased even after grip turns to slip. Along with an ESP Sport mode calibrated to intervene a moment later, it really shows – at least on track. RL
Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power 454bhp at 6000-6500rpm
Torque 457lb ft at 1800-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1995kg
Top speed 181mph
CO2, tax band 235g/km, 37%
Rivals BMW M5 Competition, Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4dr