Porsche luxury with the accent on sport
Style, suspension and sound tweaks make the GTS the emotive Panamera of choice
In Porsche land the GTS moniker has an emotive history that extends back to the 904 Carrera GTS of 1963 which brought racing technology to the streets.
Whether applied to a 718, a 911 or a Panamera, the Gran Turismo Sport badge isn’t the most powerful model in the range but arguably the most purist driving derivative.
The Panamera GTS slots in between the Panamera 4S and Turbo variants in Porsche’s luxury sports sedan range. Like both of those cars it has all-wheel drive, and it’s powered by the same 4.0l biturbo V8 engine as the range-topping Panamera Turbo, but detuned to 338kW and 620Nm (from 404kW and 770Nm).
It’s available as a sedan or in the newer Sport Turismo body guise which is arguably shapelier and also more practical with its extended roofline and slightly bigger boot.
So why choose the R2,074,000 Panamera GTS over the more powerful R2,726,000 Panamera Turbo, apart from the obvious R652,000 price saving?
Because 400kW-plus power outputs can’t always be realistically exploited on public roads.
The appeal of the GTS is that it’s a luxury sports sedan — with the accent still very much on sport — that lays on the emotion with its blacked-out styling, lowered suspension and vocal sports exhaust, but still has sufficient pace to thrill all but the most power-hungry drivers.
A Sport Design package conveys the athletic intent of the GTS with 20-inch wheels, black exterior elements and tinted taillights. Inside, Alcantara upholstery and anodised aluminium impart a racier-looking theme to the elegant and roomy cabin.
A digital dashboard with touch-sensitive panels has brought the second-generation Panamera into the 21st century, and the GTS model introduces a head-up display to the range for the first time.
Some of the simplest features are the best. The opened doors can be stopped in any position, rather than swinging open to the next notch and potentially dinging against another car or object.
The GTS rides 10mm lower on adaptive air suspension that can be stiffened or softened at the press of a button.
The Sport Chrono package comes standard too, incorporating launch control and a rotary mode switch on the steering wheel which offers four driving modes that affect the performance, sound and ride quality. Pressing the sports response button in the middle of the mode switch unleashes the car’s maximum power for 20 seconds.
This rotary switch, or mood ring as I like to call it, extracts notably different personalities from this Porsche.
In its regular setting the powerful sports sedan is mild mannered and comfortable, content to be driven through the suburbs with their potholes and traffic circles. It has a relaxed throttle action, and softened suspension that delivers a ride plush enough to be used as a daily driver or long-distance machine.
In the Sports Plus setting the car adopts the manner of Clark Kent emerging from the phone booth with his blue-and-red outfit. It adopts a notably racier and louder nature as the suspension stiffens up, the car spends more time in lower gears and quickens the throttle response for more instantaneous acceleration, and the exhaust gives voice to that turbocharged V8 in a much rowdier fashion.
In-between is a Sports setting that balances the bipolar equation, while drivers can also individually set a mode of their choice: a howling exhaust and comfy ride, for instance.
For a car that’s more than five metres long and weighs just short of two tons the Panamera masks its size well, and has a distinctly more athletic driving nature than rivals like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class.
Without being brutally fast like the Panamera Turbo, the GTS is more than punchy enough to get the dopamine flowing with its ability whisk to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and max out at 292km/h. It’s swift off the mark, power delivery is strong throughout the rev range with minimal turbo lag, and that lusty exhaust note really hikes up the emotion levels.
It’s a thirsty beast though, and our test car gulped 17.5l/100km versus the optimistic 10.3l figure claimed by the factory.
Power and grip are in good balance, and all-wheel drive traction ensures this Porsche doesn’t become a loose cannon when its performance is vigorously explored. Wheelspin isn’t in its repertoire even with harsh throttle mistreatment, and the large sedan also stays neatly hunkered down through fast corners.
There are optional features that push the car’s performance envelope even further, including Torque Vectoring Plus, rear axle steering, and ceramic composite brakes.
Porsche has learnt a few things about making sports cars that are liveable and docile in traffic, and every model in the Panamera range overlays a sporty spirit onto the luxury theme. The brutal Panamera Turbo wields all the big numbers, but this GTS version is the one that offers the most compelling balance of performance, emotion and price.
Type: V8 petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic
Type: All wheel drive
Top speed: 292km/h
0-100km/h: 4.1 seconds (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 10.3l/100 km (claimed); 17.5/100km (as tested)
Emissions: 235 g/km
Heated multifunction steering wheel, black leather and Alcantara sports seats, electrically adjustable front sport seats, head-up display, Sports Chrono Package, sports exhaust, 20-inch wheels (275/40 ZR20 front; 315/35 ZR 20 rear), LED headlights, Sport Design Package with black highlights, Alcantara interior trim, Porsche Advanced Cockpit, navigation, all-wheel drive, stability control, ABS brakes, adaptive air suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: Three-year/100,000km Driveplan
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Porsche Panamera GTS
Performance, handling, style
The Goldilocks car in the Panamera range
****Value For Money
BMW 745LE xDrive MSport, 290kW/600Nm — R1,797,300
Mercedes-Benz S560L AMG Line, 345kW/700Nm — R2,247,073
Jaguar XJ 5.0 Supercharged Autobiography, 375kW/625Nm — R3,027,116