Hit for Four

Porsche’s updated Panamera GTS is the fast way to shift a family

IN DETAIL

Porsche Panamera GTS

PRICE:
$318,300 plus on-road costs
ENGINE:
4.8-litre V8 petrol
POWER:
324kW @ 6700rpm
TORQUE:
520Nm @ 3500rpm
TRANSMISSION:
Seven-speed dual-clutch
KERB WEIGHT:
1925kg
0-100KM/H:
4.4 seconds
RATING:
4 STARS

hone IN on the range

Porsche is good at two things – making excellent driver’s cars and squeezing out as many different variants on them as possible. This time it has created nine different variants of the Panamera to try and appeal to its widest possible range of customers. There are six different engines, including a hybrid, and options of rear- and all-wheel drive to pick from as the Panamera does battle with the more mainstream BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class – not to mention premium rivals such as the Aston Martin Rapide, Jaguar XF and new Maserati Ghibli.

The Panamera range begins with the self-titled, rear-drive model equipped with a 228kW 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine ($201,400). With the same engine driving all four wheels comes the Panamera 4 ($213,500). Next up is the Panamera Diesel ($196,700) with a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel that’s good for 221kW and a healthy 650Nm. Then there’s the Panamera S ($287,100) and 4S ($299,300) with Porsche’s newly developed twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that pumps out 309kW and 502Nm, with either rear- or all-wheel drive.

Above the GTS sit the Turbo ($382,400) and Turbo S ($443,600) models. Both are powered by the same 4.8-litre V8 in the GTS but with twin turbos added to bump power to 382kW in the Turbo and 419kW in the Turbo S.

But if you are more concerned about the environment than outright speed, then Porsche has recently added the Panamera S E-Hybrid ($296,900). It pairs a supercharged version of the 3.0-litre V6 petrol with an electric motor, either of which can power the car on its own. Combined, they produce 306kW, yet the E-Hybrid can sip just 3.1 litres per 100km under certain conditions.

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FOR MANY diehards, Porsche will always be a supreme sports car manufacturer for whom the German marque’s expansion into SUVs and sedans remains too much to deal with. But just a few minutes behind the wheel of Porsche’s updated Panamera GTS sedan should be enough to bring most doubters across. That may sound like a big call, but the Panamera, particularly in its GTS form, really does encapsulate what may be considered the critical core elements of a true Porsche.

But what are those core elements? What makes a Porsche a Porsche? Well, it must have fantastic engine performance, communicative steering, a ride that balances absorption with body control, and overall, deliver a connected, engaging driving experience – all wrapped up in a stylish package.

The GTS isn’t the fastest Panamera – that’s the Turbo S (see sidebar, right) – but it is the most driver-focused model. Under the bonnet is a naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8 engine that sends 324kW and 520Nm to all four wheels. That’s more than enough to get the Panamera and its occupants moving rapidly. From standstill, it will rip to 100km/h in an extremely brisk 4.4 seconds.

But it’s the way the GTS’s engine unleashes that performance that really impresses. The power comes on in a strong, smooth, continuous flow. There’s no flat spot, no turbo lag or kick, just effortless acceleration.

It delivers the type of noise that will turn heads and make you love travelling through tunnels

And, just to underline its Porsche credentials, the 4.8-litre V8 makes a beautiful noise. The GTS comes with a sports exhaust that lets its engine unleash its full roar. It’s the type of noise that will turn heads and make you love travelling through tunnels.

But the engine is just the start of the Panamera’s remarkable performance story. Porsche has built its reputation on the back of cars that engage the driver like few of its competitors. That means it packs steering that transmits all the details and feel a driver craves, and a chassis that is extremely well balanced and up for any challenge the road can throw at them.

The Panamera manages to achieve both. Its steering offers fantastic feedback to the driver, allowing them to place it perfectly.

Its chassis feels taunt and responsive. In fact, when you tip it into a corner it doesn’t feel much different to its 911 sibling. It’s only halfway through a bend, as the weight in the rear begins to transfer, that it feels like a sedan and not a sports car.

That is true of any Panamera, but especially so with the GTS because it rides a sharper suspension to tighten up its driving dynamics and offers up masses of grip.

NOT PRETTY, BUT ITS DESIGN INTEGRITY SHINES

The GTS sits atop three-stage air suspension that is stiffer and lower than regular Panamera and S models. Despite that, it doesn’t feel harsh. Yes, it can crash over larger bumps, but most of the time its suspension feels comfortable by sports-car standards.

Which leads us to the question of style.

No, the Panamera is not a beautiful car in the traditional sense, but it does offer up something unique in terms of packaging, and its design integrity and functionality shine through.

Rather than a traditional sedan-style boot, Porsche opted for design language that links the Panamera to the iconic 911, and that’s not for everyone. But it does stand out from the pack, and that’s not a bad thing, as when you’re spending more $300,000 on a car, you might not want to be anonymous.

If you want to blend in, you can buy an Audi RS7, BMW M5 or Mercedes-Benz E63. But the Panamera gives people who need a four-seat car the option of a Porsche, and it’s a true Porsche: fast, engaging and stylish.