Porsche bundles some choice equipment into a Panamera 4S, badges it GTS and creates a more driver-focused super saloon. But is it the best Panamera yet?
In the Metal:
Nineteen-inch wheels and a 10mm drop do wonders for the Panamera's stance, though the unconventionally styled 'saloon' remains divisive in its style. It is improved in GTS guise with the Turbo's Sport Design Pack nose with larger air intakes up front, while the Turbo's bigger pop-out spoiler at the back has also been added. Other subtle visual changes include black detailing around the windows, headlamps, side skirts, lower front and rear bumpers and exhaust. Like all Panameras it's colour sensitive, but in darker metallic hues it's not without appeal.
The GTS revisions inside follow the relatively subtle theme of the exterior. There's GTS badging on the sill finishers and GTS embroidered on the headrests of the leather and Alcantara covered seats. An Alcantara head-liner and standard sports wheel with paddle shifters feature too, while a G-force meter can now be found among the trip computer information.
Developments to the intake system and the addition of a unique camshaft have altered the character and output of the Panamera's naturally aspirated 4.8-litre V8 engine. It revs higher, the red line increasing by 400- to 7,100rpm, and peak power of 430hp (up 30hp over the V8 S) is delivered at 6,700rpm. It's a far more vocal Panamera too, thanks to both a sound 'symposer' and a freer-flowing exhaust. It rumbles and shrieks gaining engine speed, crackling and popping on the over-run. Leave the sports exhaust option on when you switch the engine off and unlike any other Porsche it remains on when you start it up again.
The engine's delivery is incredibly linear, its speed gain lacking the drama of some of its rivals as a result. It's never slow though, the V8's enthusiasm for revs and responsiveness resulting in a 0-100km/h time of just 4.5 seconds. However, the sometimes tardy response of the standard automatic transmission does mar the experience at times. That's even more obvious when shifting via the paddles, when the automatic can be reluctant to down-shift on command, resulting in frustrating double pulls for engine braking.
What the GTS does build on is the Panamera's incredible agility. The steering's weighting, speed and accuracy are all impressive, even if the finer details are a touch muted. The suspension (PASM is standard and the car sits 10mm lower in Comfort mode) manages to combine fine control with decent comfort and it's remarkably supple and forgiving. The Sport setting reduces body movements further, while Sport+ brings compromises in ride comfort on all but the smoothest tarmac. Standard Turbo brakes should mean fine stopping performance on the road, but even the optional PCCB brakes were a bit long on the pedal after track use - this is a two-tonne car after all.
What you get for your Money:
You could write the GTS off as an Excel spreadsheet marketing manager's special, Porsche gathering together some choice options and creating a supposedly standalone model. You could, but that would do it a bit of an injustice. Collectively it makes sense, as the cost of the options on a standard Panamera 4S would boost it above GTS money. There's some badge kudos too, even if the GTS is out-gunned by rival super saloons from BMW and AMG.
We cannot write a test on the GTS without mentioning the M5 and CLS/E 63 AMG models. Each of those cars is faster, more economical and available for less than the GTS in other markets. Irish prices for the Porsche have not yet been released, but we can't see it being any other way.
We're pleased to see that Porsche has dropped the 'purist' tag it launched the GTS with at the LA Auto Show late last year. It's not a purist Porsche; instead it's an enjoyable Panamera derivative that doesn't need to resort to forced induction for greater pace. It sounds right, looks great and certainly isn't slow, but it's a Panamera we admire rather than truly covet - that honour remains for the rear-wheel drive Panamera S with the six-speed manual gearbox - or, whisper it, the diesel.