You know that phrase 'the sweet spot of the range'? You know how it's often used because, sometimes, people haven't driven the most powerful car in a given line-up? Yeah, well, that's not the case with the sublime Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo, revised for the 2021 model year with some of its headline-grabbing stablemates. By all means, pick the 630hp Turbo S if you want (and that's a very, very, very good car, we admit), but know that the GTS is the near-perfect fast-wagon package.
In the metal
With the trademark Porsche GTS black detailing on the outside and an interior enlivened by an Alcantara steering wheel, carbon-fibre trim and red-faced dials to match the exterior bodywork (these are all cost options, admittedly), the updated Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo looks absolutely sublime from all aspects. Like its sister cars, all the updated GTS has to crow about is a new front-bumper arrangement and a reshaped full-width rear light bar, but when a vehicle looks as good as this in the first place then drastic remedial aesthetic work is plainly not required. Apart from the basic Panamera/Panamera 4 models, the GTS is the variant in the Porsche's range that has seen the least changes from its pre-facelift guise - the same 4.0-litre biturbo V8 is carried over, driving all four wheels (called Porsche Traction Management, or PTM) through an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic gearbox and delivering the same 620Nm of torque as before.
However, its peak power has been hiked 20hp to a maximum of 480hp and the way it churns out this power has been mapped to make it feel normally aspirated, rather than forced induction - a fact you'll spot if you look at the stats of this V8 and the Turbo S's similar unit, because the former delivers its 480 horses at 6,500rpm while the latter maxes out at 630hp at a slightly lower 6,000rpm. This one detail, however small though it may seem, nevertheless speaks volumes about the driver-focused ethos of the GTS as a whole...
As before the facelift, the Panamera GTS has a lower ride height than other models, with its own specific suspension tuning to make the most of that. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) three-stage damping is standard-fit, although items like the Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) rear differential, yellow-callipered Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) active anti-roll bars and the agility-boosting Rear-Axle Steering are all cost options.
There's therefore a whole moral argument about whether a car on which you need to spend another €20,000-30,000 in order to get the chassis operating at its optimum is one that can be said to be the 'best', but - having driven the GTS and the Turbo S back-to-back - it's the GTS we love the most. As good as the Turbo S, the GTS feels the more cohesive package. For starters, it's a useful 95kg lighter than the equivalent Turbo S and, with its sharp suspension tuning that correlates into a sweeter, more rewarding drive. Even in Sport Plus mode, there's a background whiff of softness in the Turbo S's damping that allows just a shade more imprecision to leach into the levels of body control... on the GTS, there's no such thing.
So you have the exceptional steering, the magnificent damping, the thumping V8 drivetrain (seriously, you're not going to need to exploit an eight-cylinder powerplant on the roads to a more significant degree than that which can be served up by the luscious 4.0-litre unit in the GTS, and Porsche was right; it sounds and feels like a normally aspirated V8 in the way it piles on the revs) and the exquisite chassis poise, and yet the GTS sacrifices nothing in terms of ride comfort. It's always on the firm side of things, even in Normal mode, but the suspension on this Panamera is never noisy in operation and it won't allow unseemly thumps and bangs to make their way into the passenger compartment. Furthermore, it glides glossily over corrugated road surfaces in a fashion that is wholly befitting of what is, when all's said and done, a vehicle that is an executive limousine beneath all its Porsche badging and handsome shooting-brake bodywork.
If you're struggling to understand why we favour the 'lesser' GTS over the flagship Turbo S, let us put it like this: both of these V8 Panameras are blindingly brilliant, but in the Turbo S there's the nagging thought that the 630hp engine dominates proceedings slightly, that it's the one thing that must be carefully contained by all the other components fitted to the car. In the GTS, every single facet of its character feels in perfect harmony with everything else; it is balanced, polished, whole. It is, quite simply, fantastic.
What you get for your money
As already stated, much of the chassis hardware that is fitted from the factory to the Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo will cost a GTS buyer extra cash. However, here's the thing: the GTS Sport Turismo is a whopping €51,892 more affordable than the Turbo S estate. That's a lot of spare money with which to get the spec just as you want it. And, in our opinion, with the right chassis upgrades and the correct colour specification, a GTS Sport Turismo will be the finer car out of the two V8 Porsches.
When it comes down to spending north of €200,000 on a car, it's highly likely that the sort of lucky people who can afford such an expensive frippery won't care one jot about saving €50,000 by picking the Panamera GTS Sport Turismo instead of the Turbo S Sport Turismo. It's also the case that once you've experienced the unhinged savagery of the Turbo S's power delivery, you might never want to go back to anything that's running sub-600 horsepower. Fine enough points, both; but here's our view - for two-thirds of the cost of the Turbo S, with the GTS you get a sharper chassis, you get sportier looks, you get a slightly more detailed and enjoyable exhaust note and you get all the beefy V8 performance you could ever possibly want or need from an estate car like this. So yes, the Turbo S is a shining light atop the revised Panamera line-up... but the GTS is the true star. It is a glorious performance machine, only one that has been suitably and enjoyably enhanced by the updates.