FIRST DRIVE: 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS

By Shari Prymak

The first generation Porsche Panamera represented the brand’s first go at a four-door GT car. Though controversial in appearance, it certainly had the road presence and performance capability worthy of the Porsche badge. Now in its second generation, the Panamera is looking to redefine the style and performance benchmarks of the luxury sedan once more with the introduction of GTS model. 

Porsche produces a GTS variant of just about every model in their lineup. In each case, they tend to be the easiest method of getting all the best performance bits in a single package while saving you the trouble of checking off individual option boxes. In the case of the Panamera GTS, this means the inclusion of the SportDesign Package with sportier-looking front and rear fascia, high-gloss black trim pieces, 20 inch Panamera Design wheels, a three-piece adaptive rear spoiler, sport chassis with a 10mm lower ride height and adaptive air suspension, larger brakes, a sport exhaust, and, perhaps most significant of all, a tweaked V8 engine borrowed from the higher Turbo model. The Panamera GTS is available in both sedan and long-roof Sport Turismo body styles.

From an appearance standpoint, it wouldn’t be a major stretch to think of the Panamera sedan as a four-door 911. I’m not sure I would call it beautiful, but there’s no question that the sedan is much better looking than the awkwardly-shaped first generation model. The Sport Turismo, however, is a properly handsome looking thing. Wagons aren’t exactly known for their attractiveness, but this one certainly has a shot at reversing that trend. It’s a shame that the extremely cool-looking three-piece adaptive rear spoiler is reserved for the sedan version. That neat but of theatre is nearly enough to lure me away from the Sport Turismo’s siren call.  If you’re going to buy the anti-911, may as well go all the way.

On the inside, GTS models receive 18-way adaptive sport seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara with ‘GTS’ logos on the headrests. Alcantara can also be found on the steering wheel and headliner. A multi-function head-up display is new for the GTS as well. A high-resolution 12.3 inch touchscreen controls most features with a clear interface that’s both responsive to inputs and easy to navigate. It can even be used to control the air flow direction of the centre vents, which is rather gimmicky, but still a cool party trick. Less amusing is the gloss-black centre console with its haptic feedback controls which is prone to finger prints and scratches. The electronic gear selector also gets in the way of some of the controls. Those minor nitpicks aside, the interior is very impressive with an incredibly upscale atmosphere and impeccable attention to detail.

The GTS comes equipped with a detuned version of the Turbo model’s twin-turbocharged 4.0L V8 engine matched to an 8-speed PDK and all-wheel drive. With 453 horsepower, 457 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-100km/h time of 4.1 seconds, the GTS barely maintains an edge over the V6-powered 4S model in terms of power and performance. That may sound unusual, but the GTS is about more than just numbers on paper. The V8 engine gives it an unmistakable sound and character which could never be replicated with fewer cylinders. The PDK gearbox remains the gold standard for dual-clutch units. Gear changes are remarkably quick and equally satisfying in either automatic or manual mode. 

The V8 does add a considerable amount of weight to the front end of Panamera, but given that the V6 models are already quite porky, the impact it has on the handling is difficult to detect. In any case, the Panamera hides its weight remarkably well on the road. The optional dynamic chassis control and torque vectoring work with the adaptive air suspension to keep things perfectly flat and balanced around corners. The optional rear-axle steering helps to hide the bulk as well by giving the GTS a more nimble feel at lower speeds and greater stability at high speeds. Wide grippy tires and large brakes help to inspire confidence and deliver a sports car-like character. Although you never really forget that you’re driving a large GT car, it is truly incredible how agile and capable the GTS can feel when hustled.

The GTS comes equipped with the Sport Chrono Package which includes a drive mode selector located on the steering wheel. With the dial set to comfort mode, the Panamera’s GT car characteristics shine bright. The ride quality is well sorted and perfectly suited for long distance drives. Turn the dial to Sport or Sport Plus mode, however, and the suspension hunkers down into its firmest setup for maximum corner attack. The sport exhaust wakes up the engine emitting a satisfying V8 snarl with just the right amount volume. The dial also includes an instant response button which sharpens up the engine and PDK for short quick bursts of excitement when desired.

With the addition of the GTS model, the Panamera lineup offers more choice than ever before. Even with a wide assortment of gasoline and hybrid configurations to choose from, the GTS may just be the sweet spot in the range. With a starting MSRP of $146,200, it offers the same engine and most of the performance of the higher priced Turbo model without losing any of the character. A 4S model optioned to the same level as the GTS would be no less expensive and still wouldn’t have that charismatic V8 engine. The pricing may look steep relative to its competitors, and options can easily escalate that price tag in a hurry. Even so, the Panamera GTS remains one of the most desirable four-door GT cars money can buy.