Let me set the scene for you: crankandpiston is in Malaga to test the Porsche Panamera GTS. Over dinner yesterday evening, I wondered why this new Panamera was now All-Wheel Drive. Over scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee the next morning, I was still wondering.
Let me explain. Powered by a 4.8l naturally-aspirated V8, the 430hp Gran Turismo Sport comfortably slots in between the 400hp 4S and the 500hp Turbo, the $143,000 price tag balancing delicately there too. Not the quickest member of the line-up then, but hardly a double-digit 0-100kph. Why then baulk the rear-wheel drive precedence when logistics could threaten an already excellent drive quality? We’d soon see.
Our convoy for the 140km opening leg of our journey is waiting outside our hotel. Buddying up with Gautam from Autocar and with the relative go-faster buttons pointed out to us, we set off into the crisp Andalucian air.
Straight into heavy city traffic. The clear blue skies help quell our frustration, even if a temporarily bemused satnav attempts to do otherwise. The instrument panel does feel a bit cluttered, but this is a minor point when considering the beautifully stitched upholstery and swathes of alcantara adorning the instrument panels. I particularly like the separation from the passenger created by the centre tunnel. Suddenly I feel like a fighter pilot.
Finally free of traffic, we hit the city outskirts and I let gravity take control of my right foot. No lurch, no pounce, no snapping necks. Just solid, linear acceleration. And remarkable speed. Porsche technicians have lowered the GTS’s centre of gravity by running the front axle through – rather than over – the oil sump, producing a more planted chassis. This means 0-100kph in 4.5s and a 288kph top speed. No fuss, job done. I’m impressed.
The Sports Exhaust helped romanticize the drive too. Free of road noise (one stretch of freshly lain tarmac aside), the cabin resonates to the notes fed – and amplified – through the intakes and into the cabin. A beautiful ambience almost worthy of the asking price alone.
A stretch of narrow winding roads at the one-hour mark made us slightly nervous, our margin of error now just a nearby gully and an errantly placed 19” Michelin. So we pulled over to stretch our legs.
The Panamera is not known for its dashing looks, and I must be honest, they still rankle with me. Saying that, while scoping decent camera angles, the profile and rear haunches of our GTS – especially in the metallic black finish – marked a big improvement.
The Sport Chrono Package comes as standard, so we started the second stint in Sport mode. Suddenly the suspension stiffens, throttle maps are reconfigured for more aggressive acceleration, and gear changes are near-instantaneous. Not particularly keen to stack the car, I slowed my pace. And bizarrely, we picked up speed.
This is an executive saloon, and accordingly, weighs quite a bit. It may not feel so through the steering and the acceleration, but push the four-seater too hard and the weight will tap you in the back. Give it room to breathe though and the GTS comes alive. Light, agile steering makes the car nimble in even the tightest corners, and ample heft keeps the nose pointed where it needs to be. Treat the GTS like a pit pony and it’ll kick you. Treat it like a thoroughbred and it’ll gallop.
Our 140km opening sprint passes by all too quickly, and we arrive at the beautiful Ascari Race Resort. So beautiful, it’s hard to believe this is a circuit at all.
Soon the relative merits of the GTS are being explained to us by our genial hosts over a leisurely lunch, but most of us are thinking about the afternoon’s track sessions. An hour later, suited and booted, we hit the track in a Carmine Red model.
The pace car (yep, the Panamera does look good from the back) escorts us at speed for two laps before pealing into the pitlane. We now have carte blanche to show what we’ve got around Ascari. I select Sport Plus.
My first lap is not a roaring success. Traditional track over-confidence means my braking points are ambitiously late, and stamping on the throttle only unsettles our momentum. Touring across the line for lap two, I check my enthusiasm and take another crack. Once again, the Panamera comes alive.
The steering is unwaveringly responsive and with (mercifully) a proper paddle shift gearbox, there’s no lag. Even though we’re pulling over 180kph down the back straight, all sense of trepidation is now gone. Heads snap forward as I hit the high-speed kink, rolling backwards again as I feed the power in. The brakes really are very good.
Grip from the tyres seems endless. Only when we enter a sweeping left-hander too deep do the rears hint at giving way. The rest of the time, they stick like glue. Even during our hot laps with a circuit instructor, the rear twitches rather than flails under exuberant driving. There isn’t even any body roll.
Hard to believe that the same cars we put through their paces this morning have also withstood nearly three hours of track driving. And we haven’t even completed the near-two hour journey back to the hotel yet.
That’s probably the clincher for me. Okay, if your daily commute includes a 45m sprint on Germany’s de-restricted autobahns, you may hang the additional cost and go for the 550hp Turbo S.
But everywhere else, the Panamera GTS gives all the speed, luxury and (most importantly) excitement you’ll want from a four-door saloon. It really is a car you can use everyday, and I would. All we need from Porsche is just one more facelift.