What is it?
A modern big Porsche with a bit more sporting soul. That was always the idea with the upper mid-range, GTS-badged version of the Panamera, which has just been revised as part of a wider facelift for the car. But somehow Porsche has always struggled somewhat with the GTS’s particular execution; and that may help explain why a bit more commitment has been applied this time around, in an effort to finally give Panamera buyers who consider themselves genuinely keen drivers a reason to pick it.
Since the introduction of the original Panamera in 2009, most versions have had air suspension, four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. That being the case, there are some obvious things you might do to bake in a bit of extra driver appeal for a special, extra-flavoursome version; and yet it’s interesting to note how few of those things Porsche has yet deployed here. Contrary to what you might expect, the GTS has never had a strictly rear-driven chassis, steel coil suspension or a manual gearbox - although, funnily enough, other, cheaper versions of the Panamera did once have all of those things.
In previous years, Weissach did reach for a normally aspirated engine to produce some distinguishing driver appeal for previous versions of this car, of course. Four years ago, however, Porsche replaced the old 4.8-litre atmospheric version with a detuned 4.0-litre turbocharged replacement; and in doing so, perhaps it now feels that it made the GTS less of a proper GTS and more of a poor man’s Turbo. Oh, to be that poor.
And so to the latest Panamera GTS, available as it is in both standard five-door liftback and Sport Turismo shooting brake body styles (the latter as tested), which has been moved ever-so-slightly off on a sporting tangent of its own once again. The car’s 4.0-litre V8 turbo motor has been materially retained but, says Porsche, electronically retuned in order to produce the more linear style of delivery you’d expect of an atmospheric engine. Meanwhile a new sports exhaust with asymmetrically arranged silencers comes as standard which, it’s claimed, makes for a bit more vocal charm than the old GTS had.
A power hike is never bad news for a car like this, and GTS duly gets one worth 19bhp, with peak power being made 750rpm later in the rev range than in its predecessor. Peak torque is the same 457lb ft that the old GTS made, though; and interestingly, it’s also available from 1800rpm, which is precisely where it used to be. Deduce from that what you will about whether lip service is being paid to the aforementioned impression of a naturally aspirated engine here, or whether a genuine attempt has been made. Or alternatively, just keep reading to find out.
Elsewhere, much as I imagine a great many cars will end up with rolling chassis specifications that mirror those of the pricier Turbo S very closely, the GTS needn’t be quite so ‘actively’ clever in its suspension and steering systems as the new range-topper if you don’t want it to be. While a Turbo S gets Porsche’s latest four-wheel steering, active anti-roll control and all-corner mechanical and electronic torque-vectoring systems all as standard, a GTS doesn’t. There’s an outside chance that might just make it a default pick for buyers a little unconvinced by the application and tuning of those particular systems, and their impact on driver appeal for the car. If you like your big GTs as simple and pure as you can get them, then, perhaps the GTS is intended just for you.