There are plenty of reasons to like the Porsche Panamera. Fast, comfortable, and -- finally -- pleasing to the eye, Porsche's four-door is an absolute delight. Whether you go for the most basic Panamera, the superfluously powered (and named) Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, or something in between, there isn't a dud among 'em.
Yet if I'm forced to pick a favorite, it might just be the newest member of the Panamera family. It's called the GTS, and like other Porsche models to wear this badge, it takes the best performance hardware from upper-crust Panameras and trickles them down into a slightly more affordable package. The GTS effectively splits the difference between the Panamera 4S and the more powerful Turbo, but offers better bang for your buck than both.
Under the hood, the GTS has the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 as the Panamera Turbo, detuned to produce 453 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers don't represent significant gains over the 440 hp and 405 lb-ft offered by the 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 in the Panamera 4S, but the GTS isn't about outright power.
That's not to say it doesn't pack a punch, though. Off the line, the big V8 offers tremendous thrust, the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission firing off blink-of-an-eye shifts as you wind up through the gears. The GTS come comes standard with Porsche's Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control, meaning it'll do the 0-to-60-mph run in 3.9 seconds, putting it exactly between the Panamera 4S and Turbo in terms of acceleration.
The GTS' standard air suspension lowers the Panamera's ride height by about 0.4 inches, and larger, 15.3-inch steel front brakes offer improved stopping power. You can also fit Porsche's larger, ceramic composite brakes for a not-insignificant $8,970, which offer strong, sure-footed stopping power, but I imagine the standard steel brakes will be just fine for the vast majority of folks.
The Panamera GTS is perfectly at home on any paved surface. Around town, it's easy to maneuver and the air suspension soaks up small bumps and blemishes with aplomb. Get it out on a long stretch of highway and you'll appreciate the effortless passing power from the twin-turbo V8 and the hunkered-down poise as this big four-door devours hundreds of miles at a time. Go blasting up a curvaceous canyon road and the Panamera GTS handles with the sort of eager athleticism you'd expect from a Porsche. From comfortable cruiser to track day bruiser, the GTS has incredible dynamic breadth.
Of course, it helps that the Panamera is brilliantly tuned right from the start, with responsive steering and a taut chassis. And a few key options help the GTS reach its maximum performance potential. For starters, there's the $5,000 Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport kit, which includes enhanced torque-vectoring for the Panamera's all-wheel-drive system. To that, add $1,620 for the rear-axle steering option, which helps the big Porsche cut through corners with a bit more urgency without sacrificing grace. Really, these upgrades work to mask the sheer size of the Panamera. Don't forget, this car is as long and wide as a full-size luxury sedan, with a 4,400-pound curb weight to match.
Other GTS-specific upgrades include 20-inch wheels (21s are optional) and a sport exhaust, the latter of which does a great job of amplifying the outward roar of that big V8 engine. The GTS wears unique front and rear fascias, though only the most keen-eyed of Porschephiles will be able to notice. Inside, the GTS only adds Alcantara fabric to the seats, headliner and steering wheel. (Maybe I'm in the minority, but I hate the way this stuff feels on a steering wheel. Blech.) Oh, and GTS badges. Gotta have badges.
As far as interior comfort and ergonomics are concerned, the GTS is in lockstep with every other Panamera. The front seats offer great support, both for keeping you in place during spirited drives, and for cradling your backside on road trips. The two rear chairs are equally as nice, with lots of legroom but a slight shortage of headroom (blame that sloping roofline). And while you can technically option the Panamera with three-across seating in back -- Porsche calls this "2+1" -- I don't recommend it. With the full-length center console butting up to the back bench, middle-seat passengers won't have anywhere to put their legs.
A boon of the Panamera's hatchback shape is that it's actually quite functional when pressed into grocery-getting duties. You'll have 17.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded, which is about the same as a compact crossover. Fold the seatbacks flat and the cargo hold swells to 47.3 cubic feet, which is only slightly less than what you get in Porsche's Macan SUV. Of course, if you really want to haul more than just ass, remember that Porsche offers the Panamera GTS in ooh-la-la-longroof Sport Turismo guise.
The GTS' tech game is super strong, utilizing the same Porsche Communication Management infotainment system as other Panamera models, housed on a 12.3-inch touchscreen in the dashboard. The colorful, high-resolution display has a reconfigurable home page so you can have all your widgets in one place, and it comes standard with a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay (but not Android Auto). Other Roadshow staffers have praised PCM for its easy-to-use interface and wealth of functionality, and I'm not going to disagree with any of that. Combined with the backlit haptic-touch center console, it makes the Panamera's cabin look like what we always expected from The Car Of The Future.
If there's a nit to pick, it's with the Panamera's advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) -- or rather, the fact that nearly all of them are optional extras. I simply cannot believe that on a $130,000 car, you have to pay extra for -- deep breath -- parking assist ($1,200), lane-keeping assist ($1,220), adaptive cruise control ($2,890, or $3,910 if you want it bundled with Porsche's InnoDrive tech), a head-up display ($1,720), lane-change assist ($1,060) and more. Hell, even something as simple as keyless entry is a $1,100 upgrade.
Pricing for the 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS starts at $128,300 if you want the sedan seen here, or $134,500 if you want the shapely Sport Turismo (you do). My Sapphire Blue tester has those few aforementioned performance options, as well as soft-close doors ($780) and a premium package ($2,610) that includes a Bose surround-sound system, comfort access and lane-change assist. Out the door, the car pictured here costs $149,360, including $1,250 for destination, which slides it just under the $150,000 starting price of a Panamera Turbo.
Yes, the Panamera Turbo offers a lot more power -- it's hard to argue with 550 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque -- but it doesn't come standard with any of the performance goodies I've mentioned. And really, where in the United States besides a closed race track are you really going to be able to exploit the Turbo's power any more than the GTS'? I can't think of a single instance when 453 hp could ever be described as "not enough."
Sharp and powerful, luxurious and comfortable; the GTS is definitely the sweet spot of the Panamera range. Make mine a Sport Turismo.