The sweet spot of Panameras

The Porsche Panamera GTS Is a Sports Car for the Whole Family


December 14, 2019 Cars By
Brand: Porsche
Product: Panamera GTS Sedan
Release Date: Mid-2019
Price: $129,300+
From: Porsche.com

On any Porsche model, the “GTS” moniker signifies a straightforward nod to the company’s raison d’être — pure, maximized driving enjoyment. In terms of the Panamera, Porsche’s (gas-powered) sedan, this translates into a level of performance that makes even a large, seats-four-adults-comfortably luxury car deliver ever-surprising levels of go-fast-turn-sharp grin inducement. It is wickedly fast and thoroughly wonderful to drive, though not perfect; it’s disappointingly lacking in some very key areas, namely, technology and driver’s aids that should be standard at this price point.

The Good:

It’s fast. Since Porsche’s racer-boy Sport Chrono package (which includes launch control) comes standard on GTS models, you’ll see 60 miles per hour after accelerating from a stop for only 3.9 seconds. A twin-turbo V8 paired to a slick eight-speed dual-clutch transmission all routed through a taut, all-wheel-drive chassis — this car is an enthusiast’s dream.

It’s sporty. Alcantara-swathed sport seats act like ass magnets; the sport exhaust sounds the business from start-up to wide-open throttle; simple touches both functional and stylistic signify to even the uninitiated that you are a Fast Car Owner.

The Bad:

Driver’s aids that come standard on other, cheaper cars are expensive options. Lane keep assist, park assist and so forth may strain your piggy bank (assuming your Porsche-buying piggy bank has ever been strained). On a car with a base price of almost $140,000, I’d expect them as standard.

The infotainment and climate controls — a series of glass buttons and touchscreens — are convoluted, to say the least. The Panamera is stunningly nimble in spite of its size; it’s easier to hit an apex perfectly than it is to change the radio.

Behind the Wheel:

Minutes after picking up my Sapphire Blue Panamera GTS, replete with bright red calipers tucked behind blacked-out wheels, I was devouring an In-N-Out cheeseburger while driving north on the 101 toward Santa Barbara, just as the sun was setting. The drive is almost surreal — over mountains, past palm trees and, finally, alongside the gorgeous Pacific, to a place I’ve always considered an accessible paradise. So it made sense to do it in an accessible sports car.

GTS models are the hot rods of Porsche’s lineup; higher-powered than base models and featuring fewer frills than top-spec cars, they’re meant for driving enthusiasts. The GTS also features aesthetic elements that secure its place as a speedy machine. Blacked-out bits, the endless Alcantara inside — these are as close to ‘boy racer’ as Porsche treads.

All that paired with its bold blue paint made for a tastefully garish experience. This is a look-at-me car — but only for the specific set of people who know what they’re looking at when a Porsche GTS rumbles by.

It’s as difficult to refrain from engaging launch control at every stoplight as it is to imagine owning this super sedan with its flawless engine, genius transmission and superb handling dynamics only to putter along all the time with the “Normal” drive mode selected. At the bare minimum, Sport mode is a must at all times. With the elegant spoiler deployed, the sport exhaust singing, and the dual-clutch gearbox primed for quick responses, even regular highway drives and ten-minute trips to the market become exciting as hell.

But highway cruising is not why the GTS exists. Empty, switchback-riddled mountain roads are more its forte. And in that environment, the sporting soul of the GTS makes itself known in a very big way. It’s truly shocking what this car can do when pushed: dial in the Sport Plus drive mode, opt to shift with the paddles — and kiss what you understood about physics goodbye. Thanks in part to the miracle that is rear-wheel steering, suggested speed limits on acute curves become laughable. A car that easily fits four people and all their luggage has no business moving the way this GTS does. It simply does not make sense…and it’s glorious.

The Panamera GTS is also hard to make sense of in a deeper, more existential way. It is a categorically fantastic driver’s car, and is even comfortable on long stretches — but in a $130,000 vehicle, I would expect more standard driver’s aids. Specifically, I’d expect to see automated parking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist functions come with the lofty price of the car. Instead, buyers can add those bits as expensive options.

In late 2019, I consider those technologies integral to a satisfying, commanding driving experience. While the GTS is meant to convey a sort of pared-down approach, it’s something of an illusion; it’s a fantasy to think we’ll ever see a truly simple Porsche ever again. Eschewing smart tech doesn’t make for a more connected, “pure” car; it would make more sense for the entire suite of driver’s aids to be part of the bottom line, giving drivers the choice to use them when they can’t partake in the fun of driving and switch them off when they can.

My point is: without those elements, is the Panamera GTS truly the modern driver’s car it seeks to be? Yes — just not unequivocally. But if you’re spending this kind of money on a car, it’s likely easy to add those bits on to your bottom line. And you should. Because with them, this is absolutely an ideal family car for driving enthusiasts.

Porsche provided this product for review.

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Nick Caruso

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