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Review

First Drive: Porsche Panamera GTS car review

12/03/12

YOU HAVE to envy those people who are lucky enough to have choice. Try not to begrudge those more fortunate than oursselves, as their success (or good fortune) means they can choose somewhere to live, their holidays and their cars to suit their exacting needs. And car manufacturers in particular are not shy about tailoring their own products to suit any possible whim.

Porsche definitely had the more discerning customer in mind when it dreamed up the Panamera GTS. The high-performance four-door GT is not some mere plaything; it's a proper four-seater with luxury, serious Porsche performance and handling and lots of scope for some personalisation. There are also a multitude of powerplants - V6 and V8 petrols, a hybrid, a diesel and two kinds of mad-dog turbos. But clearly that's not enough, because now there's a Panamera GTS.

The best way to look at it is as a cherry-picking exercise. Start with a regular Panamera 4S, complete with four-wheel drive and the naturally-aspirated 4.8-litre V8 - a pretty good starting place after all. Then get to work, firstly on the engine. The intention was to offer something more for the keenest of drivers, so that V8 gets a revised ECU and exhaust system that frees up an additional 30hp and 20Nm of torque. Additionally there's something called a 'sound symposer' that channels more noise from the intake system into the cabin, which sounds exactly like the kind of crazy idea a proper enthusiast would come up with.

That's not the end of the mechanical changes either, as the GTS gets Porsche Active Suspension Management as standard (that means adjustable air suspension) 10mm lower than standard Panamera models as well as tighter damping. There are wheel spacers at the rear to increase the track by 5mm and the larger brakes from the Turbo model. All GTSs stick with the four-wheel drive layout and the seven-speed PDK dual clutch transmission.

You won't find it hard to spot a GTS either. There's the Sport Design front end with a deeper chin spoiler and larger air intakes and the rest of the car is peppered with black detailing; side window surrounds, the rear diffuser, tail pipes and side skirts. Choose your exterior colour carefully though, as the contrasting black works better with some shades than others.

Climb inside and you sit delightfully low in the seat, giving that instant sports car feeling even though there can be three passengers with you. The cabin is first rate, and it's no surprise that this layout is been copied elsewhere in the Porsche range. Fire it up and there's a healthy shot of V8 rumble, even though it defaults to the quietest setting on start up. Slot the transmission into Drive and you won't suddenly be jarred by over-firm suspension or a jerky drivetrain, this is still a GT even if it has a sharper edge.

It's worth remembering where the GTS sits in the range. It's more focussed than the 2S and 4S but has less power than the Turbos, and Porsche bills it as 'the purist version'. It can do the boring stuff without breaking sweat - dull motorway journeys can be dispatched at an easy and quiet canter, or if you happen to be on the autobahn then V-maxing along at 179mph is perfectly possible. In full-on comfort mode the GTS is taut but nothing more, so you're aware of the road surfaces but not disturbed by them unless you fall into something serious. The V8 offers up easy torque to ease you past slower traffic while the PDK gearbox operates so well in auto mode you don't have to think about what it's up to.

Punching two buttons and flicking the gearlever to the left changes the GTS into attack mode; the suspension stiffens, the throttle response is sharpened, the exhaust system goes to full noise and the PDK box becomes manually operated. You can hear a subtle but significant change from the tailpipes straight away, and the accelerator is much more keen to respond. Push hard through the gears and the effect is remarkably linear - it feels like a big turbocharged engine, pulling hard from low down and right around to the red line. Lean hard on the brakes and the significant mass is hauled back very easily, and even an extended hard drive over challenging roads failed to make them complain.

¬¬¬ Then there's the balance. Never forget this is a sizeable car that can carry a hefty combination of people and luggage, but from the driver's seat it's easy to forget what is behind you as you push on. Dive hard into a bend and there's a shade of balancing understeer, but with four-wheel drive underneath you can turn in harder and accelerate earlier to haul yourself out again. Crushingly competent, astonishingly quick and very satisfying, all in one package.

Whether it is the car for you is a moot point. Some will be more tempted by the physics-defying power of the Turbo, or the simplicity of the 2S. The basic elements of every Panamera model are spot on, but now Porsche has given you even more opportunity to make it the car of your dreams.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Porsche Panamera GTS, £90,409 Engine: 4.8-litre V8 producing 430bhp and 383lb.ft of torque Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch gearbox driving all four wheels Performance: Top speed 179mph, 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds Economy: 25.9mpg Emissions: 256g/km of CO2

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy2 (worse than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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