We hopped over to Bahrain to check out the new 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS. For six-hundred-thousand big ones, is this the best super-saloon money can buy?
As far as car shopping is concerned, some of us don’t want to bother with the optional equipment list. When a Porsche comes from the factory with a GT badge, it’s usually a no-compromise, all-out track day weapon. With the 2019 Panamera GTS, however the badge signifies a balance between performance and comfort rather than outright aggression, though it doesn’t go easy on the latter,
In both body styles, conventional saloon and Sport Turismo wagon, the Panamera GTS slots between the executive express 4S V6 and the monstrously quick Panamera Turbo.
There may be a pair of twin scroll turbochargers to feed its 4.0-litre V8 but the GTS gives away nearly 90 horsepower to the Turbo. Still, with 454bhp on tap, there’s nothing demure about it.
That’s obvious from its looks. It gives all the right impressions by riding on 20-inch alloy wheels, with air suspension lowering its stance by 10mm compared to the standard car. Its tuned exhaust emits a deep-throated burble at idle before morphing into a menacing growl at speed (which you can cancel at the touch of a button if the neighbours complain). Subtly smoked lenses on the headlamps and tail-lights cap off the look – the GTS can only be a sporting member of the family.
On paper, the GTS engine looks similar to the Audi/VW 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 that powers various Bentleys and the Lamborghini Urus. Porsche, however, maintains it’s an in-house engine developed for the Panamera, delivering peak power at 6,000rpm and with 620Nm of torque coming on like a train from just 1,800rpm.
After a day’s drive on roads through the hot, humid deserts around Bahrain, its very usable torque was the most obvious trait, as the transmission shifts early through each of the eight gears. This was further emphasised later in the evening as we ran hot laps on the kingdom’s F1 circuit.
The V8’s power delivery was swift, easily spinning towards the 6,000rpm redline, but such was its flexibility that we could have matched the speeds by shifting early and riding the torque wave as the turbos spooled up.
Once the ugly duckling of the Porsche family, the big Panamera continues its evolution into a more appealing shape thanks to the advent of the Sport Turismo. The wagon-like rear styling almost creates an optical illusion, tricking the eye into regarding it as a bigger car – and it is arguably better looking. The subtle cosmetic tweaks made to the GTS, mixed with some vibrant new colours, continue the welcome transformation. Despite appearances, both body styles carry the same 2,950mm wheelbase and measure 5,053mm nose to tail. Each seats four but the Sport Turismo’s larger tailgate makes loading easier.
Tipping the scales at a shade over two tonnes, the Panamera GTS is no lightweight but that didn’t hinder its progress on track, accelerating from rest to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and on to 200km/h in 15.4 seconds before touching 292km/h flat out. The heavier Sport Turismo was two-tenths slower to 200km/h and ran out of breath 3km/h shy of the sedan’s top speed. Claimed fuel figures show the Sport Turismo to be slightly thirstier too, if you care about that sort of thing.
The adaptive air suspension uses three-chamber air springs to keep that large frame from pitching and yawing through tight corners. Its brakes – 390mm front discs and 360mm at the rear – took some punishment on track but were easily up to the task. Power is sent to Porsche’s active all-wheel drive set-up via the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Slightly more modest than the exterior, the GTS cabin has only a few tell-tale pointers to highlight its sports credentials such as Alcantara leather for the 18-way adjustable sports seats and steering wheel. The best news inside is the adoption of a head-up display, a little late in the game but with the advantage of being fully customisable via the 12.3-inch centre console touchscreen. The driver can select as little or as much information as desired on speed, navigation, assistance data and warnings.
Order books are open for delivery early next year, with prices starting from just over AED600,000. That sounds like a lot of money, but consider that the flagship 2019 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid we recently spent a week with is a neat million dirhams. Otherwise you can head down the line-up and go for the Porsche Panamera 4 or that other rival from Stuttgart, the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door.
2019 Porsche Panamera GTS
4.0-litre twin turbocharged V8 | eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive | 454 horsepower and 640Nm of torque at 1,800rpm | zero to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 292km/h | From AED601,200