November 02, 2014 @ 10:37 PM

Feature: Is the Porsche Panamera GTS the sportiest four-door car ever?

Porsche claims the Panamera GTS is the company’s sportiest four-door sedan while completely disregarding the Turbo despite it having more horses. We find out why. By Chris Ng

Porsche claims the Panamera GTS is the company’s sportiest four-door sedan while completely disregarding the Turbo despite it having more horses. We find out why

Words & Photography: Chris Ng
There’s nothing quite like the bellow of a V8 shattering the peace of the land. I hazard a guess that cars like the one I am driving – the Porsche Panamera GTS – only hits these kinds of roads when the days are either named Saturday or Sunday. Not a Tuesday and certainly not a particularly hazy-lazy Tuesday afternoon. 

The noise is quite inspiring and hair-raising all at the same time. It brings out something quite single-minded from within, hell-bent on accumulating more speed. So, just to send the atmosphere into a riot, I kick down a couple of cogs.

The burst and bark of the downshift is quite vulgar, the sound ripples throughout the valley. Somewhere down the road, where a makeshift durian vendor is enjoying brisk business from the back of his little lorry, a customer falls off this chair, nearly choking on his pungent fruit. I don’t think that will hurt his income one bit.

I pick up speed all too quickly and meet the corner with extreme prejudice. The Panamera GTS vanquishes the bend as if it was a straight road, with confidence. All four wheels, firmly clawing in the tarmac, tell me that I’m not brave enough to take the car to its limits. In a sense, the GTS is correct, I have no mood in giving back the car in pieces – too many have died while it is on test. Still, if firing a bend at three-digit speeds isn’t enough of a test for the testes, I’m not sure what is. 

Usually, the Panamera isn’t the shoutiest of cars in Porsche’s garage and the GTS isn’t even the Standard Bearer of Power of the range. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the Turbo; it has all the popping numbers that people want to read. And yet, Porsche says that the GTS is the athlete of the Panamera family, the one that does not mind taking a small adventure while the rest of the family has tea. With scones, jam and a bit of cream. So, the GTS is no slouch but the shadow that the Turbo casts is long in spite of the increase in horses that accompanies the facelifted versions. What do you mean you don’t see the difference? 

The front end gets a few of its lines redrawn, each being more defined than the previous model. The air intakes are made larger and the headlights’ housing takes on the shape of a different bean. LED headlight now rests within, making it a visual treat just to look at it. The windscreen is reset to a steeper angle that, when looked at its side, elongates the shape of the Panamera. 

Yet, it is the rear that gets most of the changes; it comes down to the new boot lid. The rear windscreen has also been widened, which indirectly makes the car seem lower. The rear spoiler is also made wider, which definitely looks more aggressive than the previous tiny wings. The new one folds into itself before settling down flushed with the rear. Just like the front, the redesigned rear lights seem to work better with the new lines.

For one odd reason, the Panamera seems smaller and tighter than the one before despite that this is just a mid-cycle model change. Meaning, the dimensions should remain the same. I’ll file this under optical illusion and move on.

Up by 10 horses, the GTS photographed for these pages have 440bhp on tap, formed by the 4.8-litre V8 engine. The same powerplant also twists to the tune of 520Nm at 3,500rpm. You can only have the GTS with the seven-speed PDK. The absence of any manual transmission offering should clue you in that stick-shift is only reserved for sportier models.

By birth right, the Panamera isn’t sportier than a 911. However, this four-door luxury super saloon could also be the sportiest in its class. The fact that it wears the GTS badge is no mistake. It stands for Gran Turismo Sport and its true mission does not get clearer than that. 

For all intents and purposes, the Panamera GTS certainly has the legs to go far. Although it may lack the forceful burst of the turbochargers, relying on its own talents lets it hit the power curve with polished ease. So it increases speed in its own time, unhurried, letting you enjoy the sound escalating in proportion to the power it is expelling into the wheels. 

Don’t let its natural aspirated nature lull you into contentment, the car still rockets to 100kph in a very potent 4.4 seconds. Or 0-160kph in 10.7 seconds. Or 0-200kph in 17.5 seconds if you prefer. Curiously, Porsche also prints one more acceleration time, although the speed goes way beyond its Vmax of 288kph. Here it is: 0-1000kph in 23.5 seconds. If this is Porsche throwing down a challenge, is anyone capable enough to accept it?   

That it can warp to Point B from Point A should not come as a total shock – all Porsches are made to obliterate straight roads. Proof of ability comes during stints on roads fringed by dirt and trees, punctuated only by pockets of villages with folk that work the land. These roads are mangled and abused, with dips and bumps at the oddest places; mostly from the quick but shoddy patchwork of the last election.

But the Panamera isn’t the least bit apprehensive. The air suspensions soak up the road without losing precious grip. And more importantly, the GTS seemingly does a better job at smoothening out the road than the people who actually does the job. No one inside the car will feel its effects; no bounce, shakes or rattles – just the way it should be.

The steering is sensitive enough that it only needs small feeds to get the wheels to do your bidding and quick enough to accomplish any task you set it to. Soon enough, you’ll be flowing with the bends and curves as if you’re riding a theme-park roller coaster, as if there are tracks laid out specifically for the wheels to follow. Very soon, the agility of the GTS will lull you into forgetting the car is actually slightly more than five metres long. No car that long should be this frisky. And yet, the GTS exists.

Every subsequent prod of the accelerator will propel the car forward faster. With the same peace-smashing bellow that lets a knowing smile creep onto your face. If the other Panameras are accused of not being sporty enough, that’s because Porsche has been saving all of the sporty-genes for the GTS. 

But if you’re still hung up about the Panamera not being a true Porsche, allow me to put down that thought for you. It really does not matter how many doors this car has or where the engine sits. What counts more is the arts and engineering that goes into making one. 

It is true that nothing drives quite like a 911 Carrera. And it is also true that nothing drives quite like the Panamera GTS and at least with the GTS, you could share the joy with the people that matters most; as sappy as that sounds. Remember that Porsche has to have the sportiest car in whichever segment they decide to go into. Which means, if you want the most athletic super saloon, your choice has already been made for you. 
Porsche Panamera GTS Specifications
4806cc, Water-cooled 8-cylinder V engine, 4 overhead camshafts, 4 cyl, VarioCam Plus, auto start-stop function, 440bhp @ 6700rpm, 520Nm @ 3500rpm 
7-speed Doppelkupplung (PDK), all-wheel drive
4.4secs 0-100kph, 288kph, 10.7l/100km

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