Further evidence that it is software engineers who are now in charge of high performance: the 2012 Porsche Panamera GTS comes with a standard Sport Chrono package that allows you to punch up Normal, Sport and Sport Plus modes and jump between them in a blink of an eye. Software magic.
Here, algorithms are bringing joy to anyone who can afford the $126,700 base price of the GTS.
That is, if you are feeling frisky, Sport Plus makes this Panamera respond more aggressively to throttle inputs while also pushing the envelope for sharp gearshifts. Not only that, the adaptive suspension is lowered, the spring rates become hard as an Anderson Silva punch and the nanny system – Porsche Stability Management (PSM) – holds off intervening until you’ve gone all white in a corner.
For some, that is joy and it certainly must be for every Panamera GTS driver. This is not your everyday Panamera. My tester, $148,175 all-in, was almost twice the price of the most modest Panamera with its $86,600 sticker. Twice the car for double the price?
Even Sam Cato was impressed.
“I really didn’t like this car when it first came out; I like this. I really like it,” said Cato the younger, an 18-year-old who has seen 18 years of new road test cars in the hands of his old man.
Okay, all kidding aside, the GTS is yet another in the seemingly endless specialty models that start life as run-of-the-mill Porsches, only to end up as profitable variations on a basic theme. Every so often, Porsche trots out a new one to spice up the brand and juice interest in this model or that.
This Panamera GTS Porsche is modestly described as “the purest expression of a sports sedan in the Porsche family with a clear focus on performance.” The car itself starts life at a four-wheel-drive Panamera 4S and from there the Porsche people emptied the high-performance parts bin into what you might call the GTS blender. Voila: 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, shockingly flat cornering, steering that seems to draw a straight line from the pavement to your fingertips and more grip than a world-class rock climber.
Yes, Porsche juiced the power of the naturally aspirated engine to 430 horsepower, from 400. But not with turbos, which means the performance muscle comes on in a creamy and linear fashion. The brakes are better, the body lowered by 10 millimetres, and the chassis is tuned for true-believing enthusiasts. Yes, it has an air suspension and naturally the car has Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) to match your driving to the road conditions.
The car looks bad ass, too. The most distinctive styling piece of the exterior: black highlights; black inner bezels; shiny black window trim; black side skirts; black lower rear fascia and matte; black tailpipes. All that darkness went beautifully with the Carmine Red paint.
Inside, you and the passenger are hugged by “adaptive” sports seats that not only eliminate side-to-side slides in hard cornering, but also have magnificent under-thigh support. How can a seat designed to hug like a catcher’s mitt be so comfortable? Meanwhile, the steering wheel is a shiny, three-spoke SportDesign; the grip is excellent. Behind it are shift paddles to manage the gearbox and all around the cabin has its own, exclusive GTS leather with Alcantara surfaces and in my tester, bold red stitching.
So what’s wrong with the cabin? Porsche has an apparent fetish for fighter aircraft and the complexity of an F-18 has been stamped into the arrangement of buttons and gauges and knobs. It takes time to settle in and make sense of all the controls at hand and the information available. Some might even do so, while others will just drive and let the car do a lot of the thinking.
It will certainly drive. The engine is the familiar 4.8-litre naturally aspirated V-8 (430 hp at 6,700 rpm) and, while we all like horsepower for autobahn speeds, it’s the 384 lb-ft of torque (up from 369 in the 4S) that provides the launch power. From the engine to the seven-speed Porsche Dopple-mouthful transmission (Doppelkupplungsgetriebe or PDK, to be precise) and through to the all-wheel-drive system – BAM. The gears go one to the next seamlessly.
On track day, the GTS is your hatchback with a top speed of 288 km/h. The nice thing about an air suspension this smart is in the day-to-day the ride is perfectly comfortable, yet when the call comes, the chassis and body adapt to the hurly-burly of a challenging road circuit. The software regulates the chassis levelling, adjusts the ride height, modifies the spring rates and electrically modulates the damping system.
Some nuts and bolts, as it were: the rear axle track is wider on the GTS (for stability) while, for cornering grip, you’ll find standard 255/45 19-inch tires up front, 285/40 19-inch tires at the rear. The rubber is mounted to alloy wheels and the braking comes right off the Panamera Turbo with its big front brake rotors.
The car goes fast, stops faster and looks the part of a scary beauty.
Tech specs: 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS
Type: High-performance sedan
Base price: $126,700 ($1,115 freight)
Engine: 4.8-litre V-8
Horsepower/torque: 430 hp/384 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.1 city/8.5 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS, Audi A7, Aston Martin Rapide