Chassis tweaks make the Panamera GTS the driver’s choice, but it could do with a more powerful and charismatic engine

Porsche models with the GTS badge are arguably the sweet spot in any line-up. By cleverly balancing sharper driving dynamics against everyday usability, they are designed to deliver a more compelling driving experience compared to the regular trim lines. It’s a similar story with the latest 337kW Panamera GTS, which slots into the range between the entry-level 4S and the full-house Turbo and is simed at the more powerful, but similarly priced Mercedes-AMG E63 S and BMW M5 Competition, the five-door four-seat coupe Porsche (there’s also a Sport Turismo version for fast estate fans).

Externally, you’ll spot the GTS courtesy of its gloss black finish for the lower bumper inserts, window surrounds, badging and 20-inch alloy wheels, which are imaginatively called ‘Panamera’. Inside, the upgrades run to Alcantara trim for the seats and steering wheel, plus natty GTS logos for the kick plates, rev counter and the head restraints of the high-backed front seats.

Technical highlights
As with all Panamera models the GTS is fitted with Porsche’s latest three-chamber air suspension and adaptive dampers. The GTS sits 10mm lower than the Panamera 4S with the dampers subtly recalibrated for even greater control, particularly on track. There are also stiffer anti-roll bars (20 per cent front and 30 per cent rear), which makes the GTS a firmer and quicker-reacting car than the Turbo.

Also upgraded with a view to extra circuit work are the brakes, which are 390mm-diameter cast iron discs with six-piston calipers at the front, with 365mm rotors and four-pot calipers at the rear. As you’d expect there’s a carbon-ceramic upgrade for a circa 20kg saving.

Brakes aren’t the only dynamic upgrade option and, as with many Porsches, the level of customisation is only really restricted by your dynamic requirements (and your credit score).

Engine, transmission and 0-100
Under the long, long bonnet of the Panamera is a lightly detuned version of the Turbo’s 404kW twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8, the unit producing 337kW between 6000 and 6500rpm and 620Nm of torque in a virtually flat line from 1800 to 4500rpm.

Porsche’s eight-speed twin-clutch PDK is the only transmission option, so too four-wheel-drive, with the GTS’ Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system software tuned to give the car a more rear-wheel-drive feel, with the rear axle continuing to take more torque even when the rear starts to slide under power.

Standard launch control allows the GTS to reach 100km/h in just 4.1sec before accelerating relentlessly to a 291km/h top speed. There’s such a linear nature to the delivery that, combined with the car’s refinement it doesn’t always feels as quick as the numbers suggest. That said, the addition of a standard sports exhaust brings a welcome baritone backbeat when accelerating hard and some snap, crackle and pop on the overrun.

As ever, the Porsche’s PDK gearbox remains the apogee of the twin-clutch art. Simply smoke around minding your own business and it changes up swiftly and smoothly, utilising the engine’s prodigious wedge of torque. Engage Sport or Sport Plus and it changes ratios even swifter, hanging on to revs for extra acceleration and shifting down promptly as you brake for a corner. Of course, you can always take control yourself using either the lever or the wheel-mounted paddles.

What’s it like to drive?
Unsurprisingly, the GTS feels just as you’d expect – a sharper and more involving version of an already poised and engaging sports sedan. Now, full disclaimer here, but our time with the car was split between the heavily policed roads of Bahrain and the Sakhir Formula 1 circuit. On the road, the extra stiffness in the suspension is just about evident at low speed, but for the most part the GTS rides with similar supple composure as other models. Sharp ridges and broken surfaces cause some ripples through the cabin, but that’s mainly down to the suspension desperately trying to contain those massive 20-inch alloys.

Even at low speed the Panamera’s steering feels good, offering a quick but not nervous rate of response (our car was fitted with four-wheel steering), while even in Normal mode the weighting treads a fine line between heft and ease-of-use. It’s a car that feels all of a piece, a sensation that’s helped by the spot-on weighting of the major controls and a driving position that’s low set compared to sedan rivals.

On the track, the Panamera is as agile and responsive as you can expect a near-two-ton car to be. Through faster corners, the combination of tighter body control and the freakishly effective all-wheel steer allows the GTS to cling tenaciously to your chosen line. Give the throttle a little lift or get back on the power and you can feel the car subtly rotating, trying to point you straighter, sooner, something that’s aided by the GTS’ rear-biased four-wheel drive system.

Of course, the Panamera is a heavy car and it can’t totally ignore the laws of physics, but it has a bloody good go. Try to carry too much speed into Sakhir’s second and third-gear switchbacks and the nose will push inexorably wide, while really big loads through faster turns will have the car hopping around a little as the combination of fat rubber, four-wheel drive and torque vectoring try to impose their will on the tarmac. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes fitted to the test cars haul the GTS down from big speeds.

If there’s a disappointment at the track, then it’s the engine. There’s no real lack of poke from the V8, but neither is there much drama. It pulls with muscular vigour from low down and there’s a distant, throaty growl, but the linear delivery and lack of top end makes it a bit of an anti-climax just when the rest of the car is getting up on its toes and starting to really get into its stride. JAMES DISDALE