Common sense defied, but spirit lifted…
The Porsche Panamera GTS, a long-time brand staple, suddenly finds itself a rather special member of the family. This is not because it has gained another 100bhp or been in any other way transformed for the better: in truth the power, torque, fuel economy and CO2 improvements resulting from its recent minor mechanical and cosmetic upgrade are small enough not to merit further analysis.
It’s what’s been happening to other Porsches that counts. Now that all the Panameras below the GTS have six-cylinder engines while those above are turbocharged, and now that the Cayenne GTS also has a V6 engine, this is the last Porsche on sale to offer a normally aspirated V8.
And if your reaction to that is to think ‘so what’, you have not yet been in a car thus equipped.
Porsche’s V8 is old-school, dating back to the first Cayenne more than a dozen years ago. While turbo versions continue because Porsche has no other way of developing the amount of power that certain customers demand from flagship Porsches, this atmospheric engine has fallen out of favour. It is thirsty, belches out CO2, requires revs to deliver proper thrust and, ultimately, isn’t even that powerful. Put it this way, the V6 turbo Cayenne GTS and V8 Panamera GTS have identical power outputs but, despite being so high and 200kg heavier, it is the Cayenne that has better fuel consumption and emissions, not to mention more torque at less than half the revs.
But what the Cayenne lacks, and the same is true for every other Panamera now on sale, is the bite and sound of a big, unencumbered V8 motor. It brings a sense of occasion, a spike of excitement to every journey that not even the Panamera Turbo – with its muffled voice and softened responses – can match. The original idea for the Panamera was that it should be a true sports car wrapped in a shell that people could actually use, and now in the GTS alone does that spirit lives on.
I’m not sure it is any more a particularly good car – if you’re going to have a Panamera the common-sense argument in favour of a diesel seems overwhelming – but I’m not sure that really matters. Flawed though its ride is, hideous though its fuel consumption may be, modest though its performance now seems for a sporting car costing more than £90,000, so too is it now the only Porsche with four doors that I’d rate as genuinely fun to drive.
I discovered this when I took it for a long drive. About 20 minutes in, with the car flicking from apex to apex and the engine joyously singing to me, it suddenly occurred that I was driving and enjoying it like a Porsche. And when you are an antediluvian fossil like me with a mind’s eye that still says all Porsches have two doors and an air-cooled flat six in the boot, even though none does any more, that is a truly remarkable thing.
Objectively it’s probably the worst Panamera you can buy; subjectively it’s clearly the best. I’d still go for the diesel because I’d know I could buy a lovely used Cayman with the change, but if you need a big, smart four-door and a proper Porsche, the GTS is both.
Engine: 4.8 litres, 8 cylinders, normally aspirated
Torque: 383lb ft@3500rpm
Transmission: eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 179mph