Photo: Robert Libetti/ Business Insider
After months of begging them to test a car, Porsche agreed to loan me a Panamera S Hybrid in early March. One day before the loan was scheduled to start, I got a phone call.Another journalist had an accident and the car wouldn’t be fixed for my test.
I was bummed, but what was I supposed to do? Complain? It just meant I had to drive my personal car for a week instead. No big deal.
We rescheduled the car for late May. The day before the next loan was scheduled, I got a phone call: The power steering on the Hybrid had an issue, but they had a substitute for me.
The very next morning, a brand new 2013 Panamera GTS showed up outside the office. And when I say brand new, I mean it had 41 total miles on the odometer.
Instead of a fuel-sipping hybrid, I got what is possibly the best version of Porsche’s sedan you can buy. Win.
Photo: Robert Libetti/ Business Insider
So what is the Panamera GTS? In terms of Porsche’s sedan offerings, the GTS is supposed to be the performance purist’s choice. It has all the good suspension bits and 30 more horsepower from the 4.8 liter V8, which turns the vehicle dynamics up to 11.The result? This is a 430 horsepower sedan that can take you to a race track in comfort and then do hot laps around the circuit all day long. Even your grandmother will be comfortable.
Even though it didn’t have carbon brakes, our dark blue test car came loaded up the wazoo. The $109,900 base price ballooned to $144,995 with all the options on board, making this the most expensive car we’ve parked in the BI garage.
As I found out while driving the Porsche Boxster S earlier in May, Porsche's engineers are a very talented group of individuals who really know how to tune a chassis.
The Panamera GTS can be the tamest car on the road. Simply put, the ride quality is in a league of its own. With the suspension in its most comfortable setting, the car glides over bumps with aplomb. It's not like driving a 1970s Cadillac, but it is very comfortable.
Power delivery is superb as well. The 4.8 liter, 430 horsepower V8 is smooth and revs so freely you'd think it wasn't connected to anything.
But the real fun starts when you push the Sport Plus button. The suspension stiffens up and hunkers down. Throttle response is sharpened. The steering gets heavier. A valve in the exhaust opens to really unleash the sounds of that potent engine. The PDK gearbox becomes lightning fast.
The results are phenomenal. The 4,200 pound GTS goes from comfortable cruiser to hardcore track day special. If you blindfolded someone and drove them in the car, they would swear they were in something much lighter with two less doors. Our car had dynamic chassis control and torque vectoring as well, which makes it all the more effective at attacking corners.
On the limit, there is a slight bit of understeer, like many production cars. I attribute that to the all-wheel drive and the fact that this is a two ton sedan.
This is easily the best large sedan I have ever driven. Ever.
The Panamera got a ton of flack when it came to market for being an ugly car.
I was very much in the minority when it was released; I loved everything about it. And I think that it just looks better in GTS trim. The car comes standard with the more aggressive Sport Design front end, which seriously makes it look evil on the road.
In profile, the Panamera reminds me of a classic Porsche 911...just stretched with two more doors and usable rear seats.
It also doesn't hurt that the rear wing lifts in three phases and looks like something from the future.
BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have gone to great lengths in order to remove buttons from the interior of the cars they make. In place of buttons, there is typically one large controller on the dash that can adjust everything from the radio stations to how long the interior lights stay on after the car is shut off.
Instead, Porsche has a large touch screen and buttons flanking the centre console. They are intuitively placed and you don't have to go through layers of menus to change a setting. I've spent a lot of time with modern BMWs, and I have to say that buttons are still easier to master than the vastly improved iDrive system.
Build quality, as you'd expect, is also fantastic. There is Alcantara all over the place, and it just feels great. The wheel is especially nice. There are no buttons on it and it's covered in Alcantara. It's old school and I love it.
In an effort to get some sort of decent fuel mileage, the Panamera has a start-stop function. When the car comes to a complete stop, the engine turns off. When your foot is taken off the brake, it starts right back up.
As you can imagine, in traffic, it's rather annoying. Thankfully, one of the many buttons next to the gear shift deactivates the start stop.
So it's more an annoyance than an issue.
Oh! I thought of something. If the sun hits certain parts of the interior at the right angle, it reflects back into your eyes. Being blind while driving isn't necessarily a good thing. Also, nearly everything is optional on these cars. Even the Alcantara gear shift lever on our car was an $865 option.
I could gush about how great this car is for hours -- everyone at BI can vouch for that -- but I have to say that the PDK double clutch gearbox is one of the best parts.
I sang the PDK's praises when I drove the Boxster S, but the Panamera was also equipped with proper paddle shifters. It made the experience that much better. Shifts are crisp and amazingly fast, and it matches revs perfectly on downshifts.
I'm a big fan of old school manual transmissions, but if you could get the GTS with a manual, I'm not sure I would.
Then we come to how this car sounds. The intense barking between gearshifts and crackling as you let it coast down from high revs is addictive. I found myself shifting when I didn't need to, just so I could have a chance to listen to the melodious soundtrack.
Also, the versatility of the car is amazing. The way it goes from docile family car to track ready super sedan at the push of one button is like unleashing Mr. Hyde from Dr. Jekyll. It doesn't seem possible that two total opposites can exist in one car, but, somehow Porsche makes it happen.
If you have the money and want one of the highest performing sedans on the market today, by all means stop reading this right now and run to your local Porsche dealer.
Like the 911 GT3, the GTS is the discerning enthusiasts choice in the Panamera lineup. Sure the Turbo and Turbo S are faster in a straight line, but you want the GTS if you are planning on carving some corners.
Not only is this the best Panamera you can buy, it might just be the best large performance sedan you can buy today.
I'm done gushing about my love of this car. Now get out there and drive one so you can see for yourself.
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