This is less a car review and more a written apology to my neighbors, the historic villages of Concord and Carlisle, and any wildlife disturbed in the process of testing this remarkable vehicle. It is not my fault colonial settlers chose to create farm roads that ebbed and flowed with the lay of the land in such a way that, centuries later, they would prove to be perfect driving roads. Nor is it my fault that the 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS is teethgnashingly loud—both visually and audibly.
The Panamera GTS is the result of taking Porsche’s massive grand touring four-door car and cranking every attribute to 11. The result is closer to a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti than it is to Porsche’s cornerstone, the 911.
The GTS is Porsche’s way of creating a performance variant of a more comfortable vehicle without treading on the legacy of the GT2 and GT2 911’s near-race-spec derivatives. It began with a GTS version of the Cayenne SUV, and has been carried to the only other current front-engine Porsche, the Panamera.
Compared to the GTS, the rest of the Panamera lineup is sedate. It is set apart with blacked-out headlights, unique aerodynamic lower front bodywork, LED fog lights, and unique blacked-out quad-tip tailpipes. This particular test model was delivered in Red Carmine, a $3,140 special-order color, and fitted with 20-inch black sport wheels, a $3,375 option.
Vehicles in that realm come with an equally exclusive price, and the Panamera GTS is no different. With an MSRP of $111,000, the GTS slots in between the Panamera 4S and the range-topping Panamera Turbo ($175,300 for the Turbo S) in price. The only other metric in which the Turbo exceeds the GTS is in power. While the twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 makes 500 horsepower in the Turbo and 550 in the Turbo S, the naturally aspirated version of that engine makes only 430 horsepower. “Only’’ is all in context, as the GTS will still rocket to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in a mere 4.3 seconds.
Consider that the Panamera is no stripped-down race car. If anything, the model that we tested, at close to $150,000 (with options), had MORE features than the standard Panamera. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning system, and the Burmester premium audio system. With all that kit, the GTS weighs in at 4,232 pounds. That is more than double the weight of a Lotus Elise, and they do the 0-60 sprint in about the same time.
Porsche is able to bend the rules of physics with the help of a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and their insanely quick 7-speed transmission, called the Porsche Doppelkuppung. Porsche abbreviated it to PDK because they don’t hate you. With the PDK, Porsche is able to make the GTS both Jekyll and Hyde.
To the left of the gearshift are buttons for Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus modes. Normal will deliver a sumptuously smooth ride, further comforted by the two-mode exhaust system, which cuts engine noise. Press Sport or Sport Plus and things get a little nuts. The three-piece retractable spoiler expands from the rear hatch, as two-mode exhaust opens up for a wide, loud, open burble of the engine that evokes a Chevelle SS more than a German sports car.
Meanwhile, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) buckles down for a tight ride. PASM is a form of air suspension that self-levels to road conditions and can alter its spring rate based on desired drive mode. There is a noticeable difference between the creamy ride in Normal, versus the hard-nose corner-assaulting Sport Plus mode.
More impressive than its ability to launch in a straight line is that the hefty GTS can move so elusively in and out of corners at speed. You can thank Porsche Traction Management for that. It is an all-wheel-drive system that incorporates torque vectoring, which pushes more power to the outside wheels in hard cornering.
So, what is the result of this litany of tech features that read off like titles in a bloated corporate structure? A 4,200-pound car with extremely comfortable seating for four occupants that moves like no 4,200-pound car should.
The great duality of the GTS is the combination driving experience offered by one of Porsche’s smaller offerings, and a cabin that is rivaled only by the Cayenne SUV. All but the most basic controls have been removed from the center console and reside in the center stack, surrounding the shifter. It may look like the flight deck of the space shuttle, but it does not take long to get used to the central placement of the controls.
Each occupant has an impressive array of controls at his or her fingertips: climate temperature, fan direction, and fan speed. No more arguing over “how warm/how cold’’ to leave the climate control. Luxury reveals itself in many ways; avoiding arguments with your co-pilot (or spouse) is one.
The Panamera GTS may not always be driven in the performance-oriented manner for which it was designed. With the optional black 20-inch wheels with chrome accents, the GTS screams “athlete/celebrity’’ or at least a stockbroker looking to front as “athlete/celebrity’’ when arriving for valet service. If making a statement is the intent, the Panamera GTS executes perfectly. Oh, and it drives great, too.