The Pontiac Aztek looks somewhat decent these days. Hummer is coming back to make electric SUVs. Tesla just built its millionth car. To that pile of things we thought we'd never say, we can now add: Porsche builds two sedans.
For our recent Tesla Model S Performance versus Porsche Taycan Turbo S comparison test, we used a new-for-2019 Porsche Panamera GTS as a chase and photo vehicle, seeing as it could keep up with the ridiculously quick EVs. With a long hatch and spacious cargo area, it swallowed photo equipment, roller bags, and several grocery bags of gummy snacks and marzipan joy joys. When you're driving two EVs, it's nice to have a gas-fueled car along as a sort of lifeboat.
Not that the Panamera GTS is in any way boatlike. It's more like a Boeing 747 to the Taycan's 787 Dreamliner. Parking a Panamera next to a Taycan makes the smaller EV appear low, lean, lithe, and more modern. We'd love for Porsche's larger sedan to steal some of the Taycan's design, but just like comparing Boeing's biggest jet to the 787, there's a lot more space inside the Panamera than in the Taycan. The Panamera's higher roof and larger door openings also make for easier boarding.
Prepare for Takeoff
Like the 747, the Panamera GTS is faster than its newer and smaller kin. Faster, as in the GTS's 181-mph top speed is higher than the Taycan Turbo S's 162-mph claim. But the Panamera GTS doesn't accelerate as quickly. A 453-hp version of Porsche's twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 moved our 4679-pound GTS test car to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and through the quarter-mile in a staggering 11.6 seconds at 117 mph. Of course, this is slower to 60 mph than the Taycan Turbo S's 2.4-second run and its 10.5-second quarter-mile sprint.
In the world of the Panamera, the $130,650 GTS slots between the $153,000 Panamera Turbo and the $105,000 4S. With a handful of options, our 2019 example stickered for $150,460. The GTS's acceleration times are a few ticks slower than the Turbo and a couple of ticks quicker than the 4S. All is right with the hierarchy.
The GTS's 3.1-second time to 60 mph is due largely to the launch-control programming that comes standard on GTS models. When activated at a stop, the engine will rev to 5000 rpm before engaging the clutch. Engaging the system is as easy as pushing the brake with your left foot and flooring the accelerator with your right. When the driver lifts off the brake while keeping the gas pinned, the clutch engages, power courses through the all-wheel-drive system, and the seat is left with a you-sized imprint in the backrest. A less aggressive start to 60 mph, which we simulate in our rolling-start five-to-60-mph test, took 4.6 seconds. Instant power means the Taycan is barely affected by the lack of a launch and does the rolling start to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds.
There's an undeniable wow factor in the ferocity with which an EV's motors punch under acceleration, but the GTS's V-8 builds its power over the rev range while a chorus plays through its exhaust. Peak sound level comes in at a mellow 75 decibels, but it's not about volume. It's about the quality of the sound. Interior volume and the character of the Panamera's V-8 are two things the Taycan can't match. Nearly every car with a V-8 makes you want a V-8, and the GTS has the same effect. You're left longing for the way a V-8 can be mellow one minute and ferocious the next.
A Proper Athlete
Point the big Porsche sedan down a canyon road such as Angeles Forest Highway, and its behavior is more sports car than big sedan. Porsche pulls off a similar trick with the Cayenne, but in the Cayenne the trick is that an SUV feels nearly carlike. When equipped with the $5000 Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport package, the Panamera gains active anti-roll bars, a limited-slip differential, and brake-based torque vectoring. Our test car arrived with four-wheel steering that shrinks the turning circle at low speeds and stabilizes the car at higher speeds. With all of that equipment working its magic, the big Porsche remains stable and nimble all the way up to its lofty 1.01 g of grip around the skidpad. Tight body control and grip for days make you forget this is a heavy car. It begs to be driven like one of the brand's sports cars. We were only too happy to comply. Should you find yourself needing a quick break from the action, our test car's $8970 carbon-ceramic brakes stopped us from 70 mph in a repeatable 156 feet.
Now three years into this latest Panamera generation, we're getting used to the touchscreen infotainment system and its many menus and settings. But simple tasks such as dimming the interior lighting and instruments is done through the infotainment system. It's aggravating to take a number of steps to do something that was once so easy. There was absolutely nothing wrong with a simple dimmer knob, yet it's gone. It's just not possible that anyone could think that burying a simple control in a touchscreen menu is better. Different? Sure, and it rids the interior of a separate part. But the customer suffers.
At least Porsche left the seat controls alone. It's easy to dial in a perfect seating position. The leather chairs are all-day supportive, and the Alcantara inserts help hold you in place in corners. Interior quality is excellent. Ride quality is firm but never abusive. When you want a luxury car, the GTS complies. Rear-seat occupants get their own chairs, and the leg- and headroom is adult grade.
The GTS fills the big gap between the 440-hp 4S and the 550-hp Turbo. It might only have 13 more horses than the 4S, but it has two additional cylinders that smooth out and enrich the sound experience. The 4.0-liter V-8's ability to move in and out of the role of entertainer depending on your mood is an exact match for the Panamera's performance-luxury persona. It's the engine that the Panamera should have, and the GTS makes it slightly less unaffordable. Which leads us to something we say all the time: There still is nothing quite like a V-8.