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2019 Porsche Panamera GTS: First Drive Review

Porsche has been adhering "GTS" badges on its vehicles for many years. The acronym, which stands for Grand Turismo Sport, defines a vehicle that has been specially configured for driving enthusiasts who want uncompromising performance on both the street and the track — in other words, they desire the automotive equivalent of the "best of both worlds." The new-for-2019 Porsche Panamera GTS fits that bill nearly perfectly, as we learned during a recent introduction in the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain.

Visually Enhanced with Sporty Attributes

The Panamera, Porsche’s 4- or 5-passenger sedan, will be offered in both Panamera GTS (sedan) and Panamera GTS Sport Turismo (wagon) body styles. While both are virtually identical mechanically, the wagon’s slightly taller body shell is a bit roomier and its interior offers more utility, especially when it comes to occupant capacity — unlike the 4-passenger Panamera, the Sport Turismo is a "4+1," meaning the rear seat has a flat cushion in the middle for a fifth passenger in a pinch.

To visually differentiate the enthusiast-tuned model from its standard siblings, Porsche fits all GTS models with the Sport Design package that includes unique front and rear bumpers, black side skirts, black window trim, black badges and dark-tinted taillights. The cabin features standard 18-way Adaptive Sport Seats upholstered in Alcantara (durable synthetic suede), with the same matching upholstery on the headliner, doors and windshield pillars (those who choose for even more distinction may opt for the GTS Interior Package with Carmine Red or Chalk-colored accents). Of course, there are also the obligatory "GTS" logos on the door sills, head restraints and instrument tachometer.

Configured with Porsche’s Advanced Cockpit, which boasts a vivid 12.3-in full-HD infotainment touchscreen, the GTS models also introduce a full-color head-up display (HUD) to the Panamera model range — its first application in one of the company’s sedans.

Mechanical Upgrades Improve Performance

Pop the hood on the GTS models to find a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 nestled in the nose. While it’s the identical engine shared with the range-topping Panamera Turbo, it has been de-tuned to develop 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque for use in the Panamera GTS. Mated to the standard 8-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox sending power through Porsche Traction Management (PTM) to all four wheels, there’s enough power to blast the sedan and wagon from 0-to-60 miles per hour in less than four seconds — with Sport Chrono’s Launch Control feature — top speed is about 180 mph. Sport Exhaust is also standard on the GTS, so the quad tailpipes deliver a beautiful, very throaty, accompanying audio soundtrack.

Porsche allows the driver to tune the GTS’s driving dynamics with a 4-mode (Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual) steering wheel-mounted dial — each unique setting reconfigures throttle response, transmission mapping, stability control, steering weight and more. In the center of the dial is the Sport Response Button. When pressed, it immediately configures the drivetrain to maximum performance — instantaneous passing power — for a full 20 seconds.

Driving Dynamics that Impress

All Panamera GTS models are fitted with standard 3-chamber air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). Working together, they ensure the sedan and wagon deliver a ride that is sporty, well-controlled and comfortable. Despite its luxury undertones, the GTS models never feel floaty like some of the competitors — they continuously project a firm, very athletic, driving dynamic. The passenger cabins are quiet, too. Credit comprehensive sound deadening and good wind management for keeping road noise, tire roar, and wind buffeting to a minimum.

Speaking of aerodynamics, the Panamera Sedan has a deployable 3-piece rear spoiler (borrowed from the Turbo model) to improve high-speed stability. In equivalent manner, the Panamera Sport Turismo has an innovative roof-mounted deployable one-piece spoiler that improves high-speed stability and reduces cabin buffeting when the panoramic roof is open — the first of its kind.

Enthusiasts will find much to like about the Panamera GTS — it’s very capable when pushed hard. Tested on the challenging Bahrain International Circuit, the sport sedans more than held their own, notwithstanding curb weights that hover in the 4,400-lb range. Despite the mass, cornering grip was tenacious and turn-in was quick. Four-wheel steering, bundled with the optional Rear Axle Steering with Power Steering Plus package, improve agility and optional Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), with 10-pistion calipers, appear immune to heat — they are an expensive, but worthwhile, upgrade. Of special note is the optional 48-volt Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport (PDCC Sport) with active roll stabilization that permits the GTS models to defy the laws of physics when on a racing circuit.

The Value-Priced Sweet Spot

The standard 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS debuts with an MSRP of $128,300, while the Panamera GTS Sport Turismo rolls into showrooms with an MSRP of $134,500 — both priced near the middle of the growing Panamera lineup, which ranges from a low of $86,000 to a high of $197,000. Loaded with standard features and unique identifiers, and fitted with the impressive turbocharged V8 from the Turbo models, the new Panamera GTS twins present themselves as engaging, fun-to-drive, value-priced options for the discerning sport sedan and sport wagon shopper — they represent the desirable sweet spot in the Panamera lineup.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

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