Still most capable in class
So much attention has been heaped on the larger, more accommodating redesigned 2017 Panamera it only seems to make sense that sales of the outgoing 2016 model would be slowing down, but not so. Rather, the first-gen Panamera has been holding its own with similar volume to years past, with astute Porschephiles snapping these future collectables up before they disappear.
Interestingly, despite a higher price range and undeniably stronger brand cachet than its German four-door coupe competitors, the Panamera sells in similar numbers, although it’s still a relatively rare sight on BC’s roads and has therefore maintained a fresh look. A mid-cycle update in 2014 extended its lifecycle with revised front and rear fascias, new LED-enhanced lighting elements and more, but the car’s many fans will appreciate it still incorporates the same sleek, fastback profile.
Design details differ between its 11 trims, Porsche offering the 2016 Panamera in base form with a 310 horsepower naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6; as 4 (denoting AWD), S, S E-Hybrid, 4S, and 4S Executive models, all using a 420-hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, except for the S E-Hybrid that gets a plug-in electrified version that’s good for 416 net horsepower; the GTS being reviewed here, the only other naturally aspirated model featuring a 440 horsepower 4.8-litre V8; plus the Turbo and Turbo S (also available in Executive trims) that receive twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8s good for 520 and 570 horsepower respectively.
I’ve driven four Panameras since inception, including a 2010 Turbo, 2012 S Hybrid (since replaced by the plug-in), 2013 GTS, and once again this 2016 GTS, the latter two being personal favourites. Certainly the Turbo’s power is magnificent and the hybrid’s technology impressive, but the more viscerally connective GTS conjures my inner child most effectively.
It starts with tasteful gloss and matte black exterior detailing, my loaner highlighted with upgraded five-spoke 20-inch alloys, the blackened bits especially stunning next to its Carrera White metallic panels. The Panamera pulls eyeballs no matter its colour or trim, but the GTS’ beautifully detailed cabin is its key differentiator. Most notable are seat inserts, armrests, pillars and roofliner swathed in rich, soft, durable alcantara psuede, while wrapping the steering wheel likewise is optional. Additional GTS upgrades include Carmine red-stitched leather covering most surfaces that glossed carbon-fibre and satin-finish aluminum don’t, while the quality of all is exceptional.
The 2010 Panamera introduced the stylish centre stack design currently found across Porsche’s entire range, boasting enough buttons, toggles and dials to make high-end audio aficionados giggle in delight, my test model satisfying further with a fabulous Bose surround system upgrade. A full-colour infotainment touchscreen integrates navigation with mapping, phone and car settings, plus a very useful backup camera with active guidelines, while multi-zone climate control can be modulated via switchgear on the console.
I must admit I didn’t use the stereo much, the thought of drowning out the engine’s mechanical machinations and sonorous exhaust note downright sacrilegious. You can listen to tunes anywhere, but this particular Porsche’s 4.8-litre V8 can only be experienced within the confines of a Panamera GTS, the Cayenne GTS having given way to a very competent and wonderfully melodic twin-turbo V6, but as good as it is the boosted mill can’t move mountains, divide the waters and thunderously shake terra firma like this 4.8, the V8 delivering its enlightened occupants from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.4 seconds thanks in part to a fabulously fast paddle-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automated PDK transmission; that number a tick faster, incidentally, than the slightly less powerful GTS I reviewed three years ago.
Either way a mid-four-second sprint is incredibly quick for such a large four-door sport sedan, but in full disclosure the identically powerful 2017 Panamera 4S manages the same feat, while the new Turbo accomplishes the task in 3.8 seconds, or 3.6 with optional Sport Chrono. I’ll go into more detail about this new model in a future review, a GTS version not yet available and that upcoming car no doubt incorporating the more fuel-friendly twin-turbo V6 with an identical 440 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, but until then you should seriously consider this 2016 Panamera GTS for the rumbling V8 just eulogized, and its many other attributes.
Handling: by gods this car can manage corners like no other four-door on the planet. First consider that Porsche’s inspired engineers figured out how to make an inherently off-balance rear-engine car iron out convoluted undulations better than the majority of mid-engine supercars, and then appreciate that applying such know-how to a chassis layout more fundamentally capable of 50:50 weight distribution (or a more appropriate rear-biased variation thereof) is a comparative stroll in the park, at which point the Panamera’s command of the curve begins to make sense.
Go ahead and pour on the speed before daring natural laws and the GTS simply follows direction obediently, the rear wheels tracking in amenable consent no matter how sharp the apex or sudden the descent. Admittedly there’s a limit to any car’s adhesion, but after considerable experience with the aforementioned four Panameras, including track time with others, I’ve never found its breaking point with electronics engaged. Switch such confines off, however, and it’ll tail-wag through doglegs all day long.
Porsche includes its highly regarded PASM adaptive suspension to mediate performance and comfort by continuously adjusting damping force to road conditions and driving style, all controllable via switchgear on the centre console that, unlike most rivals, lets you individually adjust its dampers for a softer setting, per se, while keeping the powertrain dialed in to its most responsive level. This is ideal for tackling imperfectly paved backcountry roads; more generous wheel travel allowing greater traction over bumps and dips. You can set it vice versa if desired, or apply either Sport or Sport Plus modes in conjunction with firmer shock settings like most systems demand, making for the most versatile ride/handling compromise in its class.
Equal to its accelerative forces the GTS utilizes monstrous brake rotors embraced by mammoth red painted calipers for immediately reactive stopping power, those previously noted 20-inch rims and their 255/40 front and 295/55 rear Pirelli Cinturato P7s providing as much control when scrubbing off speed as grip through circuitous hairpins.
Yes, the GTS is ridiculously quick and near unflappable at speed, but let’s not forget how comfortably it coddles. Those psuede seats are ultra-grippy and ideally supportive thanks to overzealous adjustability and two-way memory, while a multi dexterous powered steering column makes for a driving position bar none. The rear seats are styled identically to those up front, just not as adaptable to shapes and sizes, albeit passengers up to six-foot-four should be fine. A flip-down armrest with a velvet-lined compartment sits between rear occupants, while the centre console includes optional HVAC controls as part of a four-zone upgrade, plus available rear seat heaters.
Another Panamera bonus is an accommodating cargo area accessed by a wide-opening liftgate, improved upon further via 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that expand capacity for skis, luggage or any number of big, long items when required.
Along with options already mentioned my test car’s extras included full-LED headlamps, self-cinching doors, a full-leather interior, powered rear sunscreens, a robust retractable cargo cover, front and rear parking sensors, plus a Premium package incorporating the four-zone auto HVAC and rear seat heaters noted before, as well as Power Steering Plus, blindspot monitoring with lane change assist, etcetera.
Auto start-stop is standard, engaging at idle in default mode and helping the GTS earn a claimed 12.1 L/100km combined five-cycle rating, which is superb when factoring in its substantive size, solid stance, and blistering performance. If you want better I recommend the plug-in hybrid mentioned earlier, which can cost you little more than a trickle on your electrical bill if your daily commute is below 36 km.
While the electrified powertrain is a technological triumph this V8-powered Panamera GTS would be my choice. You can wait for the new GTS that’s probably a year or so away, or take delivery of this 2016 model now, while saving a cool $5,000 from its $129,400 base price, no dickering required. Then again, haggle further if you like.
Not only will you get the best deal possible, but when choosing Porsche Centre Vancouver you’ll be buying your Panamera from one of only three Porsche Premier dealers in Canada, and the only such dealership in Greater Vancouver, the award earned by taking best possible care of its customers.
Additionally, Porsche Centre Vancouver will throw in some exclusive extras such as a three-year maintenance plan, plus a stylish tote bag filled to the brim with automotive goodies, one of which is a high-quality battery charger.
It really doesn’t get much better than driving away from Greater Vancouver’s preeminent Porsche dealer in one of the world’s best four-door coupes. If you’ve long had your eye on a Panamera there could be no better time than now.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.
Date Posted: May 11, 2017