Panamera GTS a plush performance machine

·5-min read

It's a fair bet that Porsche, the German marque admired and desired the world over, would feature in the bucket list of most people with a vague passion for motor vehicles. It's an aura that Porsche has honed and refined for 70 years.

Yet for those who've reached the point of working on their bucket list, the ground-hugging design and snug cockpits of most Porsche models, while fun for a while, might become a burden before too long.

Cue the Panamera - a Porsche most people would be happy to drive forever, regardless of age constraints.

While still delivering the mystique and muscle expected from members of this famous Stuttgart family, the Panamera adds comfort, space, practicality and luxury. All of which are relatively new concepts for Porsche.

Things were less comfortable back in 2010, when Porsche first pulled the covers off the Panamera and wore all kinds of scorn in the process.

Not everybody loved the Panamera, least of all the rusted-on Porsche owners, and admirers, who saw it as a sell-out that diluted the Porsche DNA by featuring a rear seat, let alone four doors and a decent-sized boot.

Those same critics were no doubt choking on their sauerkraut even more when, a couple of years later, Porsche followed up with its first-ever SUV, the massively popular Cayenne, and then the even-more popular Macan.

Those vehicles now underpin the bulk of Porsche's sales, which only goes to show that Porsche knows more about the brand, and what it stands for, than any of those barking from the sidelines.

This second-generation Panamera has helped change that narrative, too, with its altogether more fluent, cohesive and well-proportioned design, more reflective of the timeless Porsche ethic, than its ungainly predecessor.

A mid-model upgrade which has found its way into Porsche showrooms this year further hones those very welcome improvements.

The Panamera goes head-to-head with some serious weaponry in this most indulgent of segments - among them the Maserati Quattroporte, Audi's RS7, Benz's four-door AMG GTS and BMW's thunderous new M8 Gran Coupe.

All wonderful things for those buyers who happen to be in the market to drop $300,000-plus on a set of wheels.

Yet even in this group the Panamera is instantly and uniquely recognisable with those characteristic rounded, bulbous front wheel arches and powerful haunches.

Tested here is the Panamera GTS, sitting one rung below the flagship Turbo S and using the same twin-turbocharged V8 and eight-speed double-clutch transmission.

It will cost a substantial $312,900, which sounds like a lot of money, and is, if not for the fact that it's fully $50-grand cheaper than the model it replaces, yet gets more power and more gear.

What's more, it costs $100-grand less than the flagship Panamera Turbo S ($415,700), whose V8 has been tweaked and teased to push out an insane 463kW and a 0-100km/h split of 3.1 seconds. The GTS, by comparison, brings a mere 353kW (0-100 in a sloth-like 3.9 seconds).

Oh, the hardship. Both the GTS and Turbo S get all-wheel grip.

The Panamera is technically a five-seater - well, there are three seatbelts in the back - but sitting in the middle means straddling an elongated centre console. Much better to snuggle back in one of the two sculpted buckets provided for the rear-seat passengers, where leg room is surprisingly decent, even if tall people will find the raking rear glass a bit too proximate.

Inside, the car feels snug and efficient, with less focus on luxury finishes than others in this category, in favour of a very classy but pared-back appearance..

There is a massive touch-screen controlling most cabin functions, and a vivid virtual instrument panel that changes with the 'mood' of the car. It reflects the long-held Porsche philosophy that the cockpit should, above all, be built with the driver in mind.

Despite its very significant size, the Panamera steers and brakes like a much smaller, more nimble car. That's partly because of its low, athletic stance and partly because Porsche engineers have been making cars that defy physics for decades now.

But the slightly surprising thing is this. With the possible exception of the Maserati, the Panamera is probably the most sensible and practical option among this star-studded performance-limousine line up.

"Most practical" is not a term thrown at a Porsche all that often, but with its comfortable seating and massive rear hatch, this car is both a day-to-day proposition and a weekend indulgence.

Finishes are first class, with build quality meeting expectation from an exclusive German machine.

Dislikes? Well, the tiny analogue clock that sits in its own little turret in the dead centre of the dash is quirky, but is almost too small to read and doesn't really fit the rest of the cabin. It's a bit of a Porsche 'thing' but looks a bit like a pimple on an otherwise sculpted, sweeping dash.

So is this a particularly quick luxury car, or a very plush performance machine?

Despite its comfort, its sophistication and its impressive levels of technology and infotainment, this car is a Porsche at its very core.

And that can only be a good thing.

It looks like a Porsche, sounds like one and, most importantly, drives like one.

PORSCHE PANAMERA GTS

* HOW BIG: Almost five metres in length, it's a surprisingly big thing, although its size is camouflaged by those beautiful flowing lines and massive 21-inch alloys.

* HOW FAST: Although dwarfed by its Turbo S stablemate, it gets to the speed limit in less than four seconds which is quick in anyone's language.

* HOW THIRSTY: Officially it drinks 11.7L/100km, but who's looking?

* HOW MUCH? The Panamera GTS costs $312,900, plus on-road costs.

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