Test Drive: 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo

Porsche’s latest-generation Panamera gets the GTS treatment, and here we drive the dramatic and ultimately functional long-roof Sport Turismo configuration – officially, the 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo.

First and foremost a luxury tourer, albeit a very fast and extremely fine-handling one.

Historically, the GTS version of any Porsche denotes a “sportier” take of a mid-level trim – a value package of goodies that spells engagement over outright speed. For many enthusiasts, GTS-badged Porsches hit the sweet spot between the “S” and all-out Turbo variants. So do the trifecta of letters G, T, and S transform Porsche’s swift, stylish, luxurious, brilliantly engineered but ultimately aloof four-door hatchback into something more rewarding for the driver? Maybe not as much as you’d hope.

Styling: 9/10

In this Mamba Green paint, my Panamera spun heads wherever we went. The Sport Turismo has more visual flair than the regular Panamera, and there’s nothing like a retina-searing green to emphasize that notion. This really is a handsome beast – long, low, lean, and imposing – and there’s nothing like it on the market. And here with its GTS-spec 10-mm-lowered stance, crouching on 20-inch black alloys and wearing blacked-out trim, it looks spectacular.

Practicality: 8/10

This is where the Sport Turismo comes into its own, and I had an opportunity to load it up to the max, courtesy of an out-of-town gig with the fabulous Pretzel Logic – a Toronto-based Steely Dan cover band.

As Steely Dan so famously queried in Kid Charlemagne, “Is there gas in the car, is there gas in the car?” I filled the Panamera’s tank with premium, and filled the interior with Mike Shotton (lead vocals), Timothy Johns (guitar), and as much equipment as we could stuff in. Which, in the case of this low-slung land missile, was quite a bit. Even with the larger portion of the 60/40-split rear seat folded, Tim was plenty comfy in the optional eight-way adjustable, ventilated back seat (it has optional powered side sunshades too), despite being occasionally jabbed by a mike stand or guitar bag.

Power: 9/10

The GTS gets a detuned version of the Panamera Turbo’s 4.0L twin-turbo V8, but if you’ve never experienced the capital-T Turbo’s 550 hp and 567 lb-ft Turbo, then the GTS’s 453 horses and 457 lb-ft of torque will not be too much of a hardship. The GTS runs with an eight-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox and gets a slightly shorter final-drive ratio (3.36 vs 3.15) for more punch off the line.

A claimed 4.1-second dash to 100 km/h and a top speed of 289 km/h is nothing to sniff at. Even with all this band-ballast (on top of the GTS’s portly 2,025 kg curb weight), blasting past slower traffic was effortless and exhilarating.

Comfort: 8/10

The Panamera’s cabin is a paragon of design, build quality, and material choice, showing an overall business-like, timeless aesthetic free from gimmickry and whimsy. As in the Porsche tradition, the seats are firm and supportive, designed for the long haul, and the driving position is spot-on. Yes, it’s low-slung, so ingress and egress can be a bit inelegant; but once ensconced, the Panamera GTS Sport Turismo plays all the luxury cards, assuming you’ve ponied up for the necessary options and packages.

The ride is sports-car firm even in Normal mode, yet still perfectly acceptable. Rear seat comfort is fine for two adults, showing plenty of legroom and headroom. On the highway, the GTS is serene and tracks with laser-like path control.

User Friendliness: 7/10

The configurable gauge cluster is bright and clear. A big central analogue tachometer is flanked by two configurable LCD displays that render digital gauges, navigation info, or night vision display; and calling up the various screens is as easy as using the thumb rollers on each spoke of the steering wheel. A large 12.3-inch touchscreen dominates the centre stack, and below is a glossy console with illuminated capacitive switches that respond to the touch with a haptic click.

For better of worse, the previous landscape of endless “real” buttons on the central console is gone. Better because it’s a cleaner look, but worse because when hit by direct sunlight the whole thing washes out. And while the screen graphics are crisp and menu system generally intuitive, some basic functions require digging through menus and too much finger-prodding.

Feature Content: 6/10

As with any Porsche, base feature content might be considered a tad stingy, especially considering this car’s $153,300 starting point. And, also with any Porsche, the average transaction price swells by about 20 percent once the buyer has selected his/her options and packages. As such, this tester’s additional $29,540 in upgrades is right on schedule.

Options of note include the $1,360 surround view camera, $1,970 head-up display, $570 ambient lighting package, and the $5,140 Premium Package Plus, which provides soft-close doors, comfort access, lane-change assist, heated rear seats, and an impressive Bose surround sound audio system.

Safety: 8.5/10

The $6,120 Assistance Package layers on night vision assist, adaptive cruise, and some semi-autonomous driving capability. All the expected driver assist systems are on the menu.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Isn’t this why you buy a Porsche? You sit sports-car low in the 2019 Panamera Sport Turismo GTS, unlike all the other full-size German premium executive expresses. Still, this is first and foremost a luxury tourer, albeit a very fast and extremely fine-handling one. It’s just that this latest generation of Panamera doesn’t involve the driver too much in the process. The steering is devoid of feel, and while grip and path control are nothing short of amazing, a sense of isolation trumps any engagement.

Sure, twisting the rotary drive mode select dial on the steering wheel to Sport+ brings some bark to the exhaust and dials up the transmission, suspension, throttle response, and PSM (Porsche Stability Management) to full attack, but you’re still more Grand Tourer than apex-strafer. Which is just fine. That’s why you have a 911 in the garage.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

One might think that a heavy, all-wheel-drive luxo-missile with a powerful 4.0L twin-turbo V8 would be a flagrant guzzler of dino-juice, yet this specimen, loaded with the aforementioned musical and human cargo, returned 9.7 L/100 km on our mostly-secondary-road tour. Credit the standard stop-start system and “coasting” feature that imperceptibly decouples the engine from the transmission and drops it to idle when conditions allow. Of course, drive the GTS hard in Sport or Sport+ mode, and that will be a different story.

Value: 9/10

Well, it depends on what rung of the fiscal ladder you cling to. Most mortals will balk at this car’s $182,840 bottom line, but for those who want it, and can afford it, this special five-door executive Porsche will be a happy purchase. Expensive. Yes. Extortionist option list. Whatever. Worth it.

Conclusion

The 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo represents a niche within a niche, but what a fascinating car. If you need to haul some musical equipment, showing up to a gig in this rig after a 2.5-hour drive is about as good as it gets. As a daily luxury conveyance, the GTS shows a totally unique blend of blistering performance, functionality, technology, and exclusivity – all wrapped up in visually arresting skin. And speaking of arresting, it’s advisable to set the speed limit alert somewhere south of 150 km/h. This Porsche wants to run.

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo
Engine Displacement: 4.0L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 453 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 457 lb-ft @ 1800–4500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 15.7/10.7/13.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (EPA)
Cargo Space: 520 L
2019 Porsche Panamera GTS Sport Turismo
Base Price $153,300
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,250
Price as Tested $184,190
Optional Equipment $29,540 – Mamba Green Metallic $950; Premium Package Plus $5,140; Tinted LED Matrix Headlights $700; Assistance Package $6,120; Door Handles in Black (High-gloss) $400; Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control Sport $5,710; Rear Axle Steering and Power Steering Plus $1,840; Surround View camera $1,360; Head-up Display $1,970; Rear Power Seats with Memory Package $2,300; Power Sunblind for Rear Side Windows $560; Ambient Lighting $570; Front and Rear Seat Ventilation $1,920
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.1
9 Styling
9 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
7 Usability/Ergonomics
9 Fuel Economy
6 Features
9 Value