The Porsche Panamera is an unusual and contradictory big beastie.
It’s a sports car for four, at a time when families – even ones filled with fast-car fans – are turning to SUVs.
The Panamera has been tweaked and tizzied since it first arrived and, if nothing else, it has buried the beautiful Aston Martin Rapide that arrived at a similar time for similar shoppers.
The big Porsche has never won a beauty contest, although it is smoother and more elegant in 2020 and more user-friendly in the cabin without a mis-mash of confusing buttons strewn around the dashboard.
But the Panamera is caught in a trap, because its toughest rival is Porsche’s own Cayenne and especially the smoother newer Cayenne Coupe.
Its advantage over the Cayenne – even the coupe – is that it is still a car and not a thinly-disguised truck, so it is far easier to deliver the driving enjoyment that has always been the bedrock of the Porsche brand.
The Panamera is a serious executive express in Europe, and most definitely on the high-speed autobahns in Germany, but it’s also a serious sports car in Australia, even if the Cayman and 911 are smaller and sharper.
The arrival of the GTS version of the Panamera is a chance to take a fresh look at a car which is a favourite with people who know its strengths and enjoy driving.
If only the pricing didn’t start from $367,100…
Its twin-turbo V8 petrol engine is brilliant, it’s sharp in the chassis, and it has the back doors and seats that mean its far more practical than Porsche’s traditional two-door sports cars.
The Panamera is a big car that makes a proud statement, stepping away from rivals like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series with its sporting intent. It lacks the practicality of the other Germans – in access, cabin space and the boot – although Porsche also has the Panamera Sport Turismo with its wagon-style tail for better luggage capacity and a more-balanced look.
If this is all sounding negative, it only takes the first sound of the V8 to change the perspective. It thumps and rumbles and if you push to the redline it has an exotic roar that translates into rapid progress down any road.
The Panamera GTS is well equipped, the V8 engine will fling it to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds, and it sits above the basic V6 model and below the hybrid at the middle – and heart – of the lineup.
So it’s the car that’s most likely to ring the bell for a – well funded – Porsche fan with a family.
The GTS package brings all sorts of cosmetic tweaks, from black satin trim in place of chrome to 20-inch alloy wheels, but it’s the basics that still do the job despite the quality of the sound system and the sumptuous leather on the seats.
The dash is simple and user-friendly, the PDK double-clutch gearbox can be smooth or sporty to match your mood and the driving mode, and it rides surprisingly smoothly for a big and heavy car. Of course, tweaking the settings – including the active exhaust that makes fun for your friends – can seriously sharpen its driving intent and response.
So it’s a two-edged sword, because it’s an effortless tourer than can also carve through the hills.
It’s also a Porsche and that should be enough to overcome any niggles or shortcomings.
If it wasn’t for the price…
It’s a Porsche
Transmission: 8-speed PDK, all-wheel drive
Position: luxury limousine
THE TICK: Not for me.