In the rarified world of Porsche precision driving instruments, which happen to masquerade as sportscars, the Panamera is a bit of an outlier. It flies in the face of virtually every value that the German manufacturer has held dear since its inception – compactness, lightness, agility – and it has had its share of critics, who believe that Porsche has no business making a luxury barge to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Audi A8 and others of their ilk. There are others who think that Porsche is a grown adult and can make whatever the hell it wants, thank you very much – if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. I tend to lean toward the latter view, and I suspect a fair number of naysayers would reconsider, were they to have a go in a Panamera GTS – it’s the sort of car that realigns your perceptions.
A little GTS history first, though. The GTS badge was first seen on a Porsche 904, back in the 1960s, and it was brought out of storage again in 2010, with the porsche 911. Cars with this badge on their behinds are much more performance oriented than their ‘standard’ counterparts, with more powerful engines, suspension tweaks, a host of features as standard and distinctive exteriors, with blacked out touches all around the body; all GTS models have a fantastic, crackling intake and exhaust note. These cars are meant to be a bridge between the base models and the balls-to-the-wall ones, such as the 911 Turbo S and the 911 GT3 RS, which are machines that require much more skill and nerve to drive.
Back to the Panamera, then. As I mentioned earlier, at first sight you wouldn’t associate it with the Porsche legacy, but have a go in the GTS version and you’ll think again. Its 440 bhp V8 engine is stupendously good, and it sounds like an approaching storm, with just the right amount of raspy top notes, balanced out by a deep rumble. It’s quick off the blocks, hiding its considerable weight, and the revelation is the way in which it grips the road during hard cornering, slicing through them cleanly without squirming around or giving the impression that it’s at the end of its adhesion limits. An executive limousine isn’t built for a racetrack, but the Panamera GTS wouldn’t be out of its depth if you let it loose on one. Naturally, its cabin is also beautifully appointed, although the back seats are not quite as roomy or plush as an S-Class.
Pretty much everything I’ve just said about the Panamera GTS applies to the Cayenne GTS too. Shock and horror ensued when Porsche made its first SUV, with purists decrying what they felt was a dilution of what the brand stood for – but today, the Cayenne is Porsche’s biggest seller (it has been for a while now). I’ve always felt that SUVs are somewhat pointless vehicles for anything other than crossing the Sahara desert, so pardon me if I’m not especially effusive about the Cayenne. Having said that, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s the SUV I’d buy if I was forced to, because it handles ridiculously well for its size, better than any SUV I’ve ever driven. It has the same 440 bhp power output as the Panamera GTS, so it’s very rapid indeed.
The pick of the GTS stable is without doubt the iconic 911 model, about which nothing much remains to be said – other than the fact that it’s still the best-handling sportscar in its segment. There’s something about a 911 that’s just so… right. The entire cabin’s layout is driver-oriented, it’s very easy to drive and boy, once you start giving it some stick, it responds to your every input in an almost telepathic way, dismissing corners as if they didn’t really exist. Its straight line speed is a joy to experience, and that brilliant exhaust note will keep you entertained all day long.
This brings me to the deadly twins – the Boxster and Cayman GTS. They’re essentially the same car, in drop-top and coupe form respectively, and of all Porsche’s models, they encapsulate the sheer joy of driving better than their stablemates. The Cayman is widely considered to be the best-handling sportscar in the world, bar none, and when you drive the GTS, the experience is enhanced by the addition of more power. To be honest, I’ve run out of superlatives about these two cars, so I’ll simply point you to the story I wrote about them here. No matter which GTS model you pick, depending on your driving preferences, you can be certain that you’ll get a sweet mix of hard-edged performance, sexy looks, benchmark handling and everyday useability, and there aren’t very many competing brands out there that can match that.