2019 Porsche Panamera GTS first drive review: Luxury for every occasion

My 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS test car came with ceramic brakes, rear-wheel steering, and a frighteningly thick booklet explaining the driving laws—significantly, the penalties for breaking them—in Bahrain. The words “jail term” appeared often enough to dissuade me from ordering the V-8’s cavalry into action on public roads.

In a way, the threat of getting consigned to a Bahraini prison cell for a few months ensured I experienced both sides of Porsche’s latest land missile.

Keeping up with the times

The first-generation Panamera GTS bellowed down the German autobahn with a naturally aspirated, 4.8-liter V-8 engine. In hindsight, it was the last specimen of its breed.

Unveiled in October 2018, its replacement surfs the displacement downsizing wave with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine to make 453 horsepower between 6,000 and 6,500 rpm and 457 pound-feet of torque over a broad 1,800- to 4,500-rpm range. More torque in more places is a clear benefit of going turbo; it’ll give the naysayers something to chew on. Blame lawmakers if you miss the old engine, though.

READ MORE: Meet the new sweet spot: 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS debuts

Thomas Friemuth, vice president of the Panamera line, told Motor Authority his team embraced forced induction mainly to comply with tightening emissions regulations, especially in the European Union. Porsche couldn’t build a sport sedan with a naturally aspirated, large-displacement engine while remaining on the legal side of pollution laws.

“If it was possible, we would have done it,” he said.

Turbocharged it is, then.

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS first drive

2019 Porsche Panamera GTS first drive

The 4.0-liter’s horsepower and torque figures proudly stand 18 and 73 higher, respectively, than the outgoing 4.8’s. That’s 113 horsepower per passenger if you order the Panamera as a four-seater.

The turbocharged engine spins the Panamera’s four wheels through an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. Friemuth noted about 75 percent of the V-8’s power goes to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, but the split constantly changes as factors like road conditions, the driving mode selected, the steering angle, and the G-forces recorded by the bevy of on-board sensors enter the equation.

Every drop of the torque can rush to the rear wheels if needed, too. Alternatively, the front axle can receive up to 70 percent of it, though that mainly happens if the rear wheels completely lose traction, like when driving on an icy road. If you really want to know where the power goes, Porsche programmed a gauge that shows the real-time torque distribution into one of the screens of the instrument cluster. And, regardless of how power is distributed, the V-8 sends the Panamera GTS from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and pushes it all the way to 181 mph.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Porsche Panamera first drive review: baser instincts

The dual citizen

With the words “Bahraini prison” relentlessly echoing through my mind, I selected the humble Normal mode to head to a cluster of man-made, fish-shaped (no joke) islands off the country’s southeastern coast. The blend of city and highway driving demonstrated the Panamera’s competence as a commuter.

The V-8 doesn’t sound utterly angry, but it does seem a little annoyed, a constant reminder that this is a sportier version of an already sporty car. The sport seats’ side bolsters serve the same function. The active air suspension (no steel setup for the GTS) delivers a comfortable, compliant ride suitable for longer trips. Meandering through rows of double-parked Toyota Land Cruisers with ’90s-licious side decals vividly reminded me the Panamera is about as wide and as long as a short-wheelbase BMW 7-Series. An armada of cameras that send footage to the touchscreen in the center console helped to prevent me from adding creases and obtuse angles to the curvaceous, 911-inspired body panels.

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