The French have a word for a car like the 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS—bolide.
It means meteor and that the Panamera GTS surely is in terms of getting to your destination.
But it is more than that. With luxurious seating for four, ground gobbling speed and Porsche’s legendary all-wheel-drive it could also be the ultimate SUV.
Fitted out in fire engine red with optional glistening black 20-inch spider-spoke wheels, nothing has the street presence of the 2013 GTS tested here.
Chock full of more buttons that any other vehicle I’ve driven not to mention a host of technologically advanced driver/safety aids, there is always a little Porsche extra to delight.
In this case it’s the exhaust with larger pipes in the GTS exhaust system containing two tuning flaps that, when activated, open additional exhaust vents that add a much deeper, more powerful sound.
The flaps are controlled by means of a switch in the centre console and features a “last mode” function that remembers the last setting and restores it when the engine is started.
Road holding, as you would expect, is superlative with standard adaptive air suspension combined with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) increasing both comfort and driving dynamics by adjusting the spring rate and electrically adjusting the damping system, all combined with a self-levelling height adjustment function.
With the air suspension at its normal level the GTS sits 10 mm lower than the other models in the Panamera range and its damping is designed to be tauter.
But if you come to less than perfect road conditions, you can raise the body to let you cruise through snowdrifts on the way to the winter resort or chalet.
And it has pretty impressive towing numbers at 750 kg for an unbraked trailer and a full 2,200 kg for a braked trailer.
Optional on most Porsches but standard on the GTS is the Sport Chrono Package—one of my favourites.
It lets the driver chose between three drive modes, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus that adjust the engine/drive/chassis to different response rates.
Let’s cut right to Sport Plus that drops the chassis to its lowest setting and hardest spring rate and even changes the angle of attach on the real spoiler to its most aggressive setting.
The uprated, naturally aspirated, quad-cam 4.8-litre V8 really fills the engine bay of the GTS.
Producing 430 hp and 384 lb/ft of torque, that’s enough to propel the GTS from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds with a top speed limited to 179 mph. Fuel consumption is rated at 11.1/8.5L/100 km (21/35 mpg) city/highway on premium, 240 octane recommended.
The best place to start the GTS is in a closed space. It all begins with initial crack as the raw fuel is ignited followed by a sound I can only describe as a surge before it quickly settles down to the unmistakable V8 sound but with more like a baritone saxophone in the case of the GTS.
There is no leap off the line with traction control, Porsche stability control and a pantheon of other sensors making sure the right amount of power is available for the driver.
But, there is also a little something called Launch Control that deserves a story all on its own.
By knowing what engine/drive/suspension control buttons to push/hold you can make like a F1 driver with every ounce of engine power sent to the four, all-wheel-drive wheels with the absolute maximum of acceleration for the surface conditions. Wind, sleet, snow, rain or black of night will see nobody getting off the line faster and with less waste of power and tire spin.
While all this is happening and the ground is melting away into the background as it becomes a blur in the rearview mirror, you are surrounded by one of the most comprehensive and sumptuous interiors in the industry.
With the ignition switch still in its signature position to the left of the steering wheel, the driver is faced with the classic five-pot central instrument cluster that is similar to that found in all the big Porsches basically (and thankfully) unchanged since Dr. Porsche designed it that way seven decades ago.
Adding to this is a display on the right side of the cluster that shows longitudinal and lateral acceleration as part of the multi-mode information display.
The GTS is fitted with 18-way power front sport seats and the interior is offered in a choice of five different colours and trims.
The two separate rear seats fold to increase cargo volume from 15.7 cu ft to 44.6 cu ft with the cargo area fully carpeted and also accessible by the power rear liftgate.
No matter how you look at it, this is a large car, and when seated so low, it’s surprising how good the sightlines are except when it comes to the rear.
My tester surprisingly was not fitted with a backup camera. It did have the $690 optional front/rear audible park assists, but I’d prefer a camera.
While it has the obligatory paddle shifters for the PDK transmission, I always find these superfluous because I know the PDK shifts faster than I can. Unless you’re involved in a race every day, I don’t see the need for these things.
What I liked best was the sound of the car.
A 911 Turbo is faster but big turbos are acoustic deadeners and take away a lot of the aural enjoyment of what I call motoring—driving along enjoying the way a car is like a time machine getting you to points in a minimum of time.
Where the GTS version of the Panamera stands out from so many other luxury cars/SUVs is the satisfaction derived from the journey.
If there are four of you, or maybe just yourself, the GTS proves getting there can be a lot more than half the fun.
Porsche Panamera GTS 2013
Body style: Luxury hatchback/wagon.
Drive method: front-engine, permanent all-wheel-drive.
Engine: 4.8-litre, DOHC V8 (430 hp, 384 lb/ft)
Fuel economy: 11.1/8.5L/100 km (21/35 mpg) city/highway
Cargo: 15.7 cu ft behind rear seats, 44.6 cu ft folder
Tow rating: 750 kg unbraked trailer, 2,200 kg braked trailer
Price: @126,700; as tested, $148,175 including $1,115 shipping fee