50 special Rolls Wraiths commemorate 100 years of transatlantic flight
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My word that’s green. Yep, Mamba Green, but let’s not get bogged down by exterior hues, it’s the stuff under the paint we’re here to talk about. Fair enough. What is it? It’s the brand-new Porsche Panamera GTS, the second of its kind, but the first to be offered in the Sport Turismo body style, thus making it infinitely cooler. You probably know the GTS formula by now: designed to fill the gap between 4S and Turbo, it’s the sporty but not insanely powerful one that collects all the best bits from the Panamera options list and blends with some visual tweakery for maximum want.
What do you get? You get four-wheel drive, an eight-speed PDK gearbox, a sports exhaust and a 454bhp version of the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 as standard – 20bhp more than the 4S – for 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds whether you go for the standard or (30kg heavier) Sport Turismo body. That’s 0.3 seconds faster than the 4S and a few mph healthier at the top end too (181mph standard, 179mph Sport Turismo). You also get suspension goodies as standard - adaptive air suspension lowered by 10mm compared to the 4S, and with firmer damper calibrations, to be precise – and the Sport Chrono package, which means launch control and the driving mode dial on the steering wheel. On top of that, the car we got our hands on was fitted with the following options: Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, rear axle steering and ceramic brakes. And breathe… Looks good too… It does, doesn’t it. Part of that is the Sport Turismo shape (which only adds another 25-litres of boot space with the rear seats up, by the way, so largely a styling exercise) and the other part is a Sport Design pack, which adds black trim here and there on the outside and black Alcantara and anodised aluminium trim on the inside. You also get 20-inch wheels as standard and a liberal application of GTS logos. Please get to the driving bit. Right you are. We travelled to Bahrain to sample the car, beginning with a few hours cruising around on the roads… and I do mean cruising, speed limits are vigorously enforced here. But no matter, as well as a chance to explore this tiny, oil-rich island - barely an hour’s drive from top to bottom – it gave us an opportunity to experience the GTS’s imperious comfort. As a GT, it’s supreme: not squidgy like an S-Class, it guides you with a firmer hand but it’s never harsh, always whisper quiet and ensconces you in one of the very finest interiors anywhere. Basically, if you fancy yourself a GTS but only ever plan to drive it on the road, then fear not, you won’t be realising its full potential, but you won’t regret your decision. If, however, you like the absurdity of taking a £108,110, two-tonne estate on a track day or three… read on. Hang on, haven’t I seen those grandstands on telly? You have! Bahrain has its own F1 track - you may have watched Vettel holding off a late challenge from Bottas here back in April - and to ensure we had a chance to drive the GTS in anger, Porsche borrowed the keys. Brave move, but from the moment you leave the pitlane it’s obvious the GTS isn’t out of its depth. First thing to mention is that the thrust, which seemed bottomless on heavily-policed public roads, is a little thin out on track. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a slow car, but a combination of the insulation from the outside world and a mediocre power to weight ratio means this isn’t a point and squirt weapon, there’s more finesse required to extract its potential. It takes a few laps (following a 911 Turbo S that’s not hanging around) to realise several things: you can lean on the carbon ceramic brakes later and harder than you think, and if you don’t scrub enough speed it will understeer. Badly. But get the nose turned in and the way it tucks into the apex and then claws its way out the other side is seriously impressive. There’s even whispers of 911 in the steering feel, which is saying something for a car this size. We know this engine, but it’s worth mentioning again that while not quite as explosive or vocal as the Merc-AMG equivalent, throttle response is every bit as sharp. Factor in instantaneous shifts from the PDK and the precision of the powertrain really is its crowning glory. I emerge from a session in daylight and a session under the floodlights (for the authentic Bahrain GP experience ) thinking the Panamera GTS would be an ideal driver training vehicle. You have to be smooth, precise and patient to make the most of it, but when you do, it’s capable of lap times you simply wouldn’t expect. Pick of the Panamera range, then? Tricky one. Despite holding its own on the circuit, this is patently a fast road car, not a track tool… and if you are only going to use it on road then why not have a Panamera 4S Sport Turismo for £14,131 less? Then again, you’ll probably swallow that difference in options in no time, and won’t have the cache of the GTS badge. See what I mean? Tricky. In truth, that’s the appeal of the GTS badge, a half-way house that when you do the sums on the Porsche you really want, makes more sense than it seems at first. We’ll take ours in Mamba Green.