Porsche keeps refining its sedan since unveiling it in 2009 to some grumblings from aficionados. There's now a Panamera for all tastes — from 6-cylinder to hybrid to 550-horsepower turbo. We drove the middle-of-the-lineup GTS, which features a naturally aspirated V-8 and some performance features from the upper-level turbo models.
Appearance: There's no getting around it — this car still looks awkward, with a big, round rear end that gives it a bulbous silhouette. Deal-breaker for some potential buyers? Perhaps. The front end, though, shows off the Porsche DNA: It's sleek, with a long, creased hood, elliptical headlights and black air-intake grille. Our tester featured black 20-inch sport wheels with bright-red brake calipers, which makes for a stunning contrast. (The red-on-black scheme continues inside.) The stainless steel-alloy twin sport exhaust has a matte-black finish.
Performance: The naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V-8 puts out 430 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. That makes for great acceleration and a 4.3-second 0-to-60 time. (If that's not enough power for you, there are two turbocharged versions.) If you want a more aggressive response, you can switch to the sports or sports-plus modes at the push of a button. There's also a button to choose your exhaust note; we prefer the throaty rumble. The 7-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission is one of our favorite sport automatics, making seamless and precise shifts. Porsche has refined its gas-saving auto start/stop system, which is now almost as seamless as the PDK's shifts. You can disable it with the push of a button — nice. The GTS, which has active all-wheel drive, is engineered for performance, and it doesn't handle like a 2-ton-plus car, carving out corners — big butt and all — almost like a smaller Porsche. Fun to drive? That's an enthusiastic yes.
Interior: The GTS is more about sport than comfort. Its adaptive sports seats, though comfortable and offering great lateral support, are on the firm side. There are bright-red embroidered GTS logos on each seat, which also have red stitching. The seat belts are also bright red. We get it, Porsche: This is a sports model. One thing all Panameras share is a technology-laden instrument panel that recalls an aircraft. The center console extends through the cabin to the rear. Lyra counted 48 buttons and dials up front for the alphabet soup of car-control systems and other features; it can be a bit overwhelming. We both were wowed by the Burmester surround-sound system, which we thought was one of the best we've heard. Some things we didn't like: The steering-wheel adjuster is under the column, so if you need to pull it down, you have to contort your arm. Lyra didn't like the Alcantara-lined steering wheel, which she felt lacked grip, and the rear window is small.
Our 3 favorites
Power hatchback: It closes with the push of a button and there's room for suitcases.
Key fob: This is more a source of amusement: It's in the shape of the car and can come in the same color as your car for $335.
Cockpit: The button-heavy console has a visual impact.
Sporty look: Black wheels, red seat belts and stitching.
Just right: Great balance between comfort and performance.
PDK: One of the best transmissions I've driven.
The bottom line: Performance. Comfort. Love-it-or-hate-it styling. The pricey Panamera is many things, but boring isn't one of them. It's definitely for a confident personality.