2019 Porsche Panamera GTS First Drive Review

Hammer down on the German Autobahn, the new 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS sedan has a top speed of 181 mph. But here, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the twin-turbo V8-powered super sedan is all maxed out at 84 mph. How can this be?

In Bahrain, the highest speed limit is 120 kph. The country’s Traffic Violation handbook clearly states, “Exceeding the speed limit beyond 30 percent is punishable with a jail term ranging from 1 to 6 months and/or a fine ranging from BD100 to BD500” — about $265-$1,300. Get busted at over 100 mph and they lock you up and toss the key in the Persian Gulf.

In the past few hours we’ve looped this entire island without exceeding a single posted speed limit. Bahrain’s finest drive Toyota Land Cruisers and Dodge Chargers, and they’re everywhere. Everywhere. Bahrain also appears to be home to the most traffic cameras per mile of anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of Ohio.

“The GTS is not for everybody,” says Dr. Thomas Friemuth, Porsche’s vice president responsible for the Panamera product line. “The GTS customer wants his Panamera to be sportier, but he doesn’t want to pay $20,000 extra for a Turbo.”

At $129,350 for the Panamera GTS sedan and $135,550 for the Sport Turismo GTS, these new models slot between the V6-powered Panameras ($86,300) and the Turbo ($151,500), making the GTS the entry-level V8 in the lineup. All the trim on the GTS is blacked out, including the Sport Design front and rear fascias, front spoiler, side skirts, side window trim and badging. Even the “PORSCHE” logo on its tail is dark, and the headlights and taillights are tinted.

Unfortunately for Porsche, the new Panamera GTS falls short of the performance-per-dollar standards already set by the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63 S, which cost $25,000 less than the GTS. Like the Panamera, both have all-wheel drive and twin-turbo V8s, but the BMW and the Benz are also packing 600 hp. As a result, they’ll smoke the Panamera GTS in a drag race, and probably on most racetracks. Both seat five, which the GTS sedan cannot, and their all-wheel drive systems offer rear-wheel drive modes for maximum tire shredding.

That said, if you live in the Kingdom of Bahrain, don’t even bother. There, you can go just as fast in a Toyota Corolla.