Luxury car sales are plummeting as the post-recession boom tapers and consumers increasingly opt for SUVs over sedans, but Porsche is bucking the trend, tweaking a pair of six-figure, enthusiast-focused models for its four-door Panamera sports car range.
Porsche already offers the Panamera in a dozen executive, turbo, and hybrid versions. When the latest performance models arrive in dealer showrooms late next year, prices for the Panamera GTS fastback and GTS Sport Turismo wagon will start at $128,300 and $134,500, a bet by Porsche that some luxury buyers will still pony up for its high-performance cars.
The GTS versions, which produce 453 horsepower using a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, will slot between the entry-level, 440-horsepower Panamera S and 550-horsepower Panamera Turbo.
As part of the Panamera’s second-generation redesign last year, Porsche added the top-of-the-line Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid with a 680-horsepower hybrid powertrain and a price tag just below $200,000.
“At these price points, there is more than sufficient margin for Porsche to offer the sorts of very specialized low volume trim lines that would be financially unviable in more plebeian automobiles,” said Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at marketing research and consulting firm AutoPacific.
Though it sells fewer vehicles than rivals, Porsche is the only German luxury brand whose car sales rose year-to-date through September. Its 15.6% gain outpaces double-digit declines for Mercedes-Benz and BMW as well as Audi’s 5.5% drop, according to figures from Autodata Corp.
The new versions don’t produce significantly more horsepower than the base model, but the Panamera GTS – the “Gran Turismo Sport” badge denoting Porsche’s enthusiast trim level—makes more torque and a mightier roar, two characteristics designed to appeal to track-focused buyers. “Part of the fun in any enthusiast vehicle is the sound,” Kim said.
For 2019, the two GTS models get larger brakes, a recalibrated suspension, and a lower chassis. Porsche says they can zip from 0 to 60 mph in just under four seconds, boasting top track speeds of 181 mph for the GTS sedan and 179 mph for the slightly heavier wagon.
The Sport Turismo variant makes up for the minor lag in utility. Cars with the wagon-like body style raise seating capacity to five, add cargo volume and rear headroom, and get a lower, split-folding rear configuration that makes it easier to load items into the trunk.
“The affluent luxury consumer expects a high degree of personalization in general, and by offering a specialized GTS model, it addresses the needs of its choosy customer,” Kim said. “As long as Porsche has ensured that the GTS has a very different drive personality than the 4S, it should be able to find its place within the Panamera lineup.”