Test drove the Panamera GTS today in Hong Kong and have a few thoughts.
Disclaimer: I have a fairly loaded 650i GC, DHP/IAS and 20" Michelin PSS tyres, comfort seats and the works. So comparison will be made in regard to 650i GC configured as above
So.... With BMW pricing the 650i GC way up there in Panamera territory (at least in Hong Kong), I thought I will compare it with the Panamera GTS launched in 2012 as well. A friend of mine ordered a Panny GTS to be picked up and I asked him to help arrange a test drive of the GTS with his sales person....
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I hear a lot of people saying that the Panamera looked terrible for a Porsche. To be honest, it really depends on personal preferences. But in terms of looks, the Porsche does catch me more of a sports car than the 6GC. Looking at the GTS, the car looks like it is sitting lower than the 6GC, a REAL 6-piston caliper in RED instead of the sliding brake (grey or black, still not what I would expect to see on a sport car), extending rear wings. All-in-all, the Panamera GTS has all the looks in terms of a sports car. 6GC? Well, I do like the look of 6GC over the panny GTS, but please! I would have a tough time explaining to the general public that the 6GC is a sport car based on appearance......
Again, the 6GC has a more sedan feel in terms of the interior than the GTS. Everything in the GTS convey a sense that it is a sport car. The steering wheel is unmistakably sporty, with mode display on. The customizable dash display can show the map on one of the panel, while displaying more tech information than on the 6GCs. In this regards, the panny GTS just has a better dash than the 6GC.
Interior finishing is equivalent to the 6GC with nappa and extended leather, which I opted out of for my 6GC. Seats are on par with the 6GC comfort seats, similar multitude of adjustable controls.
Here is what I find most surprising. I moved from the F10 to the 650iGC and my biggest complaint was the rear visibility of the 650iGC which was terrible. I was expecting the large rear windows on the Panny GTS hatch to offer a way better rear visibility but no. It is about on par with the 6GC! And the sloping sides in the front of the 6GC actually makes it easier to see the corners in the front than the bumps on the front of the panny GTS to accomodate the headlamps. I have to say the 650i wins with a slight edge in this regard.
For those of you knows your way around Hong Kong, I purposely tested the car in the windy Stubbs Road (Porsche salespeople will never voluntarily take people to test drive there....). That road is on the mountain-side, very windy with a lot of sharp consecutive turns, 2-lane two-way roads. Great to really test the cars' handling.
For the GTS in normal mode, I do feel that it struggles a bit in turning and feel the size of the car. So much so that I told the saleperson that the car was in normal mode. He checked, and what do you know? It is in normal mode. The 650i GC handles better in the normal "comfort" mode in this regard. I never feel the 650i GC's size in terms of handling in that windy road.
Once I switched the GTS into sport mode, handling feels on par with the 6GC. The GTS being a 4WD, I would expect it to beat my FR 6GC in cornering. But to my surprise, although the GTS is very good, the 6GC is no slouch either. I did not feel that the GTS is vastly superior than the 6GC in windy back roads, which was not what I expected at all...... Given the 6GC is a rear wheel drive with only the "fake" eDiff, the 6GC's handling was very respectable here.
I believe that the Adaptive drive, with its Active Dampening, and adjustable roll stabilization did wonders there! And the IAS certainly helped a bit.
So I would put back road handling neck-neck between the 650iGC and the GTS. Which surprised me quite a bit.
Both cars are equally as planted on the road during curves and feel very composed. I know people complaint about the artificial feels of the IAS on the 6GC but it really helped out in making the 6GC feels a bit smaller than it is.
Well.... Here I think the 650i GC edged ahead of the Panny GTS a little bit. I am not talking about straight-line acceleration. I took the Panny up a 4-lane uphill ramp (Garden Road, if you know Hong Kong). I accelerated up the ramp, expecting the Panny to rocketed up the ramp and provide that kick in the butt rocket launch feeling. But to my disappointment, the GTS feels a bit lacking in this regard. Probably because the 650iGC twinturbo really kicked us in the butt when we went up the same stretch with a lot less efforts in the throttle.
The GTS was by no means slow, but it does not really accelerate in inclines as well as the 650i GC.
So 650i beats the GTS here, which I sort of expected, due to the twin turbo in the 6GC.
The GTS has servotronic steering as standard while the 6GC has EPS. I actually have no complain about the feel of the 6GC as it was miles better than the numb feeling in the F10. But I also expected the Panny GTS to offer sensational steering feedbacks. I was disappointed. I would say the Panny GTS (sport mode) conveyed similar road feedback as the 6GC (sport mode).
However, one area that the Panny GTS wins hands down is the engine sound and transmission programming. I would say the GTS was slightly noisier than the 6GC in around town driving, but it also allowed more of the engine roar into the cabin. And boy, does the GTS engine sound good
It does put a smile on my face hearing the engine roar! Better yet, the PDK works wonder in the windy back road, downshifting and rev matching when I slow down to enter curves on it own almost like it read my mind! Way better than the ZF8. And way better than the MDCT in my M3 as well!
My 0.0001 cents thoughts
Well... Which car do I like better... Hmmm.. Hard choice. The GTS does have its appeal in terms of driving enjoyment over the 6GC (but not by much due to my non-professional driving skills.....).
Comfort? I have not sat in the back seat (I was driver
) but my friend in the back seat was very comfortable throughout the test drive. (My friend who was sitting in the back just told me otherwise. See post note.)
And I do think the GTS back seats were a bit more refined and spacious than the 6GC. But the GTS really is a 4 seater where as the 6GC is a 4+1 (yeah, I can sometimes really use that "seat" as I have 2 children......)
Looks? I do prefer the 6GC looks better than the current generation of the Panameras.....
Equipment? I would rate the GTS slightly better in this regard. The GTS has the fabulous PDK, REAL brakes, extendable spoilers, adjustable dampening..... all these that I can expect a sport cars should have. I sort of expected more for my 6GC
But when I think of the reason why I moved from the F10 to the F06, I think I will still pick the Gran Coupe. It fits my purpose of having a sport sedan which can move 4 comfortably and an extra passenger if needed. Handles very close to the Panameras GTS. And I feel the Panny GTS will be having very similar problem as the F10: There are so many variants with such similar looks and wide price range that almost every dude with some change will have it. As of now, I have only seen another one 6GC on the roads where I frequent. I know there are quite a few more 6GCs in Hong Kong, but not as common as the Panamera with all its variants.
Noticed that I left out discussion about Value in the comparison.
Seriously, with a 650iGC fully loaded, it is still cheaper than the GTS, but not by much. And it is really meaningless to talk about the price you are paying upfront for the cars as people who can afford the 650iGC here (USD200K+) can probably spare a bit more for the GTS (USD250K) and the Porsche has way better resell values than BMWs here in Hong Kong. So TCO is probably going to be about even.
I was prepared to be very disappointed in the 6GC before the GTS test drive today. After all, I have been told that Porsche handling were miles ahead. But after the test drive, I am fairly content with my choice of the 650i GC.
Just some rumbling from a 650iGC owner
PS. My friend saw this post and told me that he thought the seats were less comfortable in the rear of the GTS vs the 6GC. His comments were "very snug, but tiring for sitting for ride of longer duration." And the test drive only lasted around 45mins
So there. His verdict is that the GC won in the rear seats comfort and spacing.