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Porsche Panamera GTS and BMW M850i ​​xDrive in the test

These high-priced limousines, which are more than five meters long, contain complex chassis technology and powerful V8 engines. The Porsche Panamera GTS and BMW M850i ​​xDrive want to deliver a sporty mix of great luxury, comfort and power in the luxury class.

The selection of the German Basketball Federation beats Lithuania after extra time, the clearly favored Slovenians around megastar Luka Doncic narrowly lose to the Bosnians, and even the Hungarians stress the French, who on paper are vastly superior, to the end. So many unexpected results on a wild basketball Sunday that ends around 11 p.m. in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne. And now? It's a good 350 kilometers of motorway back to the editorial home of Stuttgart.

These are exactly the kinds of trips for which you want a relaxed, fast luxury sedan like the Porsche Panamera GTS or the BMW M850i ​​xDrive Gran Coupé. In this case, there is actually such a V8 eight waiting in the parking garage, which greets you with glowing headlights and a glowing radiator grille. The kidney grille remains illuminated while driving, which on the one hand is more impressive than the straight lines of light that visually connect some Daimler or VW headlights. On the other hand, the grill lighting with the touchscreen that has grown from 10.25 to 12.3 inches is one of the most striking changes of the mini facelift on the BMW.

BMW M850i: lightning start and power reserves

So then: pull the door half-heartedly shut so that the soft-close mechanism has something to do, start the biturbocharged eight-cylinder and off you go. Even in the city, the 4.4-liter V8 confirms what you have come to expect from high-displacement engines from Bayerische Motoren Werke: an explosive first step and big muscles for direct and powerful intermediate acceleration. Arriving on the A3, the M850i ​​pulls through with its mighty 530 hp, and because of the wide-beam laser headlights with sophisticated adaptive light distribution, you can easily choose a high travel speed.

200, for example, is great for chatting effortlessly in the well-insulated living room. For example, about the fact that Doncic threw bricks from the line of three, but unpacked his Luka-Magic with magic passes and elegant, powerful moves to the basket - Halleluka! Or we talk about the fact that the Panamera glows with matrix lights that are hardly worse and doesn't really feel 50 hp weaker. On top of that, it runs at a top speed of 300 km/h, while BMW only raises the 250 km/h limit to the stated level for the M8. More important than the difference in speed, however, is that both test candidates drive straight ahead in a relaxed manner and maintain the stable driving experience even in long, drawn-out motorway bends that are driven quite quickly.

Porsche Panamera GTS: Best braking and chassis technology

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Here the Porsche snaps into place even more quietly and firmly, which is why the highway express mode can be taken to the extreme without stress. In addition, with its carbon fiber ceramic brake discs (8937 euros), it brakes more violently than the BMW, which is already slowing down efficiently and for which there are no carbon stoppers: 32.1 to 34.4 meters from 100 to 0 km/h. To top it all off, the Panamera springs noticeably finer overall, because the rear also transfers bumps more clearly into the passenger cell, especially in urban areas. Of course, this is less important on well-groomed slopes, and either way the eight also delivers excellent travel qualities.

For the superiority of the Panamera, Zuffenhausen unleashes a huge and expensive technological firework: ex works, it is equipped with air springs all around, which can influence the spring rate with their three-chamber configuration. The test car is supplemented by rear-axle steering and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (4701 euros), which includes electromechanical roll stabilization and a software-controlled rear-axle locking differential for 2083 euros. A comparable differential and four steering wheels are standard on the BMW, but air suspension is not offered. In addition, with this skyscraper-grey example, BMW does without the active roll stabilization, which is available in the configurator for 2650 euros.

GTS controls at the top level

Its chassis technology makes the Panamera even more impressive overland. For a 2.1-ton truck, it reacts remarkably directly to movements of the steering wheel, which is why it creates a sporty driving experience that feels like there is no swaying, even when driving slowly. But he only becomes overwhelmingly good when you set the ESP to Sport and challenge him. To do this, we take a moderately sharp corner, where the car starts to spin properly in the 80 to 90 km/h range. Here, at the entrance, turn the steering wheel with a bang and accelerate generously again early on: throughout the entire process, the standard all-wheel drive sends 620 Nm to the rear axle, the lock of which pushes the rear so sensitively into the right place that the five-meter load follows in one fluid movement following the articulated line with considerable precision.

In addition, there is finely resolved feedback from the tight noble steering, which clearly communicates the structure of the cornering forces - the very good, somewhat smooth eight-wheel steering does not succeed at this top level. Another advantage of the Porsche is its brake pedal tuning with powerful resistance, precise dosing and detailed feedback, including in the ABS area. In principle, communication is one of the weaknesses of the brake-by-wire system of the aft, but it still convinces with easy dosing for such a system.

Have a slide, BMW!

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To discuss the handling of the eight, let's first come back to the Porsche's sport ESP. Because what that doesn't allow are these small power slides, where you countersteer by up to half a turn - the number that many BMWs slide into the hearts of sports drivers. Why is the dynamic characteristic of the M850i-ESP just not capable of this filigree gymnastic exercise? Strange. In principle, he can already be pushed into oversteering, but you have to get down to business to do it. In any case, it doesn't work as smoothly and almost naturally as in the M340i xDrive. That's bitter, because a BMW with an M badge that doesn't skid at low speeds on demand is like a Slovenia game without Luka Magic: It's disappointing, because that's exactly what the fans came for.

On the other hand, the figure eight allows only slight body movements, but they are noticeable when turning in, and it also hides its almost identical weight much less effectively. As a result, it lets some driving fun points pass it by because it doesn't slide like the house does or achieve the precision of the Porsche. It should be mentioned that the bottom line is that it drives extremely dynamically and suffers here above all from the direct comparison. And viewed quite objectively, he moves his heavy bones on par with the Panamera through the double lane change and the 18-meter slalom.

Nobody can fool BMW when it comes to engines

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Away from the test site, it's the Bayern V8 that keeps the massive Porsche eight-cylinder in check. And not so much because of its 130 additional Nm, but because its responsiveness is also impressive on country roads. Because while the Panamera takes two or three blinks of an eye at the exit of the curve before it fully exploits its potential, the BMW apparently regulates the matter with the boost pressure immediately - in any case, the whole torque broadside is almost immediate. And although the deceleration is short, you can still feel the better response of the eight when starting off.

Unless the Porsche shoots itself from the spot via Launch Control, because then it reaches 80 km/h two tenths faster than its competitor. It continues with its dual-clutch transmission, which implements double downshifts in a flash, while the torque converter in the M850i ​​often hesitates briefly. And although both boxes switch quickly and smoothly: the one in the Panamera does it faster.

A Porsche-typical icing on the cake is the accelerator pedal, which you can happily smack against the stop without being disturbed by a kick-down button: The automatic mode also understands when the driver wants to have full steam - alternatively it can who also click on the Sport Response button on the steering wheel, which sets the drive to attack and engages the lowest possible gear.

One floor down in the GTS

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Of course, such things add to the Gran Turismo account, just like the analog rev counter surrounded by monitors with digital speed display - that makes a lot more impression than the mediocre readable and boring graphics on the BMW speedometer screen. The seats have even more clout in this regard. They are great here and there, but in the Porsche you can adjust not only the bolsters on the backrest but also those of the seat, which optimizes lateral support, which is also better in the shoulder area - and all this, although the seats are at least as comfortable.

Added to this is their positioning, which is very low and ergonomically excellent in both cars. In the GTS, however, it seems even sportier, thanks to the center console, which is positioned high along its entire length, and the dashboard, which hardly loses height towards the interior - the cockpit integrates you strongly.

However, there is hardly any space in the Panamera to store your stuff, so you have to somehow stow your phone under the narrow center armrest. The BMW has clear advantages here, but although it already boasts great materials and a leather-covered dashboard, the Porsche surpasses it with even finer details.

Porsche and everyday life? Yes!

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Apart from the better storage options, the GTS offers greater suitability for everyday use. This is mainly due to the body concept, because while the rear has a typical sedan trunk lid, that of the Porsche including the rear window swings open, which is why the loading opening is much larger: Anyone who goes on vacation by car has a clear advantage. And although both have foldable rear seat backs, the construction around the parcel shelf always gets in the way in the BMW.

When it comes to not folding down the rear seats, but taking a seat there, the Porsche is again preferred here, because it offers electrically adjustable individual seats for a surcharge of 2570 euros, which are even more comfortable than the already very comfortable ones in the Gran Coupé . In addition, the space under the front seats and in the head area is more generous, and the four-zone automatic air conditioning blows not only in the footwell and from the center console, but also from the B-pillars.

Excellent service in the BMW

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In the interior, the BMW loses a few points to its opponent, but hits back with its exemplary operation. This has improved when touching with the large monitor - but above all the eight retains the previous BMW advantage, which only holds the touching up as an alternative method. The basis is the iDrive switch with direct selection buttons and the almost freely configurable favorites buttons and the extensive voice input.

The overall good operation of the Panamera can only do damage limitation: It also has a small rotary pushbutton, but it doesn't support all menu levels by a long shot. And then there's issues like cockpit lighting: a thumbwheel for everything in the BMW versus sub-menu digging on the low-positioned touchscreen in the Porsche. You also fumble around on it to align the central air vents. Controlling the cruise control system is also easier with the buttons on the M steering wheel than with the lever on the equally electrically adjustable Porsche steering column. In addition, active lane guidance, which is one of the best, can only be activated in the BMW: It reliably stays in the middle of the lane and usually recognizes even complex markings in construction sites clearly - if not, the system reports acoustically and via the LEDs on the capacitive steering wheel.

The superiority of the BMW in terms of comfort and safety assistance and operation is one of the things that was foreseeable before the duel. One of the surprises is that the massive Porsche V8 equalizes its performance deficit and the Panamera scores so well with the chassis and brakes that it ends up compensating for its much higher price by a hair's breadth.

But if there were a German sports sedan association, the M850i ​​and Panamera GTS would be in the selection together.

Conclusion

1. Porsche Panamera GTS 653 points

The GTS combines precise handling, great driving fun and a high level of comfort at the absolute top level. In addition, the heavy brakes and the more practical trunk. But: much more expensive than the BMW.

2. BMW M850i ​​xDrive 652 points

The even more brilliant engine rocks hard, but the handling lacks the M feeling. But there is the best operation, a lot of assistance and also great driving comfort.

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