After falling for Porsche's new diesel-equipped Cayenne, I began to wonder about the validity of some of the other models at the bottom of the the SUV's lineup. To me, the Diesel does a considerable job of being the torquey, fuel-efficient alternative to the base V6 Cayenne and V8-equipped Cayenne S.
There is another performance plane in the Cayenne family though, where sensibility tips out the window. The bug-nuts Turbo and Turbo S models are for those who believe nothing exceeds like excess.
Between sensible and speedy then, is this new GTS model. Think Turbo-light performance: The idea here is still athletics, but minus the pair of turbos—and the additional 80 horsepower they make. The GTS is certainly positioned at the upper end of the Cayenne range, starting at $93,600. For that amount money, you get a formidable SUV - add some options, though, and you're into a pricey people mover.
The heart of the GTS is a marvel of a V8. It has 4.8 litres of displacement, four valves per cylinder, direct injection and variable valve timing. It makes 420 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. However, the GTS' magic isn't in the uprated V8 itself (the extra 20 horsepower and 11 lb-ft over the Cayenne S are welcome, if almost indiscernible). It's the integration of the engine, the eight-speed automatic and standard Porsche Traction Management.
The throttle response of this naturally aspirated V8 is crisp and precise, and when the transmission is left to shift on its own, it always seems to be in the right gear as if it anticipates the driver's desires. Manual shifts can be handled either through the shifter or, better yet, the steering wheel's shift paddles.
Off the line, the GTS launches as fast as any SUV—save for its Turbo and Turbo S siblings. Zero to 100 km/h comes in well under six seconds and top speed is a licence-shredding 260 km/h.
Although the Cayenne GTS is a tall vehicle by design, it is all Porsche. You're reminded of that as soon as you steer down some twisty roads. The extra-wide and low profile tires grip the asphalt like a sports car, and when combined with the excellent chassis with its advanced traction and stability technology, it's no wonder you can hustle the GTS as quickly as some sports cars.
Yes, it may sound strange to talk about an SUV that's fun to drive, but it's more than that. The same week I tested the GTS, I also drove Ford's renowned BMW-killer, the Mustang Boss 302 around Mosport and my seat-of-the-pants comparison suggests that the heavier and taller Cayenne would have been a near match for the Boss' track pace.
The standard wheel and tire is a 20-incher, but no self-respecting GTS buyer would spec a wheel so small, except perhaps for winter driving. The test car was naturally equipped with a $1,560 21-inch wheel and tire package, which does little for performance, but more for aesthetics.
As with all Porsches, the cockpit's seat and steering wheel have a wide range of adjustment for drivers of all sizes. You'll be able to find that perfect, no-compromise seating position. The interior is finished in high-quality materials, with the GTS packaging taking the surroundings to another level via alcantara on the seats, door panels and roofliner.
On a day-to-day basis, I learned to dislike the GTS' sports seats, though. They're more aggressively bolstered than the regular Cayenne's buckets and that impeded my ingress to the cabin every time, even on the lowest seat setting. Those shorter than 5'10" or with short legs, like this driver, will want to spec the standard seats. On the other hand, once in the hot seat, they're a wonderful blend of comfort and support.
If there is anything that detracts from the interior, it must be the abundance of buttons. While the infotainment system is partially touch-based, its buttons add to an already enormous number for climate control and chassis settings. I got bored before I was able to count all of them.
The GTS carries over the Cayenne's worse-than-average rearward visibility. It's not often a problem in traffic, but the small rear window makes parking a challenge. Thank goodness parking aids are available for the Cayenne.
The brilliant but expensive Burmester sound system ($6,500) was fitted to my test car. It's my favourite option in the Porsche catalog for its excellent sound—at least to these racecar-deafened ears. During my test, I looked forward to driving alone, playing some great music and dialing up the volume.
Despite few users ever taking advantage of it, the GTS has a superb towing capacity—3,500 kg (7,716 pounds)—enough for you track drivers to haul your 911 GT3 in an enclosed trailer.
My GTS test car priced out at $120,225, including destination and air tax. Other than the Burmester sound option, navigation ($4,200) and parking system ($2,000) are some of the pricier options.
If you're looking for a six-figure SUV, you owe it to yourself to consider the $100,900 ML 63 AMG from Mercedes-Benz, as well as BMW's X5 M and X6 M, $98,500 and $102,900 respectively. These three have a few more ponies under their hoods, but don't quite match the Cayenne GTS for all-around performance and handling. If you like the idea of a performance-focused SUV, but don't care for the six-figure ticket, you can always look at Jeep's $56,445 Grand Cherokee SRT8, a favourite of Sympatico Autos staffers.
Now that the Cayenne Diesel is available in Canada, it remains my all-around, go-to premium SUV. Equip a Diesel with some desirable options, big wheels for athletic good looks, and you've got yourself a Porsche SUV that's a match for the GTS' around town driveability - for thousands less.
Then again, it won't be nearly as hot a dance partner as this GTS when the road opens up...