► New Cayenne GTS driven
► V8 returns for sportiest version
► 454bhp, 4.5sec 0-62mph
The three-letter abbreviation that automatically implies performance in Porsche speak has returned to the Cayenne for the latest generation.
GTS signals that this is where to look for the sharpest dynamic edge in Porsche’s model range, not the more powerful Turbo.
What’s so special about this Cayenne GTS, then?
For this latest-generation Cayenne GTS, V8 power returns to the fold (the previous one was a V6) albeit detuned against the hyper-powered Cayenne Turbo. The V8 makes 454bhp here, compared to the Turbo’s 542bhp, but maximum torque is available slightly earlier than the GTS’s more expensive sibling.
Cayenne GTS models also get a specific sports exhaust system as standard for a raspier, barkier tone than even the Turbo model, standard PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management, a.k.a adaptive dampers on a 20mm lower chassis than a regular Cayenne), torque vectoring on the rear axle and 21-inch wheels. On top of that, the Cayenne’s SportDesign pack with more aggressive bumpers and a fixed rear spoiler (instead of the regular car’s adaptive one) is standard too. Swathes of Alcantara, specific sports seats with fixed headrests and brushed aluminium inserts on the dashboard are thrown in also.
Options include kit like Porsche’s ‘surface coated’ or ceramic brakes, adaptive air suspension, rear-wheel steering and active roll stabilisation via Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control. More intriguingly, the Cayenne Coupe GTS can be had with a Lightweight package that moves the sports exhaust system to the centre, with two fat pipes instead of the usual four that flank the edges of the rear bumper.
The V8 returns, hurrah!
It does indeed, and what a sublime engine it happens to be.
While the engine may be detuned compared to the Turbo, it still feels like an absolute powerhouse – and a flexible one, too. Maximum torque is available from just 1800rpm and there isn’t a single let-up in twist until the power band takes over at 4500rpm; that makes for a clean, almost electric-powered surge of acceleration when you hoof it, right up to the shouty redline.
And that surge isn’t knocked off balance by the silky-smooth eight-speed automatic. Even in the fiercest Sport Plus mode with you swapping the cogs yourself, there’s very rarely a hiccup in power delivery. When left to its own devices in a cruise or around town, gear shifts are only perceptible by the change in engine tone.
Speaking of tone, there’s no ignoring how the GTS sounds via its exhaust system. While the Turbo sounds resolutely burly, the GTS adds a sharper growl to the mix that winds up to a full-on howl at max revs. Even so, it’s still a very buttoned-up noise; an F-Pace/Range Rover Sport SVR will sound like artillery fire by comparison and widen the reserved smile to a belly laugh, and an X5 M is arguably more tuneful.
How does the GTS handle?
Maurice van der Weerd, the Cayenne’s manager for vehicle dynamics, told us the GTS has the firmest standard suspension setup of any Cayenne which, linked with 21-inch wheels, means a pretty ‘sporty’ ride. Our test car was fitted with the three-chamber adaptive air suspension which did a much better job of dialling out the lumps at motorway cruising speeds, but still made us feel some of the twitches of larger potholes on slower roads. Sport Plus felt like a step too far in terms of the ride-versus-handling balance.
The steering is accurate, and the weighting strikes an excellent balance – there are few performance SUVs with better steering than a Cayenne; you’d have to step down a size to an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio for a more alert and precise rack. While excellent for low-speed manoeuvres, we’d suggest forgoing the rear-wheel steering; the system made the helm a little twitchy on motorway cruises and didn’t feel like it contributed a great deal while out for some B-road hoonery. You also can’t quite escape the Cayenne’s girth on the road, though; skinny country roads make you nervous.
Still, there is still some innate Porsche DNA in the Cayenne; it’s all-wheel drive system provides grip by the bucket-load but, if pushed hard enough, the tail can kick out for a touch of cheeky, controllable oversteer before the fronts haul you back again. The drive mode dial on the steering wheel also includes a ‘sport response’ button for 20 seconds of maximum attack attitude from your Cayenne – great for overtakes and making the most of some snaking bends.
Inside the GTS
Like any other Cayenne, the GTS is a properly premium place to be. Twin screens flank an analogue rev counter in the instrument cluster, the infotainment system and haptic-touch centre console keep things tidy and the driving position is great. On the road, wind noise is minimal, but tyre noise continues to impede the overall cockpit experience.
Porsche’s widescreen nav, that’s since transported itself to the likes of the 2020 Bentley Bentayga and Lambo Urus, is hyper-sensitive, so not the easiest thing to use on the move, but the screen itself is properly crisp and sophisticated. Rear space is good for adults, even with the fixed headrests in the seats.
Porsche Cayenne GTS: verdict
Porsche continues to nail the brief of a performance SUV (frankly, it should have by the third generation), creating something that’s fast and has some impressively deft handling characteristics for something weighing more than two tonnes.
Despite the efforts that the GTS provides, though, the experience still feels like it’s missing a little wow-factor for it to be awarded that final star out of five. An SVR product is far more bombastic by comparison if you’re into V8s and a Stelvio is sharper still to drive (albeit a smaller class of SUV). A Cayenne S, or even the E-Hybrid is a better sweet spot.
What the Cayenne GTS does is bring the entry point into V8 Cayenne ownership down by about £15k if you're set on one, and what you get out of it is a solid, sports-car-fast and great-to-drive performance SUV.
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