+ NAILED IT
- Punchy, charismatic V8, paired with flawless automatic
- Dynamic prowess that belies titanic kerbweight
- Superb interior quality, style, usability
- FAILED IT
- Pricier than more powerful rivals - and that's before options
- 2,250kg is a preposterous kerbweight for a four-seater car
- Still no looker, even with GTS embellishments
As the automotive industry mounts its inevitable surge toward electrification, news of a V8 returning in 2020 ought to be unequivocal good news for those with super unleaded in their veins. Behold the Porsche Cayenne GTS Originally powered by a 4.8-litre, 405hp V8 in 2008, the second-generation GTS retained the engine and boosted power to 420hp. But come facelift, the eight-cylinder was ditched in favour of a twin-turbo, 3.6-litre V6 on account of it being more powerful (440hp), torquier (443lb ft against 380lb ft) and more efficient. It made sense then that for the third generation Cayenne, the GTS would receive a tweaked version of the 2.9 V6 found in the 'S' model.
Instead, pleasingly, the GTS and GTS Coupe feature a detuned version of the Turbo's 4.0-litre V8. With 460hp and 457lb ft, Porsche claims "significantly improved performance in all disciplines" for the twin-turbo engine. So the car will reach 62mph in less than five seconds, almost 170mph flat out and just nudge over 20mpg on the WLTP combined test. The new engine is combined with equipment recognisable from all GTS Porsches: black accents, standard Porsche Active Suspension Management, larger wheels, Alcantara upholstery and a smattering of GTS badges. A seemingly familiar overhaul, then, with an unexpected twist under the bonnet. Consequently, there are some questions to be answered. Is the V8 charm sufficient to offset a power gap to key rivals? Does the GTS render the more expensive Turbo redundant? And how far can we get before mentioning the looks?
SPECIFICATION | PORSCHE CAYENNE GTS COUPE
Engine: 3,996cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 460@6,000-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 457@1,800-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.5sec (with Sport Chrono)
Top speed: 168mph
Weight: 2,175kg (DIN, without driver)
MPG: 20.9 (WLTP)
CO2: 306g/km (WLTP)
Price: £88,750 (as standard; price as tested £98,646 comprised of Carmine Red paint for £1,683, GTS interior package in Carmine Red for £1,532, Rear-axle steering for £1,448, Adaptive air suspension with levelling system and height adjustment including Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) for £1,511, Tinted LED main headlights with matrix beam, including Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus (PDLS Plus) for £749, Automatically dimming interior and exterior mirrors for £252, Privacy glass for £354, ParkAssist incl. Surround View for £522, Soft-close doors for £497, Ioniser for £203, Heated steering wheel for £189 and BOSE® Surround Sound System for £956)
It would be impossible to formally assess a new Porsche without discussing the impact of optional extras. It's no secret that Stuttgart makes plenty available to customers, not least because they enthusiastically choose to add them on; the difficulty comes in trying to assess their worth without a base level comparison to work with. Handily, in this case, the options fitted to the Cayenne Coupe GTS shouldn't fundamentally alter the cabin: there's the Bose Surround Sound System (£956), the heated steering wheel (£189), ioniser (expect that to be a popular £203 option going forward), the £497 soft-close doors, the £522 ParkAssist, the £354 privacy glass and the GTS interior package in Carmine Red, the most expensive interior option at £1,532.
Even without those items - even for the customers slumming it with less than toasty hands and a slightly inferior sound system - the Cayenne's interior is fantastic. It manages to be both functional and stylish, ergonomically sound as well as aesthetically pleasing. As you would expect from a Porsche, the driving position is adjustable to any requirement, the GTS getting exclusive eight-way adjustable seats, which are excellent. The centre console is dominated by a 12-inch HD touchscreen, which is simple enough to operate and visually impressive, although it could do with larger icons - or even some physical buttons - to improve usability on the road. Too often your attention is diverted for too long trying to switch screens; it would probably improve with familiarity - same with the underwhelming haptic buttons around the gear lever - but it feels that that period would last longer than in alternatives.
From a quality perspective, it almost feels like 50 per cent of the kerbweight is due to the interior. So substantial is every surface, so expensive every material and so slick every moving part that a real sense of solidity pervades the Cayenne Coupe. As you might well expect for a premium model retailing at near £100k with options. But even against comparable rivals the Porsche feels a cut above.
It is one noticeably less accommodating than the standard Cayenne, though. Will that matter to prospective buyers? Arguably not. But a five-seater car has become four (or 4+1, the temporary seat a no-cost option), and a 745-litre boot is 625 in the Coupe. With the seats down, what looks like an impressive 1,540 litres for the GTS Coupe would be a commodious 1,678 litres in the Cayenne. Lower mounted seats mean headroom is still good despite the roofline change, but this GTS does impose on its buyer some traditional coupe compromises - however untraditional the silhouette.
Here's where the GTS should really impress; not just objectively - with additional power and torque over its predecessor - but subjectively, too, thanks to the extra charisma of a V8. In the same way that the 718 GTS found increased favour with its much-publicised switch from four cylinders to six, there's something appropriate (and appealing) about eight cylinders returning to the sportiest Cayenne.
Peak power and torque figures of 460hp and 457lb ft put the GTS 20hp and 51lb ft ahead of the S, and 90hp and 111lb ft behind the Turbo. As with all Cayennes, the GTS uses an eight-speed 'Tiptronic S' automatic to get its power to the road; benchmark numbers are 4.5 seconds to 62mph, 10.6 seconds to 100 and 168mph flat out - more than enough, surely, for all put the most power crazed.
Arguably more importantly, though, is the welcome dollop of (carefully engineered) heart and soul the V8 duly brings with it. Though doing without the optional exhaust fitted to the earlier left-hand drive test car, the driver is never left in any doubt about the GTS's intent. Even the starter turns quickly and urgently, catching to a deep, potent, bassy idle. Exploratory throttle blips reveal that, regardless of the latest demands put on petrol engine (and even without the most vocal exhaust), this new model makes all the right, rumbly V8 noises. You smile before moving an inch in a way that the V6 might not yield in 100 miles.
On the road, somewhat predictably, the GTS delivers its performance much like the Cayenne Coupe Turbo does, albeit a little less ferociously. With peak torque from 1,800rpm there's next to no sense of turbocharged inertia (even if some inevitably exists), the car then well into its stride by 2,500rpm and thundering through its gears. With peak power delivered at 6,000rpm there's little point stretching the V8 all the way to its limit, though it is more than willing to rev, and the GTS really is the kind of car you could find yourself holding onto gears into - but more on that in a moment.
The eight-speed Tiptronic S is a flawless automatic; almost imperceptibly smooth when it needs to be, then shifting with PDK-like immediacy when you want it. It feels intelligently calibrated, moreover; shift patterns are altered through 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' drive modes, the 'box holding onto gears longer and kicking down sooner the more aggressive the setting. But never does it feel inappropriate or contrived as so many do, the car shifting up and settling down regardless of mode when driven more sedately.
Since its launch in 2003, the Cayenne has been universally lauded for its dynamic panache, a selling point that's most certainly present and correct with this latest version. Once more, all statements must be caveated with the presence of some optional extras: in this instance the £1,448 rear-axle steering and the £1,511 adaptive air suspension, the latter taking the place of the standard PASM setup which is 20mm lower than a regular Cayenne. There's no doubt that the rear-wheel steering contributes to an agility and nimbleness that belies a 2.2-tonne kerbweight, and is probably an option worth having. But besides that, there's more than enough manifest quality in the GTS package to suggest it's another Porsche triumph.
Reductive though it might sound, the Cayenne GTS Coupe is that good because - despite everything that should count against it - it drives how you would like any Porsche to. That means accurate, well-weighted, confidence-inspiring steering (even with the optional rear axle), tireless braking performance, impeccable body control and the impression throughout of being in a vehicle designed for - and eminently capable of - sporty driving.
Truth told, the 'Normal' drive mode is a hard one to pick much fault with in almost all driving situations. On the standard 21-inch wheels (with 285/40 section front and 315/35 section rear P Zeros) the ride is a much better balance of pliancy and tautness than was delivered by the earlier test car on optional 22s, and would be our choice as a result. Through corners, the GTS behaves exactly how you'd hope a much lighter sports saloon would with this configuration - leave alone an SUV. Turn in is precise, the balance admirably neutral and traction mighty, though not unbeatable; for something this large to be accurately manipulated on and off the throttle is as remarkable as it is ridiculous.
'Sport' amplifies the standard characteristics reasonably subtly, meaning that it's only 'Sport Plus' when the GTS can be felt jousting with the road surface and perhaps driving too abruptly for its own good. Even then it becomes easy to get familiar with, the car never truly unsettled or disjointed by maximum attack mode. Though ceramic and surface coated rotors are available, it would be hard to imagine many buyers opting for them beyond the benefit to unsprung mass; the standard brakes - 390mm, six-piston fronts, 358mm, four-piston rears - are excellent, despite the size of the task.
That the GTS possesses sufficient finesse to embarrass many lighter cars while also still being refined and mellow enough to cover vast distances is - as much as the V8 - its most impressive calling card. We all know the competition is tough, but if there's an SUV out there with a more impressive blend of ride and handling out there, we're yet to drive it.
As standard, the GTS costs £88,750, making it £15,092 more than the V6-engined Cayenne S Coupe and £19,320 less than a Turbo. Which means, characteristically for Porsche, it slots just nicely into the range, the additional cylinders justifying the premium from the S and the performance gap making the Turbo valid for those who simply must have it. Where the GTS looks trickier from a value perspective is against its more immediate rivals.
A BMW X6 M50i boasts a chunk more power (530hp) for a starting price of £81,265, and what it might lack in road manners it's surely going to compensate for in raw performance. The Audi SQ8, with which the Porsche shares a platform and an engine, can also wade into this battle with more than 500hp and a price that - on RRP at least - undercuts the Porsche. Even the 550hp Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition, perhaps the best exponent of V8 charm in the swoopy SUV set, is available for less money than the GTS.
Moreover, it's easy to spec the GTS - as evidenced here - to become a £100,000 vehicle. Though it drives with the kind of assurance which makes it credible at that price, it would be hard to argue with a buyer being swayed by the more compelling stats of the direct rivals.
However, we all know that demand ensures strong residuals for Porsche SUVs, and such is the less stressed nature of the V8 (aided by cylinder deactivation) that it can be extremely efficient. On that tedious, seemingly endless stretch of 50mph roadworks on the M4, the trip computer reported a 44mpg average. A CO2 rating approaching 300g/km is of course nothing to write home about, though broadly comparable with similarly configured vehicles. Even Porsche can't defy the environmental impact of a V8-engined car weighing as much as two Alpine A110s; you'll be in the top bracket of road tax from the get go, and do well to exceed 20mpg in normal use.
A familiar pattern emerged when assessing previous GTS-badged Porsches: despite the on-paper spec suggesting little more than a judicious speccing up of the appropriate S model, the driving experience tended to just about warrant the premium. Now though, with models like this Cayenne and the current crop of 718, the GTS variants have become the standout cars of their respective ranges.
A Cayenne Coupe is not the first thing which springs to mind when highlighting compromise, balance or pragmatism, but to drive the GTS is to question the need for anything which exists beyond the SUV's remit. More powerful models exist and will obviously continue to sell, but they've become harder than ever to justify with the arrival of this car; there isn't a scenario short of an Extinction Rebellion march that it doesn't suit, from urban crawl to motorway slog and everything in between.
Every Cayenne of this generation has been shot through with class-act Porsche expertise; by adding the 4.0-litre into a sub-Turbo model, that empirical talent has been buddied up with the indisputable allure that only a V8 can provide. As such, despite those concerns that persist around the relevance of cars like this, the Cayenne Coupe GTS is both an immense achievement and an immensely easy to car to like. You'll pay handsomely for the privilege, yes - but then the best never did come cheap.
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