As niche manufacturers go, Porsche is unequalled in creating multiple variants of its limited product range, especially its renowned 911 sports car. Still, I’m amazed the iconic automaker has managed to add three new versions of its Cayenne sport-ute in less than a year — the Diesel, the GTS and, most recently, the Turbo S — meaning there are now seven different versions of its most popular-selling model to choose from.
Filling the gap between the S and the Turbo is the GTS, the most powerful non-turbo Cayenne (for now) courtesy of its 420-horsepower 4.8-litre V8. At first glance, the addition of the GTS seems superfluous — not to mention a blatant cash grab — as there is only a 20-hp increase in power to go with the $20,000 increase in price over the already potent Cayenne S. Take another look, however, and the differentiation between the two comes into sharper focus. In essence, the GTS is a Cayenne Turbo without the turbo, Porsche imbuing the more sporting sport-ute with not just the relatively modest bump in horsepower, but also changes to the transmission tuning, a tighter, tauter chassis with lower ride height and additional sporty equipment inside and out. It even borrows the front end from the Turbo model. Before forking over $93,600 (to start, wait until you see the options list) for the GTS, one should carefully weigh the worth of the additions over the S — but Porsche at least makes the case interesting.
As performance-oriented SUVs go, the GTS is no embarrassment to the Porsche name. For something tipping the scales at more than 2,100 kilograms, it hustles when the gas pedal is given a prod. Porsche says the GTS will hit 100 kilometres an hour in 5.7 seconds — a time that wouldn’t be shabby for a good sport sedan — on its way to a top end of 261 km/h (autobahn anyone?). Need to get around a slow 18-wheeler? All it takes is 3.8 seconds for the 80-to-120-km/h passing move.
Realistically, 420 ponies is a silly amount of power for a sport-ute and totally unnecessary (which makes the new Turbo S’s 550 ponies the epitome of absurd), but it’s also so addictive, and the rumble that emanates from the exhaust pipes oozes pure machismo. Adding to the silliness is the availability of the $310 Sport Chrono package, which includes an analog and digital timer located at the centre of the dashboard. The performance display in the communications display provides total driving time, lap distance covered so far and individual lap times. And how many track enthusiasts race their sport-utes?
All that power moves through a robust and ultra-smooth eight-speed Tiptronic S with an integrated auto start/stop function. However, although the stop/start works as advertised, get the Cayenne Diesel if it’s reasonable fuel economy you desire; the GTS is a thirstier beast that quaffed premium unleaded to the tune of 13.2 litres per 100 kilometres during the test week.
Naturally, the GTS boasts ride and handling to match the V8’s urge.
The tuned chassis ensures driving dynamics that are beyond the ken of the more common SUV. It never ceased to amaze me how something as big as the Cayenne drove as well as it did — think (cue Incredible Hulk reference) the 911 bombarded by gamma rays. Much of the credit has to go to the GTS’s standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), a full-time electronic damping control system that makes continuous adjustments based on road conditions and driving style. PASM prevents body roll during hard cornering, which obviously improves stability, not to mention lessens passenger discomfort. There are also three setup modes for the suspension — Comfort, Normal and Sport — to play with, with enough variation between them to notice the difference. Whatever mode is selected, the system uses sensors to monitor body movement, plus gathers data on lateral acceleration, steering angle, brake pressure and engine torque and modifies the damping force on each wheel.
There is no doubt the GTS looks the part of a go-fast SUV; along with the Turbo front end, there are the frames and trims in high-gloss black, prominent side skirts, wider wheel arches and subtle yet distinctive roof spoiler with twin-wing profile. Inside, the general ambiance of the cabin is one of sporty elegance, starting with the bright red seat belts and the standard leather interior with Alcantara trim, primarily on the eight-way power front seats (which provide exceptional support when haring around corners at less than prudent speeds).
I’ve become used to the fact Porsche takes perverse pleasure in rogering its steadfastly loyal clients with pricey options, so the nearly $25,000 in added doodads found in the tester (power sunroof, heated rear seats, navigation system, park assist, special interior package, etc.) caused not a moment’s trepidation, except maybe the $6,500 Burmester surround-sound audio system. Yes, there are 16 speakers and a 16-channel amplifier pumping out more than 1,000 watts, but ****, that’s a lot of coin for a music box.
Without trying to sound pedantic, let me reiterate that hot rod sport-utes — BMW X5M, Range Rover Sport, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, et al. — are especially frivolous. That said, if you intend to make a statement with a sport-ute, you might as well do it with a Porsche. The way the Cayenne GTS moves with sports car-like poise and agility is pretty damned impressive. Do you get what you pay for? Debatable. Will you enjoy it anyway? Absolutely!
Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive luxury SUV
Engine: 4.8L DOHC V8
Power: 420 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 369 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed manumatic
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P295/35R21 (optional)
Price: base/as tested: $93,600/$117,420
Destination charge: $1,115
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 14.2 city, 9.6 hwy.
Standard features: Automatic dual-zone climate control with active carbon filter, power windows, door locks and heated, foldable mirrors, cruise control, eight-way power and heated front seats, tilt and telescopic steering column, AM/FM/CD audio system with 10 speakers, Bluetooth, multi-function trip computer, HomeLink, tire pressure monitoring system, power liftgate
Options: Porsche Communication Module with navigation system ($4,200), front and rear ParkAssist system with camera ($2,000), Burmester surround-sound audio system ($6,500), heated rear seats ($600), power tilt/slide sunroof ($1,360), self-dimming mirrors ($480), Sport Chrono package ($310), Comfort Lighting package ($290), 21-inch wheels ($1,560), GTS interior package in Carmine red ($3,940), black interior trim with carmine red accents ($4,170)
Road test: 2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS