CAPE TOWN - There are few things that sound more soulful than a V8 engine, my co-driver and I agreed while driving the new Porsche Cayenne GTS through the Hugenot tunnel in the Western Cape earlier this week, windows cranked down and its eight-speed automatic gearbox bouncing between lower gears.
Trouble is, the V8, along with its 10, 12 and 16 cylinder counterparts, is becoming an endangered species these days as downsizing becomes the norm. But among this mad scramble to make cars look more efficient in the eyes or regulators Porsche is actually embracing the eight-cylinder format by making it more widely available across the line-up.
Porsche started this trend with the Panamera GTS back in 2018, which offered a more affordable V8-powered alternative to the Turbo-badged flagship models, and now that same philosophy is being applied to the Cayenne models.
Of course, the GTS badge is not new to the Cayenne, having made its debut as a normally aspirated V8 in the first generation, however the second-gen version downsized to a twin-turbo V6, which has now been replaced by a 4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the third-generation GTS that was introduced this year.
Sweet spot in the Cayenne range
The new Cayenne GTS is powered by a detuned version of the 4-litre twin-turbo V8 found in the Turbo-badged models, but it’s when you look at the pricing that the GTS really starts to shine. At a glance, the GTS has 338kW and 620Nm, versus 404kW/770Nm in the Turbo and 500kW/900Nm in the Turbo S e-hybrid. But GTS prices start at R1 749 000 if you opt for the three-year aftersales plan, and like the other models it’s also available as a swoopier-bodied four-door Coupe, from R1 839 000. Now consider that getting yourself into the Turbo S e-hybrid model takes a minimum of R2.95 million, and even the ‘regular’ Cayenne Turbo isn’t going to find its way into your garage for much less than R2.5m.
The Cayenne GTS is a comparative bargain then, but is it still rewarding to drive?
Sure, it has less power than its pricier siblings, although it is still turbocharged because the Turbo badge now denotes flagship status rather than the literal meaning that you or I might attach to it. But power aside, the GTS is still the sportiest model in the range, and it begs the question - do you really need more than 338kW and 620Nm in a medium-to-large SUV package such as this?
I certainly don’t think so. Honestly I’d be too busy enjoying the sonorous bellow of that V8 engine, which Porsche has perfected through the fitment of a variable flap sports exhaust system, which creates an even more emotive soundtrack in Sport and Sport Plus modes, where it burbles on the overrun.
I wouldn’t be too concerned with drag racing credentials if I bought this vehicle, but for the sake of comparison, the GTS takes 4.5 seconds to sprint from 0-100km/h when fitted with the Sport Chrono Package (which is standard on the Coupe). The Turbo and Turbo S versions, for the record, take a respective 3.9 and 3.8 seconds.
On the road the Cayenne is satisfyingly brisk as well as responsive, partly thanks to its turbochargers being located inside the V of the cylinder bank.
A platoon of about 20 abnormal-load trucks on the launch route also gave us the chance to test out its tractability for overtaking, and it turned what could have been a highly stressful situation into a far less stressful situation - because let’s face it, trying to overtake 20 trucks is never going to be pleasant. Bottom line, the GTS is an effortless overtaker, which is what you want in a road trip car.
And if you’re looking for an SUV with some sporty flavour the GTS is in some ways the ultimate road trip vehicle. It’s not the plushest or quietest SUV out there, but it can gobble up the miles in supreme comfort while still delivering a sense of satisfaction in the twisty sections. Sure, it’s never going to feel like a 911 in the bends, but the Cayenne is certainly among the most agile and engaging SUV packages out there. Compared to regular Cayennes, the GTS is fitted with a 20mm-lower steel suspension system with Porsche Active Suspension Management, including damper control. Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus is also part of the deal here.
Buyers can opt for three-chamber air suspension as well as rear-axle steering, but our test unit was fitted with the standard steel suspension and it proved perfectly compliant.
It’s a brilliant all-rounder, but do you go for the regular-bodied Cayenne or the Coupe?
The ‘Coupe’ model, with its swoopier roof line, has a somewhat sportier appearance than the normal model, with a shape that’s more in keeping with Porsche’s sports car range.
Thankfully, however, it doesn’t lose out on too much in the way of practicality and this is thanks to clever packaging. The rear seat bench, for instance, is 30mm lower to compensate for the 20mm lower roof line and the additional 10mm lost by the fitment of a glass roof with retractable shade panels. The boot is the same size, length and breath wise, but the sloping tailgate means you can’t stack it up to the roof like you can in the regular Cayenne. But would you really want to?
The only downside to the Coupe is that it commands a price premium of R90 000 over the normal SUV body. But if you’re willing to pay that for extra style, you certainly are getting a more distinctive-looking package.
Both Cayenne GTS models are set apart from lower-spec models by a Sport Design package that includes numerous black exterior accents, as well as a model-specific front apron and 21-inch ‘Spyder’ Design alloy wheels in Satin Gloss Black.
The cabin features a black brushed aluminium trim package as standard, along with a combination of black leather and Alcantara upholstery. You’ll also find GTS logos on the black analogue rev counter and stainless steel door sills. Buyers can opt for a GTS interior package, which puts the GTS logo on the headrests, and colours things up with a choice between Carmine Red or Crayon colouring for the seat belts, decorative seat stitching, centre console, dashboard and door shoulders.
The GTS is sufficiently digitised too, thanks to the PCM infotainment system with a 31.2cm touchscreen and satnav with real-time traffic information. The vehicles ship with a 10-speaker, 150W premium sound system, and buyers can also opt for a 14-speaker Bose surround sound system among the many options available.
If you’re a Porsche enthusiast looking for the ultimate road trip vehicle with a sporty twist, it’s hard to argue with the value offered by the Cayenne GTS and GTS Coupe. In fact, even in Coupe form the GTS is slightly cheaper than the Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe and BMW’s X6 M50i. The GTS might not be the fastest SUV in the world, but it certainly hits the sweet spot in the sub-R2-million SUV segment.