- I tested a $167,070 Porsche Cayenne GTS, from the latest generation of the groundbreaking SUV.
- The GTS trim level is intended to deliver sporty performance, sitting as it does between the base Cayenne and Cayenne Turbo.
- My 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS had a twin-turbo V8 engine, making 453 horsepower.
- The Cayenne GTS is a very special set of wheels: expensive, but with the sort of prizefighter punch that rewards spirited driving — and the ability to haul enough luggage for a week on the road.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Porsche Cayenne is the greatest SUV ever built by human hands on planet Earth. It shocked the motoring world with its unassailable greatness back in the early 2000s, and it's continued to dazzle over the decades. The third generation ute was a runner-up for Business Insider's 2019 Car of the Year award.
After launching the base version and later the Turbo trim level and the coupé body styles, Porsche has turned its attention to the sporty Cayenne GTS, now available as an SUV and a coupé (that means the coupé version gets a fastback-style roofline).
I got a crack at the car after driving quite a few Porsches in quick succession: the new 911 4S and Turbo S, as well as the Cayenne Coupé. For what it's worth, I still had memories of the Cayenne Turbo from last year. So when the 2021 GTS landed, in a dazzling "Carmine Red" paint job, I was already swimming in Stuttgart goodness and eager for more.
Here's how two days with the sports car of Cayennes went:
My 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS tester wore a glorious Carmine Red paint job, a $3,150 extra. The SUV started at $107,300, but a long list of options raised the sticker to $167,070.
I gotta tell you, against a backdrop of Northeastern summertime greenery, that red absolutely pops.
I personally prefer the silhouette of the SUV body-style over the coupé, but there's no question that the ute form is boxier.
The Cayenne has never been an attractive vehicle, but it can't be mistaken for anything but a Porsche.
It's all about those distinctive headlights. Bug-eyes? Well, sure, but the swept-back design somewhat mitigates that effect.
These are high-tech units: LED "Matrix Design" lamps, equipped with technology that Porsche says enables the lights to adapt to oncoming traffic and bend illumination around corners.
Black and red are two colors that always get along nicely, and for the Cayenne GTS, there is no exception. The front vents and grilles give the SUV an aggressive forward presentation.
The grille is really a study in minimalist design — a choice that helps to conceal a sensor for the adaptive cruise control system and a front camera.
The ride height has been dropped 30 millimeters lower than on the Cayenne S, according to Porsche. This enhances airflow at speed, but owners can use the air suspension to increase ride height over uneven terrain.
The Porsche badge brings a modest splash of gold to the hood.
Let's unlatch the hood and have a gander at the engine.
The Cayenne GTS rocks a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, making 453 horsepower with 457 pound-feet of torque. The power is sent to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode.
The EPA hasn't yet rated the Cayenne GTS for fuel economy, but I found the punchy V8 to be moderately thirsty; in two days worth of driving, I managed to incinerate almost a half a tank of premium petrol.
A steering-wheel-mounted selector enables you to switch drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport +, and Individual.
The 22-inch "Sport Classic" wheels, in glossy black and brushed alloy tones, evoke an iconic Porsche design, familiar to fans of the cars from the 1980s.
These snazzy wheels were, as you might expect, are an expensive extra: $2,770.
The yellow calipers? Get ready to write a big check, as they were …
… $9,080, with ceramic-composite, ventilated discs all the way around.
The Yokohama rubber came ready to run.
These tires are rated for speeds above 149 mph — a good thing, as the Cayenne GTS can max out at 160.
Now for the back end. Sigh. You just can't solve the inherent design problem of adapting a bulbous Porsche rear to a vehicle genre that requires a barn door at is hindquarters.
The integrated spoiler helps with performance more than with aesthetics.
The hatch carries all the identifiers you need to explain why you dropped almost $170,000 on a ute.
The Cayenne GTS has quad pipes, the better to tune its epic exhaust note.
The compensation for an ungainly rump is a large cargo hold.
With the back seats in use, there's 27 cubic feet to work with; drop the back seats and that increases to 60 cubic feet.
Porsche interiors aren't overtly luxurious, nor are they supposed to be. But the Cayenne GTS's has something else going for it: sporty touches.
The GTS invites you in.
Carmine red topstitching on the black leather seats matches the exterior, as does the GTS call-out. (The seats are comfy for cruising, yet also sufficiently bolstered for spirited driving.)
The feature is echoed on the rear seats.
Interior highlights are subdued in their elegance.
The grab handle is rendered in Alcantara. Note that there's one each, for the driver and passenger.
A large moonroof fills the cabin with light.
The joystick shifter is par for the course in the luxury segment. I don't much care for these things, but I'm used to them by now.
Rear seat passengers can manage their own climate.
In fact, my Porsche Cayenne GTS tester was fully outfitted for rear-seat entertainment, an offbeat option for what's supposed to be a high-performance trim.
The system runs on an Android interface and provides assorted entertainment choices, none of which I was able to sample in the brief time I had with the vehicle.
Rear legroom is … decent.
I was able to stretch out, but I'm also not very tall. A less vertically-challenged adult might feel cramped.
The steering wheel has a fantastic feel, wrapped in suede and with all critical functions close at hand.
The sport-chronograph lives in the center of the dash — and carries the red from the exterior over into the instrumentation.
See what I mean? The tachometer is of course front and center. The Cayenne GTS's redline is at 6,800 rpm. To the right is a screen that can display different types of information, including g-forces.
Porsche's infotainment system is quite good, although it isn't the best. It's outdone by Audi (which is Porsche's corporate VW Group stablemate). GM's Cadillac is also better on the infotainment front. But the system checks all the right boxes, from Bluetooth pairing to USB device connectivity to GPS navigation. There's also wireless charging.
A Burmester 3D audio system added $7,000 to the final tally. Worth it? Oh yes. This is one of the top systems on the market.
So what's the verdict?
I am an unapologetic Cayenne-o-phile. So the GTS — with its sportier vibe compared with the less-powerful Coupé I drove earlier this year, and the Cayenne Turbo from last year, which had a stonking 541-horsepower interpretation of the V8 — is right up my alley.
Essentially, what we have with the GTS is the Cayenne that critics feared the SUV wouldn't be: a very fast (0-60 in about 4.5 seconds) four-door Porsche with a big ol' cargo hold. It corners like it's on rails (rear-axle steering lends an assist) and it can drop the hammer in a straight line. On certain American highways, favored by freight carriers, you can pass semis all day long and feel the bottomless oomph that the GTS's magnificent engine produces, never laggy, always ready to punch like a prizefighter.
Obviously, if you like to drive, get this Cayenne. My tester was notably expensive, but it was optioned into next week. The base price, at just north of $100,000, gives quite similar dynamics, with less punishment directed at the bank account. Then again, even at almost $170,000, this is lotsa-lotsa-lotsa machine for the money. A Lamborghini Urus has a 641-horsepower V8 under the hood and came in at $250,000 when I tested it last year — but it honestly wasn't as much fun to pilot as the GTS.
These days, the high-performance SUV space is full of choices. Back when the Cayenne first arrived, it wasn't. The joke then was, "Great, just what I was asking for — a slow Porsche!" But the Cayenne was, indisputably, no joke. And the new GTS proves that, as with the new generation of the 911, Porsche's engineers can somehow continue to make not just good, better — but great, greater.
Decades ago, Porsche essentially made one great car, the 911. But nowadays, the lineup includes multiple sports cars, plus the Panamera sedans (and wagons), as well as the all-electric Taycan and the venerable Cayenne and its smaller sibling, the Macan. Having now driven several examples of the new-generation Cayenne, I can safely say that the GTS in particular proves that Porsche can do it all.
Tom Cruise was right. There is no substitute.
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