Blessed be the gods of displacement. German carmaker Porsche neutered the once great Cayenne GTS, stripping it of its 4.8-litre V8 heart and soul, and replacing it in 2015 with a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6. Sure, the new V6 was more powerful than its V8 predecessor, but it lacked the personality of the older V8, castrating what was once a theatrical response to the idea of a performance SUV.
But, there’s good news for the 2021 model year, with the Porsche Cayenne GTS once again boasting the thumping heart of a V8. It’s a different V8, to be sure, with a couple of turbochargers where once there were none, but it’s more powerful and faster than ever before. Only the halo Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid models in the range best it in both output and outright acceleration. A time for celebration then.
The Cayenne GTS slots neatly into the wider range, nestled in between the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. Priced at $192,500 plus on-road costs (and before options), the GTS commands a hefty premium over the entry-level plain-old-monikered Porsche Cayenne priced at $121,700. It’s powered by a single-turbo 3.0-litre V6, the same engine doing the hard work in the next Cayenne in the range, the E-Hybrid ($141,800), albeit with the assistance of a 100kW electric motor.
The Porsche Cayenne S sits below the GTS by every measure, its $161,900 list price around $30K more affordable. But it features two fewer cylinders, is down 14kW and 70Nm, and is slower from 0–100km/h by 0.4 seconds.
Sitting above the GTS are Porsche’s two ‘Turbo’ badged Cayennes, the Turbo ($246,000) and the Turbo S E-Hybrid, which at $292,800 is over $100K more than what CarAdvice has long thought of as the sweet spot in the range, the GTS we have on test here.
|2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS|
|Engine||4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol|
|Power / torque||338kW at 6500rpm / 620Nm at 1800–4500rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||12.2L/100km|
|Fuel as tested||14.1L/100km|
|Boot volume (min/max)||600L/1510L|
|Length / width / height||4939mm / 1995mm / 1656mm|
|ANCAP rating||Not tested (Five stars Euro NCAP in 2017)|
|Warranty||Three years/unlimited km|
|Rivals||BMW X5M, Audi SQ7, Audi RS Q8|
|Price as tested (plus on-road costs)||$207,570|
Rivals? The BMW X5M offers brutal performance in a similar-sized package, but asks for a fair bit more than the Porsche with its $212,900 sticker price.
Closer to home, the Audi SQ7 at $162,500 is more affordable than the GTS, but its 4.0-litre turbo V8 is diesel-powered and that might not resonate so well with some buyers.
Staying in the Audi garage, the RS Q8 is powered by the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 as found in the Cayenne GTS, albeit with a more aggressive tune and a faster 0–100km/h time. But, it’s also more expensive at $208,500. Those tenths-of-a-second don’t come cheap.
And that’s an interesting point in the performance-SUV segment. How much power and acceleration do you need exactly?
The Cayenne GTS is powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 making 338kW and 620Nm. It's mated to Porsche’s eight-speed ‘Tiptronic’ conventional automatic sending drive to all four wheels. Porsche claims the GTS can complete the dash from 0–100km/h in 4.8 seconds in regular trim and 4.5 seconds using (optional) launch control.
That’s properly quick, especially considering its hefty 2145kg kerb weight. Yes, there are faster, more powerful SUVs out there. But how fast is too fast? How much power is too much?
Realistically, the Cayenne GTS has all the acceleration anyone will ever need, certainly in speed-fascist Australia.
What makes the Cayenne GTS such a compelling package, though, is that it’s no one-trick pony. Yes, it’s blistering quick off the mark, but it’s also predictable and smooth in the way it handles all that power and torque. This is no bucking bronco, wild and straining at the leash to be set loose. Instead, the GTS is as happy to plod around town in traffic as it is hunting down some corners and fast, winding roads.
The exhaust note, too, is almost worth the price of admission. The Cayenne GTS is fitted with Porsche’s Sport exhaust system as standard, and interestingly is the only variant in the range that features the bellowing pipes. The rest of the Cayenne stable requires an additional $5970 for the privilege of annoying your neighbours.
Make no mistake, the note from those quad pipes (finished in signature GTS black) is nothing short of intoxicating. Even at start-up, with drive mode set to Normal, the low growl can’t help but elicit a smile. Dial it up to Sport or Sport+ and the soundtrack becomes angrier, ever more raucous, a symphony of sound written by the automotive gods.
It’s not just about the noise, though. The GTS is a capable performance SUV by almost every measure. With standard-fit adaptive dampers, the large SUV is happy to act like a sports car – surprisingly agile and remaining pleasingly flat even under harder acceleration and cornering.
Set to Sport+, the adaptive air suspension takes on a harder edge. It’s not bone-jarring, though, not by a long way. Instead, the GTS hunkers down on its haunches (quite literally, with the ride height lowered in the sportier drive modes), and happily propels itself from corner to corner with the reckless abandon of a child without a care in the world.
Throwing it at some corners similarly sees the GTS retain its composure, with little to no body roll (thanks to that lowered ride height), and a surety of grip that’s hard not to like. It’s a rewarding experience from behind the wheel.
Flick everything back to Normal, and the GTS transforms back to a comfortable family-sized SUV, as happy on suburban roads as it is out on rural back roads. The adaptive air suspension in Normal mode is supple and compliant, and easily accounts for the scars and blemishes of our roads without disturbing the occupants in the cabin.
And it’s this duality that makes the Cayenne GTS such a compelling proposition. A blisteringly fast performance SUV when you want it to be, and a comfortable family hauler when you need it.
And the family will be happy in the cabin, which exudes typical Porsche luxury and comfort with more than a dash of GTS goodness.
Front-row occupants in our test car are greeted with the optional $800 adaptive sports seats featuring integrated headrests, 18-way electric adjustment, and with memory settings. Supportive and comfortable, the seats are finished in a mix of leather and Alcantara, highlighted with contrast stitching finished in Crayon, all part of the $4550 optional GTS interior package. If your blood runs to more racy colours, there’s the option of the GTS interior package contrasted in Carmine Red, also $4550 to the bottom line.
Other optional features include the Sport Chrono Package at $2300, which brings launch control to the party and shaves 0.3sec off the 0–100km/h sprint time, down to 4.5sec from 4.8sec. Do you need it? No. Is it fun to have? Definitely.
Other fun-to-have but not entirely necessary options include tinted LED Matrix headlights ($2220), door sills finished in GTS-spec black brushed aluminium and illuminated ($1750), ambient interior lighting ($850), and a painted key fob housed in a leather pouch ($780).
Options worth considering are lane-keeping assist at $1220 (and really, it should be standard) and the Power Steering Plus package at $600, which is speed sensitive and speed variable, lighter at slower speed, firming up as you pile on the clicks.
Still, while lane-keeping assist asks for an extra outlay, Porsche’s colour palette in GTS spec remains accessible, with eight hues available as a no-cost option, with only Carmine Red, Crayon and Cashmere commanding a $5000 premium. Our test car was finished in the alluring Moonlight Blue Metallic, which presents as metallic black in the shade (and sets off the 21-inch satin-black alloy wheels a treat), while sunlight sees the GTS transform into the deepest of deep purple shades. It looks superb, either way.
All those options bumped the as-tested price of our loaner Cayenne GTS to $207,570 plus on-road costs. Still, there’s plenty of standard equipment for the money.
Inside, the 12.3-inch infotainment display offers crisp graphics, sharp resolution and an easy-to-use interface. It runs the brand’s proprietary Porsche Communication Management (PCM) operating system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, and DAB+ radio.
A premium Bose 14-speaker sound system is standard, too, as is Alcantara headlining and a panoramic roof. Dual-zone climate control keeps occupants comfy, as do heated seats for front-row occupants.
The second row is, as you’d expect from a large SUV, even a performance-oriented one like the Cayenne GTS, spacious and comfortable. There are air vents back there as well as two USB charging points (to complement the two up front), while the fold-down armrest hides two cupholders.
The seats fold away in 40:20:40 split-fold fashion to free up cargo space. With the second row in use by people, the boot measures in at 600L. That expands to 1510L with the second row stowed away. A space-saver spare wheel lives under the floor.
Safety-wise, Euro NCAP awarded the Cayenne range a five-star score back in 2017, although it should be noted it remains untested by ANCAP, the Australian safety police.
While it does come with a full suite of airbags covering both rows, the Cayenne isn’t exactly a paragon of advanced safety tech. Yes, there’s adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. And there’s blind-spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors.
But look for lane-keeping assist and you’ll need to head to the options list and fork over $1220, while rear cross-traffic alert is of the analogue variety, i.e. looking over your shoulder. It’s not there, not even as an option.
Porsche covers the Cayenne GTS with its standard three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, while trips to the workshop for scheduled services are required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
For what it’s worth, Porsche claims the Cayenne GTS’s stonking V8 will use 12.2L/100km of premium 98RON unleaded on the combined cycle. Our week spent behind the wheel saw an indicated 14.1L/100km – not too shabby considering our time included plenty of traffic, a lot of spirited driving, and almost all of that exclusively in Sport+ mode, if only to revel in the soundtrack of the GTS’s exhaust note.
Sure, there are faster Cayennes, faster performance SUVs even. But, when the difference is measured in tenths of a second and the price increments in the tens of thousands of dollars, one has to wonder if the extra spend is worth it.
It blends a raucous V8 with sporting good looks, can hustle like a sports car, and yet feels equally at home tootling along on the streets of your town or suburb.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS is all the Cayenne you’ll ever need.