The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS coupe’s twin-turbo V-8 makes it feel powerful and fast. Its massive exhaust pipes make it sound cool. But it’s the integration of that stirring V-8 in the Cayenne lineup’s most aggressive chassis setup that makes it good. As what we’d consider the driver’s pick among big Porsche SUVs, the mid-range GTS coupe brings together a performance-price compromise that’s difficult to ignore—well, until you start it up and floor the accelerator. Then it’s impossible to ignore.
The GTS formula for the latest Cayenne, both in coupe and regular SUV body styles, adds only a few new items from Porsche’s parts bin. As in the Panamera GTS, the SUV’s 4.0-liter V-8 is borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo model yet huffs less maximum boost pressure, 11.6 psi versus 18.8 psi. Horsepower comes to 453, which places the GTS closer to the 434-hp Cayenne S than to the 541-hp Turbo. The GTS’s 457 pound-feet of torque, however, is a significant 52 pound-feet more than you get from the S’s twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6. The ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system are standard Cayenne fare.
Porsche claims GTS models weigh around 200 pounds more than the S versions. The run to 60 mph takes a quoted 4.2 seconds for versions fitted with the Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control, a more relaxed Sport stability control setting, a dash-mounted stopwatch timer, and a steering-wheel-mounted drive mode selector with normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual settings. Sport Chrono is standard on the GTS coupe but costs $1130 on the conventional squareback model. And given that the last Cayenne S we tested already posted a 4.2-second run to 60, the GTS should be a couple of tenths quicker still. Top speed is a claimed 168 mph.
What is unique to the Cayenne GTS, and particularly the coupe version, is a new standard active sport exhaust system that uncorks the 4.0-liter through two darkened tailpipes at each corner of the rear bumper. You can up the sound level further on the GTS coupe if you’re willing to splurge on one of its Lightweight packages, which range from $9140 to $12,620 and add specially tuned pipes and mufflers that project even more engine noise out of a pair of large, centrally located oval cannons. Also included with the Lightweight packages are a carbon-fiber roof in place of the standard panoramic glass piece, 22-inch wheels with summer tires instead of the standard 21s with all-seasons (or optional summers), painted fender flares, black exterior accents, carbon-fiber interior trim, and a microsuede-wrapped steering wheel. Lest you question where the GTS coupe’s priorities lie, that wicked center-exit exhaust precludes towing anything.
Turn the vestigial key nub to the left of the steering wheel, and the GTS coupe settles into a deep rumble that transitions to a tempered growl in casual driving. But mat the accelerator in Sport or Sport Plus mode—or with the active exhaust cued up independently via the 12.3-inch center touchscreen—and a brassy roar permeates the cabin through the GTS’s reduced sound insulation in its cargo area. Our test car, shipped straight from Germany, was European-spec model, so it’s possible that our North American-market version (which does without the Euro-spec’s gasoline-particulate filters) will sound even throatier. Thankfully, Porsche refrained from adding excessive artificial pops and bangs from the exhaust, and we noticed little if any droning on the highway.
While seriously quick, the GTS’s acceleration is not as ferocious as the Turbo’s, which affords you a bit more time to soak up the glorious noise as the 4.0-liter revs to its 6800-rpm redline. Shifts from the Cayenne’s torque-converter automatic are almost as quick and faultless as those from Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch transmission in the Panamera. And for V-8 audiophiles who scoff at the GTS’s meager horsepower rating, Porsche will soon make the GTS coupe’s optional sport exhaust available on Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid coupes.
The added theater of a V-8 with loud pipes makes it that much easier to enjoy driving the GTS coupe hard. Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne could already do an impressive impersonation of a sports sedan. The GTS enhances the Cayenne’s cornering talents by sitting lower on its haunches. Porsche says the United States-market GTS models on their standard adjustable air springs ride 1.2 inches lower than standard steel-spring Cayenne S models. Porsche’s adaptive PASM dampers and PTV Plus torque-vectoring system are standard, as are big cast-iron brake rotors—15.4-inchers with six-piston calipers in front and 14.1-inchers with four-piston calipers at the rear. Larger tungsten-carbide-coated (PSCB)and carbon-ceramic (PCCB) brake setups are optional.
The GTS coupe we drove also featured the Cayenne’s 48-volt active anti-roll bars and rear-axle steering with variable Power Steering Plus, which combine to significantly enhance both low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. The GTS coupe is still a hulking thing, and approaching its roughly 1.00 g or more of cornering grip on a back road is almost impossible. But its agility is uncanny for an SUV, and it is possible to slide its back end a bit when booting it out of tight corners in Sport mode. Body control is exemplary even when being tossed through quick transitions with abandon. Porsche’s engineers made slight revisions to the calibration of the GTS’s electrically assisted steering, which has a general lightness to it that increases subtly yet effectively as you load up the chassis in turns. The result is an impressively precise and tactile system that relays plenty of information from the contact patches.
The Cayenne GTS’s standout quality, other than the sound it makes, is how seamlessly its many high-tech systems gel with the chassis. We’d prefer the smaller 21-inch wheels for dealing with Michigan’s cratered roads, but the coupe’s Lightweight package necessitates 22s and we’d regret passing on its rorty exhaust system. Fortunately, overall ride quality is commendable on most surfaces, with the only harshness coming from sharp, high-frequency impacts.
Porsche’s other GTS models are embellished with black exterior accents, and the Cayennes are no different. Inside, you’ll find standard dark brushed-aluminum trim and a sprinkling of GTS logos, as well as microsuede for the seat inserts, headliner, center console armrest, and door panels. Additional red or white accents and contrast stitching can be added, although not in conjunction with the cool, retro fabric houndstooth seat inserts that come with the coupe’s Lightweight package. Nicely supportive eight-way power-adjustable sport seats are standard but can be upgraded to either adaptive 18-way units or 14-way comfort thrones. As is the case with Porsche’s other GTS models, the Cayennes bundle a good amount of standard equipment that saves around $4000 or so versus a comparably equipped Cayenne S version, depending on the model.
However, the GTS treatment still makes for an expensive Cayenne—$108,650 to start for the standard SUV and $111,850 for the coupe. Those prices equate to a $20K-plus upcharge over an equivalent Cayenne S model. And be mindful not to get carried away raiding Porsche’s vast trove of options. Loaded up with nearly every available performance upgrade along with soft-close doors, night vision, a $7000 Burmester stereo, and about two dozen other line items, the coupe we drove cost $162,760. Granted, part of that tab was for Porsche’s excellent matrix LED headlights, which aren’t available on U.S-market cars. But our GTS was still well past the price point where we’d forsake a few frills and turn our attention to the $133,250 Turbo coupe and its additional 88 horsepower.
Yet, for prospective Cayenne S buyers willing to spend moderately more money for something edgier and more engaging, the GTS brings V-8 power and handling that transcends SUV expectations. Like the other GTS models in the Porsche lineup, the Cayennes offer a tempting brew of performance and value. If you have the discipline to keep the price out of Turbo territory, this could be all the Cayenne you need.
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