Overall rating: 3/5
Cleaner, faster and more fun to drive than before, the all-new Porsche Cayenne GTS looks like it should be a winner. Certainly from behind the wheel no other SUV can compare, but the laws of physics still have to be obeyed - and you could have more fun in the firm's new Boxster for around half the price.
In the metal 3/5
The Cayenne has never been much of a looker; not even the more rounded second generation answered that criticism, and to be honest this GTS is not the prettiest of the bunch either. As standard you'll find a set of 20-inch RS Spyder alloy wheels, a colour-coded body kit, double height rear wing, black bezels for the headlights, Turbo style air intakes and gloss black detailing for the window frames and tailgate strip. Oh and the quad exhausts are finished in matt black as well, though this just makes them look like they've never been cleaned. Best steer clear of the brighter colours (like the Carmine Red pictured) and opt for something more subtle like silver, grey or black.
Thankfully the interior is a little less brash - though you can have red or Peridot green seatbelts and leather stitching, including monogrammed GTS lettering in the headrest. Otherwise the eight-way adjustable sports seats are trimmed in black leather and Alcantara, as are the headlining and roof pillars. The rest is the same as the standard Cayenne, so you've got a high and wide transmission tunnel and more buttons than your best spaceship cliché. Quality is top notch though, and while some 4x4s offer more luggage and passenger room, you can forgive the Porsche because of the way it drives.
Driving it 4/5
It's touted as the most focused Cayenne yet, and certainly from behind the wheel there is little reason to discount that claim. The driving position may not be quite 911-like, but for an SUV you sit low, hunkered down in the multi-adjustable (18 ways in our car) sports seats, the high transmission tunnel gently rising beside you. In front is a small sports steering wheel with shift paddles rather than the push-me pull-me switches sometimes found on lesser Porsches with automatic transmissions.
A twist of the car-shaped key is required to wake the tweaked 4.8-litre V8 engine (up 20hp and 15Nm over the regular Cayenne V8), and you're greeted with a bark from the standard sports exhaust. Without any form of forced induction, low-down torque isn't available in abundance and though it feels eager from the get go, the GTS does its best work once you're past 3,500rpm. Keep your right foot pinned all the way to the 6,700rpm redline and not only does the acceleration become more frenzied, but the noise does too.
In fact this SUV sounds like a proper muscle car, its crescendo of V8 bark and burble helped by the GTS's 'Sound Symposer'. Never fear though, this isn't another electronically generated engine note, simply a piping of the motor's natural induction roar through the A-pillars into the cabin - the sound is further enhanced by switchable exhaust flaps. Hit the Sport button on the centre console and it's not only the noise that changes, as the adaptive suspension and throttle mapping are also altered.
All examples of the GTS come with wider tracks (30mm front and 17mm rear) and a lowered ride height - 20mm in the case of our air-sprung test car (an option). Ours also had Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control and Porsche Torque Vectoring, and the result of all this was an SUV that cornered far quicker and flatter than its two-tonne kerb weight had any right to. Admittedly you could feel that heft on badly cambered and sharply curved back roads, but we came away impressed. Not least because it's Jekyll and Hyde character allowed you to sit back and relax, select Comfort dampers, and soak up all the lumps and bumps of a typical motorway.
The revised eight-speed automatic gearbox features shorter shift times, both up and down the gears, as well as a lowered final drive ratio. With downshifts to accompany heavy braking - itself ably handled by the standard steel brakes (Carbon Ceramics are an expensive option) - it makes for a confidence inspiring driving experience - in short a very talented Cayenne-shaped package.
What you get for your money 3/5
The GTS is considerably more expensive than the rather more sensible Cayenne diesel. But as with every Porsche it's easy to get carried away with the expensive options list. Still, you do get a sports chassis, leather and Alcantara seats, 20-inch RS Spyder alloy wheels and a sports exhaust as standard - as well as some bespoke bodywork additions.
There are cheaper rivals out there, but none offer quite the same behind the wheel experience as the GTS, and residuals for the Porsche are amongst the best in class. But that used value comes at a price, and servicing and maintaining the Cayenne - especially when out of warranty - will not be cheap.
You might not expect the GTS to be a big seller in the Porsche Cayenne family, and in terms of Irish registrations you could be right. However, the firm sold 15,766 examples of the first generation model, the most focused SUV in the line-up accounting for a 17 per cent share of the total global sales figure. So while we might question the need for such a car, it's clear that on a worldwide scale the GTS is very much welcomed.
Viewed as an object of engineering, you can't help but be impressed by the Cayenne GTS - and for that Porsche should be applauded. But here in Ireland we can't really see the appeal of this particular Cayenne. In the real world the diesel model is almost equally capable, but will cost a lot less to buy and run. We'd stick with the latter and spend the extra dosh on something else from the Porsche range for weekend fun instead.