Over recent years, 'GTS' has become Porsche-speak for a mid-range model with a generous amount of equipment, driver-focused dynamics and a kind of sub-GT Department level of kudos. In other words, a GTS is invariably the version you head straight for in a given Porsche's line-up. And that is certainly the case with the new Cayenne GTS, a blindingly brilliant big SUV with a stonking V8 engine.
In the Metal:
A very quick history lesson: the first Cayenne GTS, based on the Mk1 SUV, arrived in 2007 with a 405hp normally aspirated V8 - yay! It was followed by another V8-powered GTS for the Mk2 Cayenne, this time appearing in 2012 with a 420hp V8 - double yay! But then, for the second-gen Cayenne's midlife facelift in 2015, the GTS was downsized to a more potent (440hp), but smaller 3.6-litre biturbo V6.
However, here it is revived for the first time in the Mk3 Cayenne's canon and it's back to V8 power... and it's even punchier than before (up 20hp and 20Nm to peaks of 460hp and 620Nm)... and it comes in two body styles, either the regular SUV or as the Cayenne Coupe. Weirdly, this slots it in betwixt Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo in the hierarchy, although it runs the same V8 engine as the 550hp SUV, only in a lesser state of tune.
As with all GTS models of Porsche, though, the explicitly stated aim here is 'maximum driver enjoyment.' So, while the Turbo might be faster, the GTS is supposed to be more involving. And the way you will spot one of these newcomers is another GTS trademark: black exterior detailing. All of the light clusters, the window surrounds, the lower bits of the bodywork, the 21-inch RS Spyder Design alloys, the front air intakes, the exhaust tailpipes and the model logos are black or dusky in appearance, while within there's an abundance of Alcantara, draping itself over the wheel, the door cards, the centre console and other areas. Sports seats with 'GTS' emblems complete the look and - here's the biggie - we think we'd have the GTS as a Coupe, like the car we've tested here. Seriously, it's a good-looking machine in this spec and you could even make the case a meaty Cayenne Coupe like this is more handsome than the smaller Porsche Macan.
Porsche trims the Cayenne GTS up with some useful chassis hardware to make it work as a sporty yet hefty (it's 2,145kg, so no lightweight) conveyance, the powerful SUV running Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with a 20mm-lower ride height, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) with an active rear differential and large brakes (390mm discs with six-piston callipers front, 358mm rotors and four-piston shoes at the back) as standard. Options include uprated Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PCSB) or even-further-uprated Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB) with their trademark yellow callipers and 440mm front/410mm rear discs; another 10mm suspension drop on adaptive air springs; Porsche 4D Chassis Control and active anti-roll bars; a carbon-fibre roof to replace the standard (on the Coupe) glass panoramic affair and lower the overall centre-of-gravity; Rear-Axle Steering for greater agility; and a sports exhaust system. Which, again as a feature exclusive to the Coupe variant of the Cayenne GTS, has centre-exit pipes if you opt for it.
Our test car had pretty much all of these toys fitted (including PCCB), which should explain what we're about to say about its dynamics in a moment - and it also raises the question of precisely how much an optioned-up Cayenne GTS Coupe like this would cost here in Ireland. Nevertheless, a Lightweight Sports Package further ups the desirability ante with 22-inch wheels, the aforementioned exhaust system and Houndstooth-check cloth inserts for the seats.
So, the long and short of it is that the Cayenne GTS Coupe drives better than any other Cayenne Mk3 we've yet tried, it drives better than pretty much any other SUV we can think of (save for maybe its own Macan GTS stablemate and possibly the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio), and it also probably drives better than a sizeable selection of much lighter, much lower and supposedly much finer sports cars across the pricing spectrum.
As the driver, you're aware the GTS is going to be something special as you mosey off down the road in it, not extending it in the slightest nor even tentatively prodding at the edges of its dynamic envelope, but instead merely keeping up with the flow of everyday traffic. Everything about it feels taut and limber from the off, the damping supple but firm, the steering heavy but accurate and immediate, the transmission smooth and effective. You might dimly register you're on colossal 22-inch rims at the corners when you meet the worst of potholes and imperfections in the asphalt, but in general you'll not lament the ride comfort nor refinement levels of the Cayenne GTS for daily driving duties.
And yet, having never ventured much beyond 3,000rpm, you're also acutely aware this is a gem of a drivetrain. The discreet but menacing burbles of the V8's modest exertions are an ever-present soundtrack, neatly amplified by the beautifully well-judged sports exhaust. The gearbox, not a PDK twin-clutch unit but a 'proper' torque-converter automatic under the Tiptronic S banner, is never found wanting, responding crisply and with no slack whatsoever to clicks of the metallic steering wheel paddles or flexes of your right ankle. The carbon brakes bite cleanly and with wonderful pedal progression, so you can ease the GTS into corners at a decent lick without having to stamp on the brake pedal as if you were extinguishing an out-of-control campfire. It's a car that feels rewarding, engaging, cosseting and remarkable when you're doing nothing more in it than simply making progress.
However, when you do start to ask questions of the Cayenne GTS's chassis, you'll find it has all the answers. Such as damping that never once lets that heavy shell run away with itself, meaning sudden crests and compressions are things to be traversed with the utmost confidence, rather than a frisson of fear. The Porsche will enact rapid-fire direction changes in a surfeit of grip, all backed up by iron-fisted body control that allows for just an ounce or two of lean, to let you clearly understand weight transfer and balance as you are pressing the GTS on. The SUV will power itself through long sweepers with a grace and dignity that makes it feel like exactly what it should be - a 'Sports' Utility Vehicle, with plenty of emphasis on the 'Sports' bit. Frankly, even if you're an SUV hater, you cannot fail but drive the latest Cayenne GTS with an air of slack-jawed wonder, as you attempt to fathom quite how Porsche has seemingly negated all the laws of physics in building this thing. It is a marvellous creation, plain and simple.
What you get for your Money:
You get all the V8 goodness of the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid models of Cayenne, albeit without the monstrous expense. OK, the Cayenne GTS Coupe is not inexpensive at €164,773, but it's a good 30 grand cheaper than the 550hp Turbo and also almost €12,000 beneath the €176,441 Turbo S E-Hybrid, which only gets away with that list price because of its CO2 figure. And, in our opinion, GTS buyers get the nicest-looking specification of the current Cayenne line-up with the best chassis underneath it, so it's worth every cent of the asking price.
It's almost getting embarrassing reviewing a 2020 Porsche, because they're all gaining top marks, each and every time. But, objectively, how can we fault the Cayenne GTS? It sets out to do exactly what it must and achieves its aims so comprehensively, so winningly and so downright talentedly that we cannot help but laud it to the high heavens. It is abundantly obvious that this model is the go-to choice in the current larger-Porsche-SUV line-up, but it's also crystal clear that the Cayenne GTS is one of the best-handling SUVs, of any shape or size and from any manufacturer, you could hope to sample.