Porsche pulled out all the stops developing the 2021 Cayenne GTS, which delivers what may be the ultimate balance of luxury and performance in an SUV.
The Cayenne GTS goes on sale this fall. It fits between the Cayenne S and the more powerful Cayenne turbo in the model line of Porsche’s big SUV.
I spent a day driving a four-seat Cayenne GTS coupe loaded with goodies ranging from a carbon fiber roof to centrally mounted dual exhausts for its 453-hp twin turbo 4.0L V8.
From highways to twisting roads around southeast Michigan’s Irish Hills lake district, the GTS was fast and responsive on the road, and admired by passersby whenever I stopped long enough for them to get a good look at my Cashmere Beige metallic painted GTS coupe.
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Cayenne GTS prices start at $107,300 for the more conservative SUV body style and $110,500 for the coupe, which has a sharply falling tailgate, a two-person rear seat, optional central sport exhaust and other unique touches.
All GTSs have a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 that generates 453 hp and 457 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive are standard.
I tested a loaded GTS coupe with features including:
- Carbon fiber roof and interior trim
- Central sport exhaust
- Adaptive cruise control that reads road conditions 1.8 miles ahead
- Alcantara headliner
- 22-inch wheels
- Four-wheel steering
- Head-up display
- Night vision
- Burmeister 3D audio
- Rear seat entertainment system
My test vehicle stickered at $161,410.
The GTS coupe competes with luxury performance SUVs like the BMW X6M, Jaguar F-Pace SVR, Range Rover Sport supercharged and Mercedes AMG GLE 63.
The GTS isn’t the most powerful Cayenne, but Porsche calls it the sportiest. That distinction is less contrived than it may sound, and increasingly used by automakers who want to draw a line between straight line speed and handling.
The Cayenne turbo has more power and a higher top speed – 177 mph vs. the GTS’s 168 mph, if you’re scoring at home or in a hurry to lose your license. The GTS counters with unique steering and suspension calibrations, weight savings and features that make the total package feel incredibly precise at high speeds. Advanced features and ritzy materials complete the package.
The GTS coupe I tested had a lightweight sport package with a carbon fiber roof that saves 46 pounds and lowers the SUV’s center of gravity.
The steering is fast and precise, delivering plenty of road feel to a thick Race-Tex wrapped wheel. An eight-speed transmission delivers quick, precise shifts and contributes another significant weight savings versus the larger, heavier version of the same gearbox demanded by the turbo’s greater output. The huge brakes are easy to modulate and feel like they’ll grip as securely at the end of a day rallying as first thing in the morning.
The adaptive cruise control offers InnoDrive, an – you guessed it – innovative system that looks ahead to hills, curves, traffic and other factors for the next 1.8 miles to adjust acceleration, deceleration, transmission and braking.
Space and luxury
Eighteen-way leather-trimmed front sport seats hold occupants secure in quick maneuvers and provide good comfort. Surprisingly, the front seats in the optional package were heated, but not ventilated. The rear seats in my loaded test vehicle were also heated. My Cayenne’s seats had houndstooth cloth inserts.
Porsche’s evolved a vast distance from the days when Calvinist guardians of the brand forbade creature comforts that could distract fallible drivers from a monastic focus on driving: The center console provides plenty of room and a pair of usable cup holders. Other features include wireless charging Apple CarPlay, touch screen, four-wheel steering, parking assist, night vision, lane keeping assist. The center console features flat-panel controls for heated seats, suspension setting and some other functions. They’ll be all but impossible to use in a moving car, because there's no tactile feedback to let you know you're touching the right control – or any control at all – without looking down at the center console.
The rear seats are comfortable, with a fold-down armrest and central storage bin. Video screens attached to the rear of the front seats look like an afterthought.
2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS coupe at a glance
Base price: $110,500
As tested: $161,410 (excluding destination charges)
All-wheel drive four passenger SUV
Engine: 4.0L twin-turbo V8
Output: 453 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm; 457 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 114.0 inches
Curb weight: 4,932 lbs.
Assembled in Bratislava, Slovakia
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS SUV spices up luxury-performance race