Porsche recently offered us a day with their sportiest SUV, and we took it. It’s a lemon-green 2013 Cayenne GTS, slotting in between the Cayenne S and the Cayenne Turbo. According to the specs, it’s not quite as fast as a Turbo, but apparently it’s quicker around the corners.
Due to the limited drive session, we didn’t get time to perform our usual test rituals, but there is nothing about the Cayenne GTS that you can truly complain about. Once you look beyond the eye-searing paint-job, it looks pretty good with the painted lower sills and wheel arches, blacked-out trim bits and 21-inch Turbo wheels, almost all of which are apparently optional.
Indeed, the only thing you could complain about are the price of the options, which added Dhs 106,000 on top of the GTS base price of Dhs 336,000. The added options included auto-dimming mirrors, rear camera with sensors, panoramic glass roof, “PDCC” adaptive suspension, torque-vectoring system, ceramic brakes, blind-spot monitor, body-coloured key fob with leather pouch, adaptive cruise control, some interior trim bits, and a “sport chrono package” that adds a useless lap-timer on the dash and makes the exhaust louder at the press of a button.
The spacious 5-seater interior is very pretty, as it is in all Cayennes, although some of the elements are seriously overdone, like the warped the door panels, the excessive chrome-lined buttons on the dash, and the lack of storage spaces due to that rising centre-console. Everything is covered in pricey leather or alcantara, although Porsche persists in not soft-padding any of the panels under the leather. Even the heavily-bolstered seats are on the firm side, as if the GTS is really a sports car.
But even if the GTS is not a sports car, it certainly does a good impression of one. The 4.8-litre V8 lacks a turbo, but 420 hp with 515 Nm of torque is nothing to complain about. It provides more than enough kick. Initially the acceleration wasn’t too impressive, but pressing the “Sport” mode opens up the exhaust and tightens up the throttle response. We didn’t have time to time it, but it should keep up with a Boxster. It burns a whole lot more though, as the trip computer stayed pegged at 17.1 litres/100 km throughout our drive.
The handling is great too. Just like a BMW X6, the heavyweight falters in tight corners as the ESP kicks in early to scrub off understeer, but on the larger curves and in quick lane-changes, you can pretty much drive it like a sedan, with barely-noticeable body roll and fairly sharp steering responses. It helps that you can lower the ride-height at the touch of a button, so it feels a lot like a car. The steering even offers fair feedback, while the brakes offer good stopping power when the left-pedal is floored.
However, the brakes are awful in city-driving. The pedal doesn’t seem to do anything when pressed partially or lightly, so you have to press it hard, so the car stops harder than you’d like. We don’t know if it’s the nature of ceramic brakes, or because we got the test car after several “top” journalists abused it. We also didn’t like the small side-mirrors, as we had to rely on the blind-spot warnings more often than not.
Otherwise the highway cruise is generally smooth, a bit on the firm and jittery side, but managing just fine in flattening most road surfaces. It is also pretty silent, more so than any Range Rover we’ve driven, except when you press that “Sport” button of course.
We didn’t have time to take it offroad either, and while Porsche breathes a sigh of relief, it might actually manage some of the flatter dunes with the help of the 8-speed automatic’s short gearing and the ability to raise the ride-height as well. Of course, the low-profile tyres, the lack of low-range and the pricey body kit means you’ll think twice before chasing camels with it.
At the end of the day, the Cayenne GTS doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The cheaper Cayenne S shares the same engine, drives just as well on the street, and you can even kit up any Cayenne to look like a GTS. You’d have to hit the Nurburgring to figure out the suspension enhancements, but we expect potential owners to hit the track just as much as we’d expect them to hit the dunes. Still, it’s a far more sensible buy than a pricier Panamera, eh?