From their origins as utility vehicles made for plodding through mud, SUVs have spawned a subculture of sporting vehicles such as the Porsche Cayenne that place more emphasis on tar-based driving excitement.
The Cayenne GTS was conceived as an even more athletically focused version, aimed at folk who are probably more likely to take their SUV on to a racetrack than an off-road trail. The latest version has arrived in SA in standard and coupé guises, positioned between the Cayenne S and Turbo models.
The Cayenne GTS is visually distinct from its stablemates with black body accents, including dark-tinted LED headlights and black 21-inch RS Spyder Design wheels. The coupé also features an adaptively extending roof spoiler.
The darkened vibes continue inside their cabins with black brushed aluminium, and leather and Alcantara trim.
Dynamic prowess is enhanced with 20mm lower suspension with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), and larger brakes with red calipers.
After the second-generation Cayenne GTS swapped its V8 heart for a punchier but acoustically tamer V6 turbo, the new third-generation vehicle returns with eight-cylinder power.
The 4.0l biturbo engine, with 338kW/620Nm, not only wields 14kW and 20Nm more than the V6 it replaces, but also makes a heartier roar.
The steroid tweak gives the Cayenne GTS a claimed 0-100km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds with the optional Sport Chrono package, a 0.6-second improvement. The 270km/h top speed is 8km/h up on before.
The aural charm is boosted by a sports exhaust system and the Cayenne GTS coupé I drove at the launch was enjoyably vocal, with a rich eight-cylinder resonance. With the eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission playing its slick-shifting part, the vehicle’s a spirited performer with a brisk pull-off that belies its size, and it overtakes effortlessly.
The big SUV flits through corners with a planted feel and far less body roll than you’d expect of a car genre that was originally conceived for clambering over rocks. The active all-wheel drive provides immense traction without feeling understeery.
In terms of straight line and cornering performance, the car delivers on the GTS promise.
This athletically focused Cayenne strikes a decent balance between a comfortable ride and sporty handling, though it’s more skewed to cornering prowess. On some of the bumpier roads at the Western Cape launch, the lowered suspension and low-profile tyres (285/40s at the front and 315/35s at the rear) displayed a firmness that might cause some passenger fatigue over longer distances.
The Cayenne GTS is, however, available with optional air suspension that lowers the vehicle a further 10mm and offers a better spread between sportiness and long-distance comfort. Also on the options list is rear-axle steering that improves both high-speed stability and low-speed manoeuvrability.
Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active roll stabilisation and ceramic composite brakes are further extra-cost items for buyers wishing to max out the vehicle’s sporting capacity. If you tick enough options boxes, you really can have the best of all worlds.
Along with its blacked-up theme, the roomy interior lays on an array of comforts, including GTS front sports seats with electric eight-way adjustment and larger side bolsters for improved lateral support. Adaptive sports seats with electric 18-way adjustment, or 14-way electrically adjustable comfort seats, are available as optional extras.
The coupé is pitched as the more exclusive model and has additional standard niceties such as a Sports Chrono package with mode switch and Sport Response button, speed-dependent Power Steering Plus, and front and rear Park Assist.
There’s decent headroom in the coupé despite its lowered roof line, as rear passengers sit 30mm lower than in the Cayenne. A lightweight carbon roof is optionally available for the coupé, saving 21kg over the standard panoramic glass roof.
• Cayenne GTS — R1,749,000, and Cayenne GTS Coupe — R1,839,000.