The Cayenne GTS is the latest Porsche model to follow the brand’s anti-downsizing trend, and it’s all the better for it.
Earlier this year the German brand announced the 718 Boxster and Cayman GTS 4.0 models, with larger, naturally aspirated flat-six hearts plucked from the GT4 and Spyder. Now the Cayenne is getting a similar treatment, with a 4.0-liter engine of its own for GTS duty. This one packs eight cylinders however, and a set of turbos. It’s essentially a detuned version of the lump from the Cayenne Turbo, dropping about 90 ponies from the pack but still producing an ample 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Far from being the runt of the litter though, the Cayenne GTS, sampled here in Coupe form, might just be the pick of the whole range. It blends power, poise, and even a semi-reasonable list price—within the Cayenne family—in a package that remains one of the most thrilling big crossovers on the market.
Crossover coupe? Coupe-over? Whatever it is, it works
I’m not going to lie to you: I’m not, generally, a fan of the coupe-ified crossover sub-segment. To me, the concept is essentially a high-riding fourth-generation Camaro: huge on the outside, tiny on the inside.
The Cayenne Coupe is different. It has less of a “tail” than the BMW X6 or Mercedes GLE coupe. Since the regular Cayenne already has a fairly angled rear window, the increased rake on the Coupe doesn’t seem like a dramatic difference either. It does visually shrink the whole package though, looking like the missing link between the upright Cayenne and bubbly Macan. The 1.2-inch suspension drop helps too.
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The subtle change to the profile means second-row headroom is only marginally less than the regular Cayenne. Four six-foot adults should be able to get comfy in here, even on longer journeys. A no-cost option adds a third squab between the rear outboard seats.
Aesthetically, this chopped-roof Cayenne follows the traditional GTS recipe. It calls for a liberal sprinkling of black-out exterior pieces, with darkened lights, grille inserts, and badging. Stir in some tasty extras, like the spindly 22-inch GT wheels, carbon fiber roof, and center-mount dual exhausts—all part of an expensive ($9,140 US / $10,110 CAD) Lightweight Sport Package—and you’ve got, at least to my eyes, the best-looking coupe-over on the market. Even this tester’s color, an extra-cost Cashmere Beige metallic, is just different enough to feel special.
Performance to back up those looks
It’s almost unfair how good this thing handles. Cayennes have long been known as the driver’s SUV, and the GTS Coupe ratchets that rep up a few notches. The standard-fit air suspension does a good job of sanding the edges off potholes and expansion joints, and that’s in the normal driving mode.
Twist the steering wheel-mounted dial to Sport or Sport Plus, however, and the GTS tenses up like a seasoned fighter. This heavyweight dances through direction changes with the grace of something weighing two-thirds its curb weight, relaying just the right amount of information back through that wonderfully tactile, Alcantara-clad wheel. This tester comes with extra dynamic goodies like active roll bars with torque vectoring ($3,590 US / $4,090 CAD) and rear-wheel steering ($1,620 US / $1,840 CAD). These aid agility, but the most impressive part is how natural it all feels working together. The Cayenne never makes you feel like a member of the audience: it involves you in the whole show.
The eight-speed automatic plays conductor for the bent-eight underhood. It’s clever and quick, not far off the speed of the PDK ‘boxes in either the Macan or 911. Leave the Cayenne in Normal mode and the engine will woofle along barely off idle. Select another mode, pull on the left paddle shifter or bury the throttle—perhaps even all three—and the GTS lunges forward, singing that glorious V8 tune. It never feels uncomfortably quick—the dash to 60 mph clocks in at 4.2 seconds with launch control—but carries you forward on a huge wave of torque. It sounds epic too: not as bombastic as the V8s in comparable Mercs or Jags, but burblier and sharper than an X6 M50i. North American models will sound better still: this Euro-spec model requires an emission-reducing and sound-suppressing particulate filter.
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When it comes to reining in all that enthusiasm, the standard 15.3-inch front, 14.1-inch rear steel brake discs are more than up to the task. The slow-down pedal is firm and consistent, with no hint of fade at any point through my usual back-road route.
An interior that feels special…
Happily, even when you’re not caning the engine, the Cayenne is a welcoming place to be. The houndstooth seats are the obvious attention-grabbers, but importantly, they’re also 18-way adjustable. You shouldn’t have trouble getting comfortable. Unfortunately, opting for the pattern means forgoing ventilated seats. That in itself wouldn’t be too bad, but the grayed-out button on the center console remains, forever taunting you and your lack of gently cooled buns.
Alcantara is everywhere inside the Cayenne GTS. It’s on the wheel, the A-pillars, the headliner, and even the oh schiesse handles sprouting from the center console. If a surface isn’t coated in the stuff, it’s probably leather. Porsche peppers most of the buttons around the traditional shifter, and it’s all straight-forward and well-designed. My only (minor) gripe is the volume roller just ahead of the shifter, which still strikes me as an odd ergonomic move.
Integrated into the dash is a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Porsche Communication Management remains one of my favorite infotainment systems, thanks to quick responses, sharp graphics, and lots of customization. I’m fortunate enough to also have access to (wireless) Apple CarPlay: Android users are still stuck out in the cold. Four USB slots are available for charging, and a wireless charger. The latter is, you guessed it, an optional extra.
…so long as you check a lot of the boxes
That’s just the tip of the option list iceberg. This globetrotting press car has nearly $50,000 worth of options. Some, like the excellent Burmester 3D audio system ($7,000 US / $7,980 CAD) and surround view camera ($1,200 US / $1,360), I would spec on my own dream build. Others, like soft-close doors, rear-seat entertainment, and powered sunshades—eh, not so much.
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Porsche also charges extra for things like lane-keep assist, auto-dimming mirrors, and heated seats. Those sorts of features now come standard on Kias for a third of the price. To its credit, the various driver aids, such as InnoDrive and the head-up display, work well. Night vision is very trick, but the powerful headlights mean you’d have to be far away from civilization for it to really prove its worth. I can’t imagine many folks buying the GTS, of all Cayennes, will be seeking out places away from the tarmac. It’s too fun on the black stuff.
Verdict: 2020 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
Shorn of its more superfluous extras, the GTS is the relative bargain of the Cayenne lineup. That seems mad for something that starts at $111,850, but hear me out. That V8 soundtrack alone makes it more appealing than the S trim. It also looks better, and bundles a lot of the S model’s optional equipment in as standard. As completely silly as a “lightweight” package is on a 4,800-pound SUV, I’d still insist on checking that box for the sport exhaust, cool (but not cooling) seats, and carbon roof though. Ditto the PDCC and rear axle steering for maximum agility. The GTS lacks the firepower of the Turbo model, but as an overall package it finds a better balance between grunt and handling.
That’s really what the GTS trims have always been about in Porscheland: a best-of hit list landing right between regular models and the range-toppers. The Cayenne GTS is more rewarding to drive than anything else in the class, it can coddle and excite with equal aplomb, and it even makes beige look good.