Test drive: Porsche Cayenne GTS

By Guy Bird for Daily Express, Nov 2007

Can you imagine the lonely-hearts column for the Cayenne GTS? “Sporty version of a large SUV with challenging looks seeks similar owner for adult fun. Said driver must have ultra thick skin and be unafraid of consumption; GSOH a bonus”

Can you imagine the lonely-hearts column for the new Porsche Cayenne GTS? “Extra sporty version of a large SUV with challenging looks seeks similar owner for adult fun. Said driver must have an ultra thick skin and not be afraid of consumption; GSOH a bonus.”

Given the political climate in late 2007, you have to be of a certain mindset to entertain buying a 4.8 V8 petrol-powered two-and-a-quarter-tonne 4x4 that costs more than £50,000, manages just 20mpg, pumps out 360g/km of CO2, has only four proper seats and isn’t designed for serious off-roading. And unlike almost all its competitors there’s no modern diesel available – or even in the pipeline – to keep economy and emissions half reasonable. To many in the UK – certainly Ken Livingstone and politicians of all political hues – the Porsche Cayenne is the epitome of the Chelsea Tractor: a gas-guzzling, needlessly large conspicuous display of consumption especially out of place in narrow city streets owned by a rich person oblivious to a world running out of oil who probably doesn’t spend Sunday nights in watching scary TV programmes about the polar icecaps melting.

To many in the UK – certainly Ken Livingstone and politicians of all political hues – the Porsche Cayenne is the epitome of the Chelsea Tractor

Cayenne sales seem unaffected by such political opinions and their associated future high tax plans though. Not even the unbridled hatred from some quarters of the public seems to make such thick-skinned owners flinch. In 2006 Porsche found 1516 UK Cayenne buyers and this year to October the tally is already 1474. Globally, the Cayenne represents more than a third of all Porsche sales and is massive contributor to what is a very profitable company.

The new GTS version of the Cayenne that launches next February – one year on from the rest of the heavily revised range – is pitched as the most sporty and dynamic model yet. It is the first Cayenne to combine steel springs with Porsche’s active suspension management system previously reserved only its sports cars. It borrows much of the range-topping Turbo model’s go-faster exterior styling – so side, front and rear skirts, red brake calipers plus a differ- ent double vane spoiler. Despite the additions it’s far from a conventionally good-looking sports SUV – like a Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7 or BMW X5 say – but darker colours hide its huge grille better and give it a strangely attractive menace.This appeal is enhanced by standard 21-inch wheels (the Turbo only has 19-inchers), a 24mm lower standard ride height for a sportier stance plus two exclusive paint options – a forgettable dark ‘GTS red’ and a quite interesting orangey metallic ‘Nordic Gold’.

Inside, it’s a notch up from ‘normal’ Cayennes too. New sporty but very comfortable seats, feature high side bolsters to keep everyone in their places when driving ‘fast and twisty’. However, those high bolsters on the outer rear seats make the GTS more of a four-seater than a five-seater unlike the more bench-like rear arrangement on other Cayennes. Luxurious Alcantara covers some of these seats along with almost everything else in the interior from ceiling to all window pillars. Similarly high quality leather is stretched taut across the dashboard top while neat ambient lighting adds a note of subtlety around door inserts and armrests.

Although pitched as the sportiest Cayenne yet, the GTS is not the quickest.That honour goes to the ruthlessly fast Turbo model with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds.The GTS Tiptronic automatic with steering wheel button-shift (that will account for almost all models sold) is no slouch though – dispatching 62mph in 6.5 seconds.The manual version, that Porsche hopes will have a slightly higher take-up on the GTS, due to its sportier aspirations, gets there in 6.1 seconds.Top speed is 156mph for the Tiptronic and 157mph for the manual.

The burbling 405bhp V8 (20bhp more than the Cayenne S) allows the car to rocket anywhere pretty rapidly – although not quite as rapidly as the 500bhp Turbo version. But arguably the best bit about the GTS is how it handles its power. Kick-down the accelerator hard and the tail of the huge SUV never waggles. Brakes are big and though lacking some feeling of immediacy, work very well. Drive fast into almost any corner at speeds you wouldn’t dream of in most coupes let alone an SUV and you’ll experience almost no body roll – remarkable from such a high-sided and heavy vehicle.This stability can be improved even further with optional air suspension and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDDC) that incorporates active anti-roll bars to build up enough counter-forces to stop the body swaying in tight bends.

Of course, a few thousand Porsche Cayenne 4x4s are hardly going to kill the planet, but the pointlessness of the consumption and emissions caused has to make you wonder what sort of person can feel completely at ease buying one?

Testing this extra kit on a long slalom at just under 30mph on a narrow road with no pavement and a drop into a field on either side focused the mind no end, but the kit worked admirably.Whether it’s worth an extra £3400 over the standard GTS kit is debatable though.What the Cayenne doesn’t do well – with such large on-road tyres – is go well off-road. In fact a test car got stuck on the launch of the vehicle in only moderately deep sand when one misguided journalist sought an evocative beach photo.

If you want the high riding position, dominant road feeling, luxury appointments and great space that upmarket 4x4s can offer, BMW, Mercedes,Audi and Range Rover all make better looking versions with more fuel-efficient diesel engines.Audi’s Q7 and now BMW’s X5 offer more seats and the Range Rover makes 4x4s that really work off-road (and offsets its carbon emissions in its UK prices too). Porsche is not totally oblivious to eco concerns – a petrol/electric hybrid Cayenne aiming for 32mpg is due in 2010 – but a Lexus RX400h hybrid 4x4 can better that today with 34.9mpg.Yes, the Cayenne beats them all on-road but if you really want a real sports car experience why not buy a real Porsche – like a 911?

Ultimately, the Cayenne GTS – starting at £54,700 on the road – will appeal to those who already own big sporty SUVs with perceived lesser status badges or who perhaps want a sportier looking and feeling Cayenne but couldn’t justify the near £75,000 Turbo. And of course, a few thousand Porsche Cayenne 4x4s are hardly going to kill the planet, but the pointlessness of the consumption and emissions caused – when so many other cars offer similar solutions with less environmental impact – has to make you wonder what sort of person can feel completely at ease buying one?

Logbook lowdown

 

  • Model: Porsche Cayenne GTS Tiptronic
  • Price: £56,460 
  • Engine: Petrol – 4.8-litre,V8 
  • Power: 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, 156mph top speed 
  • CO2 emissions: 361g/km
  • Average fuel economy: 20.3mpg 
  • Insurance group: 20 
  • Rivals:Range Rover Sport 4.2V8, BMW X5 4.8iSE, Audi Q7 4.2V8

 


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