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First drive: Porsche unleashes Cayenne GTS

Solid silver: Porsche believes the extra performance and features more than make up for the extra purchase price of the GTS over the Cayenne S.

Naturally aspirated V8 makes new GTS the sportiest Porsche Cayenne SUV yet

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Porsche logo25 Jun 2012

By JAMES STANFORD in AUSTRIA

PORSCHE has unleashed the sportiest Cayenne yet in the form of the GTS.

The GTS is not the fastest Cayenne in a straight line, but it is the most agile and the most "emotional", according to Porsche.

While the brutally powerful V8 Cayenne Turbo is quicker in a straight line, the naturally aspirated V8 GTS is more of a driver’s car with firmer suspension, a lower ride height and an engine tuned for excitement.

The Cayenne GTS will arrive in Australia in September with a $164,900 price tag, which places it $13,600 above the V8 Cayenne S.

Porsche Australia expects the GTS to account for 20 per cent of Cayenne sales and argues it is well worth the premium because, in addition to the improved performance, the cost of its extra features adds up to $20,000.

The GTS features a 4.8-litre petrol V8, which is almost identical to the unit in the Cayenne S, so it features direct injection and four overhead camshafts controlling four valves per cylinder.

In the Cayenne S, this engine generates 294kW and 500Nm, but Porsche engineers fitted more aggressive intake camshafts to get the engine to breathe a little better in the GTS, resulting in 15kW more power at 309kW, while torque is up by 15Nm to 515Nm.

These are handy increases, but the substantial bulk of the Cayenne (2085kg in GTS form) limits their impact, with just 0.2 seconds shaved off its 0-100km/h sprint time. Still, no-one could accuse it of being slow given the GTS completes the dash in just 5.7 seconds.

It certainly feels like you’re riding a rocket when you mash the accelerator and the engine starts sending the power through the eight-speed automatic transmission and on to all four wheels.

While the world’s automotive industry is largely moving away from naturally aspirated engines, the GTS V8 highlights why it will be sad to see them go as it delivers power instantly, with no turbo lag, and it keeps coming as the engine speed increases.

The V8 Cayenne Turbo might have awesome force, but the GTS driver can back off and roll back on the accelerator without delay.

Its official fuel consumption figure is 10.7 litres per 100km, though this blew out on our test drive in Austria, running at around 18L/100km. This drive was best described as spirited, so the GTS will certainly use less fuel in normal conditions.

The GTS uses a tweaked version of the ZF eight-speed torque convertor automatic, which was chosen for the entire Cayenne range due to its smooth and quiet shifts, and it works perfectly well when left in drive.

When it comes to sporty driving, the ZF falls short in comparison to the dual-clutch PDK used in most other Porsche models. Even with the GTS-specific modifications, the changes can seem slower than you might expect for such a sporty model, especially on the downchanges.

The slower shifts stand out partly because of the engine performance, but also because of how well the GTS handles.

The ride height was dropped by 20mm compared to Cayenne S to lower the centre of gravity and improve handling. This reduces its off-road capability, but Porsche argues very few Cayennes make it off the gravel anyway.

Porsche has also introduced new two-stage hydraulic sub-frame and wishbone mounts, which are used in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and aid body control while helping maintain comfort when the car is not being pushed.

The front track has grown by 30mm and the rear is 70mm wider, with colour-coded wheelarch extensions added to make it all legal.

Porsche fits 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, while 21-inch rims are available as an option. All Australian Cayennes, including the GTS, are fitted with air suspension, which allows for five different height levels and works with the electronically controlled shock absorbers (Porsche Active Suspension Management).

The result is a car that handles much better than it should, sitting flatter in the corners than you should expect and maintaining good composure.

Of course, there is no escaping the fact that this is an SUV, however sporty. Apart from anything else, it feels strange pushing hard when sitting up so high.

A blast around a small track highlighted its relative agility but also showed it is nothing like Porsche sportscars, of course. The GTS is still a heavy car and the driver is sometimes reminded of the bulk such as heading into tight bends at speed.

It runs huge six-pot callipers at the front (360mm discs) and four-pot callipers at the back (also on 360mm discs) and they work extremely hard to pull up the GTS.

We were also reminded of the bulk when turning in on wet, twisty mountain roads, where it struggled for grip.

Still, Porsche engineers are confident the Cayenne GTS is faster around tracks like the Nurburgring than rival SUVs, and this could well be the case going by our test drive.

The electro-hydraulic steering has no more weight than the standard Cayenne and it feels overly light, providing very little feedback.

While the GTS Cayenne is relatively agile, it does so without being harsh on the road (at least on the Austrian roads that were used for the global launch). The normal suspension setting allows for a fair degree of movement over bumps and, while the sport setting is firmer, it isn’t so firm that you get sick of it.

Porsche’s engineers have done a great job to maintain the vehicle’s comfort, which is crucial given this is a big, practical family wagon with a sporty streak.

They have also done their best to make the Cayenne GTS sound fast, with considerable time and effort spent on enhancing the sound. A ‘sound symposer’ system – already used in the Panamera – has been introduced for the first time in the Cayenne.

This system features two tubes that transfer intake sound through to the cabin via the A-pillars when the Sport button is pressed. The same button opens up flaps in the exhaust system as well as adjusting the engine management system to make a growling sound when the driver backs off the accelerator, as well as the odd crackle and pop.

Consequently, the driver can enjoy the serenity of the Cayenne with laid-back driving, but then select Sport mode for some raucous enjoyment.

It certainly sounds lovely and loud when accelerating, with the induction bellowing from around 3000rpm all the way through to the engine cut-out at 6700rpm.

Unfortunately, the exhaust is not very loud, even with the flaps open in Sport mode, so the crackles and pops that come when the driver lifts off are very muffled compared to the magnified induction tones.

The GTS looks the business, thanks partly to its lower ride height and also its special body kit, which includes side skirts and a two-layer roof-mounted spoiler.

It also gets larger front intakes and the same headlights as the Cayenne Turbo (with LED daytime-running lights and cornering bi-Xenon lights).

The GTS is available in a wide range of colours including two exclusive colours, a bright red and an even brighter green.

The interior is fitted out with Alcantara/leather GTS seats, with Alcantara also used for the roof, door trim and centre armrest. It is available with red or green stitching.

There is technically seating for five, although the middle seat in the second row is narrow and hard.

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