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Porsche gives Cayenne the 911 treatment

Cayenne sandwich: GTS slots in between the S and the flagship Turbo.

Porsche's most road-focussed Cayenne ever sets new dynamic benchmarks for SUVs

15 Apr 2008

PORSCHE Cars Australia says even it was surprised by the success of last year’s facelifted Cayenne range and the entry-level V6 it comprised, but admits this month’s addition of a fourth SUV variant in the tarmac-focussed GTS won’t prevent its overall sales slowing from record levels this year.

Priced at $153,500 and billed as “the sportscar of the Cayenne family”, the GTS fills the gaping hole in the range between the V8-powered Cayenne S ($134,500) on which it is based and the range-topping Cayenne Turbo ($215,200). As such, it is expected to draw buyers mostly up from the S, which will still be the most popular Cayenne with almost 40 per cent of sales expected.

Porsche says that, despite its even more aggressive appearance thanks to a 20mm-lower ride height and specific 21x10-inch alloys (which dwarf the 18x8s of the S and even the Turbo's 19 x 8.5s) with larger 295/35-section tyres, the GTS won't steal sales from the Turbo, buyers of which “will always be Turbo buyers”.

But with the Turbo and the new entry-level Cayenne V6 ($94,700) accounting for 17 and 18 per cent of the mix, the GTS should still attract more than a quarter of all Cayenne buyers in 2008, when PCA predicts economic uncertainty will put a dent into the new-car market overall.

“This year won’t be a record year unless the current consumer sentiment disappears rapidly, but in our view that won’t be the case,” said PCA’s director of sales and marketing, Kevin Nicholls. “The challenge we see in coming years is economic uncertainty and the effect that has on consumer sentiment. We anticipate a bit of a pause.

“Porsche is the ultimate deferrable purchase. The foot comes off our accelerator pedal more quickly than others’, and equally the reverse is true. We think there will be a slow-down but it will come back,” said Mr Nicholls.

25 center imageThe 997-series version of Porsche’s iconic 911 has been around since October 2004 and was this month also released in range-topping GT2 turbo guise, but that didn’t stop it setting a new 911 sales record of 522 sales in 2007 (up from just 389 in 2006), when a record 1380 Porsches were sold in Australia.

However, the completion of the model rollout as the current 911 reaches middle age - and popular variants like the GT3 and GT3 RS are no longer available - will see the popularity of Porsche’s iconic sportscar decline this year.

Conversely, the GTS is expected to grow overall Cayenne sales this year, and while the Cayenne no longer commands almost 50 per cent of Porsche sales as it did in its second year on sale here (and as it still does in “mature” markets like the US), PCA believes it is better prepared for economic downturn than it was pre-Cayenne.

“We’re certainly better positioned that we were five or six years ago, when we didn’t have the Cayenne,” said Mr Nicholls, who that the waiting list for the 100 examples of the Cayenne GTS due here in 2008 is standing at six months.

Porsche’s first SUV continues to account for 35 per cent of Porsches sales in Australia, where it remained popular with 495 sales last year. That’s down from a record of 562 in its first full year on sale - 2004, when the 996-series 911 was dated and its previous record of 1264 overall sales was set. PCA describes 2008 as a consolidation year, in which it expects total sales to be around 1250 – despite strong forward orders and a solid start.

PCA says its next growth phase won’t occur until the Panamera sedan arrives here some time after its European launch in late 2009 - in V6, V8 and V8 Turbo forms. As with the four-door/four-seat Panamera, Porsche has promised a hybrid version of the (most likely next-generation) Cayenne by the end of this decade, but says its customers are already showing interest.

“Fuel prices affect Cayenne more than 911. The facelift brought real-world fuel economy gains (but) there’s no doubt consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious. The debate is becoming more educated.

“Customers are already asking about hybrid. Hybrid has a bigger share of mind than share of the market and I think our hybrid solution will be very good. Sub-9.0L/100km will be a very good story for a car like the Cayenne,” said Mr Nicholls.

For now, however, for $19,000 more, the GTS adds a significant deal of performance enhancing equipment to the Cayenne S menu – apart from cosmetic changes like front/rear bumpers and side skirts from the Turbo, a roof spoiler and two unique paint colours: GTS Red and Nordic Gold metallic.

First revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September, the GTS also features increased negative wheel camber at both ends, 14mm-wide plastic wheelarch flares to conceal its substantially wider wheel tracks, as well as black window surrounds and door-handles, unique GTS-badged sill plates, a "satin aluminium" centre console and sports seats – the latter featuring part Alcantara trim to match the fake suede roof lining, 12-way power adjustment and memory function up front and more substantial side bolstering both front and (for the outboard positions) rear.

Turbo-style red brake callipers replace the silver S items, while the GTS steering wheel also offers beefier padding and powered column reach/rake adjustment.

Unlike in Europe, Australia's Cayenne GTS will come standard with adjustable air suspension (as do all Australian-delivery Cayennes except the V6), a six-speed automatic transmission (with more sporting gearshift points) and the option of Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), the active stabiliser bar system that was introduced on the revised Cayenne range from last year.

The GTS also gains a "Sport" button, which makes the automatic's shift points even more aggressive, improves throttle pedal response and selects the firmest setting from the standard Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) variable damping system, which is standard as it is on the S. For the GTS, the Cayenne's front anti-roll bar has also been stiffened while the rear bar has been softened.

As with other Cayenne variants, a six-speed manual version can be ordered as a no-cost option for driving enthusiasts prepared to wait about three months.

Complimenting the dynamic and aesthetic improvements to the GTS is a warmed-over version of the Cayenne S petrol V8, which was increased to 4.8 litres in capacity and blessed with direct fuel-injection from last year.

Benefitting from a 6mm-larger (82mm) throttle butterfly diameter and a variable back-pressure exhaust with twin chromed dual-outlets, the tweaked GTS V8 offers 298kW at 6500rpm – 15kW and 300rpm up on the Cayenne S (283kW at 6200rpm). Peak torque is unchanged from 500Nm at 3500rpm.

Driving through a 15 per cent shorter final drive ratio (4.10:1 versus 3.55:1 for the S), the result is 0-100km/h acceleration that is three-tenths quicker in auto guise at 6.5 seconds (6.1 for the manual), as well as 0-160km/h acceleration that's half a second quicker at 15.2 seconds and 80-120km/h acceleration that's a second quicker at 7.8 seconds.

Claimed top speed also increases by 1km/h, to 251km/h (253km/h for the manual), though we saw an indicated 255km/h in both versions.

Of course, combined average fuel consumption also rises, from 13.7 to 13.9L/100km, as do CO2 emissions – from 329 to 332g/km.

Naturally, the lower ride height not only reduces ground clearance in "normal" suspension mode from 215 to 195mm, but reduces the approach and departure angles to 29.7 and 23.3 degrees respectively and the wading depth to 535mm, while the wider wheel/tyre package sees the GTS Cayenne's drag co-efficient rise from 0.35 to 0.36Cd.

Although it's unlikely to ever venture off-road, the GTS retains the 2.7:1 low-range reduction ratio and centre differential lock of other Cayennes, as well as their permanent electronic multi-plate clutch-operated all-wheel drive system comprising 38/62 per cent front/rear torque split and Porsche Traction Management (PTM) traction/stability control system.

Read more:

First drive: Cayenne GTS drives to new extremes

The Road to Recovery podcast series

GoAuto can help you buy a new Cayenne

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