You know those sleeper-type cars that just look effortlessly badass? The first that springs to mind for me is the Audi RS 6, with awesome performance, ample practicality and a road presence to match.
I think the RS 6 and the Porsche Cayenne GTS are 2 of the very few cars that successfully pull it off. Maybe it is the wide, droid-resembling, thick rear bumpers.
So why does this Cayenne look different to the majority of the grown-up, clean and more professional SUVs on the road?
Well, because it is made for people like me. Those who giggle when they hear a V8 turnover, or downshift just to get a crackle from the exhaust at a roundabout in a 50-zone.
As someone who is usually loath to drive SUVs, I thought it was brilliant.
This is the Cayenne GTS, and it costs the better part of a quarter of a million dollars by the time you get it on the road. The official price tag on our test vehicle, after factoring in options, was $212,670 (before on-road costs).
What's it like inside?
When you hop in, the first thing you notice is the leather and Alcantara used throughout the cabin, which lets you know that this isn't just a luxury SUV – it has a bit more about it.
Then you sink into the sporty, body-hugging seats. Thanks to the Adaptive sports seats and memory package that was optioned on our GTS for $800, we have access to 18-way electric adjustment, lumbar support, 3 customisable memory settings and electric leg support extension for taller folks. Both the driver and passenger seats offer heating and ventilation, and if that isn't enough, there is dual-zone climate control to keep things comfortable in the cabin.
Sitting in the driver seat looking forward, your attention is grabbed by that oh-so-well-known logo which lives front and center on the steering wheel. The wheel itself is a bit different to what you might expect.
BMW, for instance, favour a thick, chunky steering wheel and they are known as the "Ultimate Driving Machine". This, on the other hand, feels thinner, but strangely, no less sporty. It works.
Looking behind that, you have a half-digital, half-analogue cluster. Focused around a central speedo, 2 digital displays sit either side. They display all the information you would expect, but also are able to produce maps and directions, among other things.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS also comes with a configurable, crystal-clear Head-Up Display so you can keep your eyes on the road – especially when things may be coming at you faster than usual, if you catch my drift.
Porsche has fitted a large 12.3 inch touchscreen infotainment system to the new Cayenne GTS, which responds quickly to inputs and is easy to navigate too. It comes loaded with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB+ radio, but, unfortunately for me, it only supports Apple CarPlay at this point.
When hooking it up to your phone, the system will act as a remote SIM too, so use of your phone (by a passenger, naturally) is quite limited. If you're an Android user like me, you're also going to want to get your Spotify up and running before connecting the phone.
USB-C chargers are found throughout the cabin, replacing the usual USB points.
Back to the infotainment system – it is linked with a 14-speaker Bose premium sound system.
Other useful inclusions up front are the grab handles for the passenger (for reasons I shall explain shortly) and a nice, deep centre console bin, as well as some decent door bins.
One annoyance I did find up front, though, was the positioning of the drive selector, which made it a bit difficult to get at the passenger side buttons from the driver's seat. The buttons on the other side of it, to be fair, are the heated and ventilated passenger seat controls – so this potentially says more about how annoying I can be more than anything about Porsche's ergonomics.
From the passenger seat, though, it is a bit awkward to get to the volume control.
Apart from that, the console layout and controls are quite straightforward and well laid-out. They also add to the overall premium cabin feel by foregoing traditional buttons for a touch-sensitive and illuminated surface. It looks sharp.
In the back, things are more than comfortable too. Apart from having a good amount of headroom, (despite the large panoramic roof, which would normally impede headroom), you also get a good amount of legroom. I had ample space between my knees and the driver seat, with the seat set for my driving position.
Things get even better for passengers in the back, as you are able to move the seat forwards and backwards, as well as being able to recline them to a degree too. Where was that when I was a kid!?
Rear seats also get a good amount of bolstering around the thighs, a grippy phone holder and grab handles on the doors, for when the kids egg you on a bit.
When they aren't, though, there are 2 cupholders in the back, a good amount of storage in the door bin and 2 USB-C charging points.
2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS boot
With the rear seats in place, the Cayenne GTS has 745L of space.The rear seats can also slide forward for a bit of extra room, while folding them down reveals 1,680L of space. The space is quite practical too. There is no lip, so items can be slid right into the boot, and if it is a heavier object, you are able to lower the ride height using buttons in the boot to help with loading.
You also get a cargo cover and the space is accessed via an electric tailgate, making things that bit more convenient.
Plus, there is a 20-inch collapsible spare wheel, should you ever need it.
What's it like to drive?
Arguably the biggest drawcard for the 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS is the 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 that is bolted in underneath the bonnet. It is hard to explain in words, but it is truly one of those experiences that brings a smile to your face the entire time you drive it – the type of smile that leaves your face in pain for the rest of the afternoon.
It produces 338kW of power and 620Nm of torque, which is sent to all fours through an 8-speed automatic transmission.
As I type that, I can feel your face start to straighten as you think, "What's he been huffing? That's less than a BMW X5M or a Mercedes-Benz GLE 63."
But the 2021 Cayenne GTS is no slouch, accelerating to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. The model for this Cayenne GTS review, though, shaves 0.3 of a second off that number with its $2,300 optional Sport Chrono pack.
And as it climbs up – and subsequently down – the gears (which are snappy in both automatic and manual), it does it with a satisfying amount of crackles and pops.
The way the GTS picks up and goes, you'd easily be forgiven for thinking you were in something much lower to the ground, as everything turns into a blur as you fly by.
It sounds sublime too. The kind of V8 burble that really makes you want to drive it more and more every time you fire it up. There is a variable exhaust, which is a waste because the entire time I was with it, it didn't leave the raucous Sports mode.
Thanks to emissions regulations, it does cop a soft limiter, so you won't be able to rev it out on the spot.
A sporty rotary dial on the steering wheel allows you to select between Normal, Sport, Sport+ and Individual (which can be configured on the infotainment screen) drive modes.
With the drive setting in S+, it feels every part a track car, but then at the flick of a dial, it settles down into the gentle, albeit aggressive-looking, family cruiser. One of the ways it does this is by adjusting the adaptive air suspensions for a softer, more pliable ride.
Adaptive air suspension also allows the 2021 Cayenne GTS to lower its ride height by 10mm, for when you do get to the twisty stuff and need something hunkered down on the road.
"Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus" manages power going to individual wheels to help you get around corners as fast and efficiently as possible, as well as in one piece. As do the Pirelli P Zero tyres, which add an ample amount of grip.
You can be confident that it will pull up in time too. At the front, you get 6-piston, aluminium monobloc-fixed brake calipers, and 4 piston calipers at the back with ventilated discs.
Out on the highways, you are able to forget you're driving a 2.1-tonne vehicle capable of what almost seems like warp speed, such is its quiet cabin insulation and absorbing ride. The only real detractor about the 2021 Cayenne GTS, and I mean this across the board, is that there are some active safety systems it misses as standard.
It must be said though, that this does occur on other luxury SUVs too like the Range Rover range.
Adaptive cruise control with stop and go technology is unlocked with the $1,300 "Active Lane-Keeping Pack", along with Lane-Keep Assist and intersection assist. You can option Lane Keep Assist by itself for an additional $1,220, while a feature becoming more common on everyday vehicles, Active Park Support, costs $1,890.
On a vehicle that retails for more than $200,000, it may not or may not bother you.
That aside, though, we found fuel economy numbers more or less in line with the 12.2 litres per 100kms that Porsche states. During highway driving, we registered 13.4 litres before peeling off for an exit. However, this number was still dropping when we did so.
Hypothetically, though, if you were restricted to a 5km radius or don't travel far for work, you can expect this number to creep up. With similar trips, we were recording numbers around the 17L per 100km mark.
How safe is the 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS?
Despite missing some driving aids as standard, the Cayenne GTS is still a safe vehicle with a number of systems and protections in place.
Along with 10 airbags around the cabin and an active bonnet system that helps minimise injury to a pedestrian, should it come to that, it also comes fitted with:
- Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Lane Change Assist
- 3-point automatic seat belts with pretensioners (front and outer rear seats) and force limiters (front)
- Side impact protection
Porsche has turned out a terrific SUV in this GTS. It bridges the chasm of practicality and sportiness well and in an eye-catching package.
It is an amazing piece of machinery, and while we were left a bit wanting in terms of driving aids and some of the options made us raise an eyebrow ($780 for a painted key and leather pouch?), we really do need to commend Porsche for bolting the monstrous V8 under the bonnet. I'm sure it would have been easier to throw a V6 under there and call it a day. Unfortunately, as you reflect, you realise that this generation of loud, ferocious sports SUVs are probably the last of their petrol-powered kind.
It was hard to part ways with the 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS. It truly is one of those cars that really leaves you wanting more.
I am going to miss this thing.
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