“The Cayenne is going to ruin Porsche because they make sports cars, not SUVs.” That was the fear among brand enthusiasts back in 2003 when the famed German automaker introduced a large, five-passenger, all-wheel-drive crossover that seemed to go against everything the company stood for. Yet, at the end of its first year in production, the Porsche Cayenne had become the company’s best-selling vehicle in front of the 911, Boxster, and Carrera GT.
As it turned out, the extraordinarily overengineered crossover – complete with a low-range transfer case for serious off-road work – was sporty, capable, and fun to drive. And, as a bonus, profits from the best-selling Cayenne paid for the development of even faster sports car models.
Fast forward nearly two decades and Porsche has introduced its sportiest Cayenne models ever – the 2021 Cayenne GTS and GTS Coupe. Fitted with twin-turbocharged V8s, the nearly identical pair promise enough performance to run head-to-head against the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, BMW X5 M, BMW X6 M, and the muscular Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
GTS models are Slotted Between the S and Turbo Models
Porsche has carefully positioned the new GTS and GTS Coupe above the S trim but below the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid. The engineers are quick to reiterate that the GTS models are the sportiest in the lineup – despite their power deficit to the Turbo models – because they are configured with equipment to make the driving experience more engaging. In other words, Turbo drivers are seeking the most powerful vehicle in the lineup for the utmost speed. GTS drivers, on the other hand, are seeking to maximize precision, responsiveness, and driving enjoyment.
Pricing also slots the GTS models between the S and Turbos. The base price of the new 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS is $107,300. The Cayenne GTS Coupe is slightly higher, at $110,500 (add $1,350 for delivery, processing, and handling).
Standard Sport Design Package
Differentiating the GTS and sloped-roof GTS Coupe from the rest of the lineup is the Sport Design Package, which is standard fitment on both body styles. In addition to upgraded 21-inch RS Spyder Design wheels with all-season tires (summer tires are a no-cost swap), shiny exterior trim and badging are darkened with black accents for a sportier appearance.
The interior of the GTS models receives similar treatment with standard 8-way powered Sport Seats partly upholstered in Race-Tex (a premium microfiber material partially consisting of recycled polyester fibers). The same Race-Tex fabric is used on the headliner, center console, doors, and armrests. The brushed aluminum trim through the cabin is also black to complement the exterior treatment. Lastly – to remind passengers which model Cayenne they are riding in – Porsche adorns the cabin with GTS logos on the doors, door sills, tachometer, and the front passenger head restraints.
Twin-turbo V8 and Center-Mounted Exhaust Option
Porsche has dropped a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 into the nose of the 2021 GTS and GTS Coupe that develops 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque (the powerplant is technically a detuned variant of the engine in the Turbo models but running .8 bar of boost instead of 1.5 bar). The previous-generation had a twin-turbocharged V6, but the engineering team chose the slightly more powerful V8 for its low-end grunt and soundtrack – it was worth the 39 pounds of additional mass. Enhancing the exhaust note is a new center-mounted exhaust option that further increases the volume and throatiness of the pipes (while the center exhaust pipes look great, the exiting hot gasses inadvertently cooked our legs each time we grabbed something out of the rear hatch while the V8 was idling).
The standard transmission in both models is a Tiptronic 8-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels through the company’s PTM (Porsche Traction Management) for continuously variable power distribution. (Porsche dropped the bulky low transfer case when the second-generation model debuted in 2011.) Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), which is standard on the GTS, supplements the sport-tuned steering and ensures optimal traction when accelerating out of corners.
Air Suspension, PASM Dampers, and Optional Ceramic Brakes
While European customers ride on standard steel springs, all GTS models arriving to the States will be fitted with air suspension. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) dampers lower the ride height based on driving mode to drop the center of gravity and improve handling. Rear-axle steering, which uses motors to adjust the angle of the rear wheels for better turn-in, stability, and reduced turning radius, is optional. Another innovative option is Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC), which utilizes a 48-volt system for electromechanical roll stabilization.
Multi-piston disc brakes (with red calipers) are standard fitment on the GTS model. Optional Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) with white calipers have a think tungsten carbide coating that promises significantly reduced brake dust – up to 90 percent less, says Porsche. Lastly, Porsche offers its Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) on the GTS. These oversized rotors developed for track or Autobahn use are nearly impervious to fade, which makes them ridiculous overkill for domestic soccer moms.
Extraordinary Levels of Acceleration and Braking
We grabbed the keys to a Carmine Red GTS Coupe (configured with all the go-fast upgrades including PCCB, PDCC, and rear-axle steer) and plotted a 350-mile trek on two-lane roads through the mountains of Southern California – the GTS didn’t let us down.
Despite a 4,500-plus pound curb weight, the 453 hp turbocharged V8 pulls strongly from a standing start through all legal speeds. While it does feel down in power to the Turbo models, we never found ourselves missing the horses. Zipping up 8,000-foot mountains is painless and passing slower vehicles is a breeze (especially if you utilize the Sport Response button that maximizes engine power for 20 seconds). Nothing short of a dedicated sports car will be able to outrun a Cayenne GTS at full boil. And the same can be said about stopping, as the aircraft-sized ceramic brakes work with the wide tire contact patches (315/35-21 on the rear) to effortlessly halt the speed.
The GTS Difference is Found in Handling
All automakers have learned how to make a fast crossover, yet where the GTS really shines is in the corners. Toss the Cayenne into a fast sweeping bend and there is zero drama – no unexpected body undulations, no body roll, zero tire squeal. It simply hunkers-down and begs to be pushed harder (we saw an amazing 1.27 g’s in lateral cornering forces on the vehicle’s computer).
And when the road gets tight, the GTS doubles-down. Rear-axle steer and torque vectoring pull it around corners with the nimbleness of a sport sedan. Again, confidence-inspiring and with zero drama. Even though we wished the steering offered a bit more feedback, we were left in awe with its handling. The GTS is that good.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Versus the Competition
The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, BMW X5 M, BMW X6 M, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk are a formidable army of adversaries. Hands-down, all are faster in a straight line than the Porsche Cayenne GTS twins. And, subjectively speaking, each offers its own definition of luxury in terms of cabin appointments and options.
But while the competition may be faster and arguably more luxurious, none of the other high-performance crossovers offer a driving experience as engaging, as visceral, or as enjoyable to an enthusiast as the 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS models. This is where the GTS stakes its claim. And this is where it excels. Find a Porsche Cayenne for sale