• The Cayenne GTS, has all the looks of its larger Turbo brother

  • The rear sports the identifying and superb sounding exhaust pipes
    Photograph by: The rear sports the identifying and superb sounding exhaust pipes  

  • The interior has colour-coded stitching and a few other model specific features

Lerato Matebese took to the mountains of the Western Cape in the new Porsche Cayenne GTS

Porsche South Africa has launched what it says is its sportiest incarnation of the Cayenne in the form of the ripsnorting GTS (Gran Turismo Sport) variant.

Before unpacking some nuggets about the model, it is rather intriguing to think that when the company first toyed with the idea of building an SUV, most purists shunned the idea, but judging by the sales numbers mustered since then — and the fact that the model remains the best-selling in the company’s range — it seems there was indeed method in the madness on the company’s part.

Interestingly, the previous GTS was relatively successful, having sold 15,766 units globally, which accounted for a 17% share of total Cayenne sales.

Loosely based on the Cayenne S and slotting between that and the Turbo model, the GTS sports a much more imposing façade than that of its lesser siblings with larger air intakes and darkened headlight bezels replete with signature LED driving lights similar to those of the Turbo model.

There is also a wider track, measuring 13mm and 17mm front and rear, than that of the S model, no doubt to further aid the model’s dynamic prowess. While 20-inch wheels are standard equipment on the GTS, most buyers are likely to specify the 21-inch combination, which gives the car a much more purposeful stance while filling the wider, colour coded wheel arches with more intent.

Over and above the wider side sills, dual wing spoiler and darkened LED rear light clusters, the GTS can also be distinguished by those quad tailpipes finished in a black hue. The model also sits 24mm lower than the S model on the standard steel spring suspension — 20mm on the optional air suspension — to give it a lower centre of gravity and less body roll when driven with gusto.

The interior echoes the sporting theme with a blend of alcantara and leather covered seats resplendent in exterior body colour contrasting stitching that runs the length of the dashboard and door panels.

It is tastefully done with consistent seams throughout. The seats with GTS embossed headrests not only look great but are also comfortable.

However, the jewel in the crown is arguably the normally aspirated 4.8l V8 engine that though similar in architecture to that in the S model, has been fettled somewhat in the GTS with a slightly higher lift intake valve. The new cam features a higher profile that sees power jump from 294kW and 500Nm to 309kW and 515Nm, enough to see it achieve a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 261km/h, which is 0.2 seconds and 3km/h higher than the S model.

Even with the power gains, the GTS is claimed to consume only 0.2l more than the S, thanks in part to the standard engine stop/start function. As with all Cayenne models, power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed tiptronic transmission with steering mounted manual shift paddles.

The gains may seem a tad academic on paper, but I think that would be missing the point as it is in fact the sum of all the tweaks and the result thereof that will set the two models apart.

The company has also gone to a great deal of effort to make it sound as great as it drives thanks to the inclusion of what is called a sound symposer that discreetly filters the engine’s induction noise into the cabin via ducts in the A-pillars when the sport button is depressed.

This not only changes the mapping of both the transmission and throttle, but also opens secondary flaps in the exhaust to offer an even deeper guttural roar from the exhaust pipes, which at about 4,200r/min is arguably its sweetest spot.

It was on the ribbon of road that is the Franschoek Pass in the Western Cape that the vehicle truly came into its own. Dialling the optional air suspension to sport mode would be ideal on near perfect tarmac, however, I did find the setting to be a little on the harsh side and, as a result, preferred the intermediate normal setting as it offered the best compromise between sporty handling and daily driving.

With the sport button depressed and the transmission slapped into the manual mode, it was a case of taking charge of the gears via the steering paddles and weaving the GTS through the pass with verve.

It displayed little of the top heaviness that plagues many of its rivals and cornered in a relatively flat manner with understeer kept in check by the Porsche Traction Management thanks to its variable torque distribution and I managed to hurl the vehicle into corners as though in a low slung sports car. At a hefty weight of 2.2 tons, the car is no lightweight, but the manner in which it manages to mask this is impressive.

The large 360mm and 330mm front and rear diameter brake discs were up to the task, offering the right amount of bite modulation via the pedal to instill confidence.

When all is said and done, the advent of sporty SUVs from premium manufacturers has attracted a new clientele that wants the lofty seating position offered by such a vehicle with the sportiness of a sportscar.

Admittedly, few have managed to find this elusive compromise but the Cayenne GTS is the exception.

Pricing: R983,000 (with a three-year/90,000km maintenance plan) R1,033,000 (with a five-year/90,000km maintenance plan)