Porsche’s cash-cow Cayenne SUV now accounts for about a third of the automaker’s worldwide sales, and it currently comes in seven flavours. Today we’re looking at the GTS that starts at $108,200. It’s not the fastest. That would be the $178,100 Cayenne Turbo S. And it’s not the most fuel efficient. That’s a toss-up between the $72,000 Cayenne Diesel and $87,700 Cayenne S E-Hybrid, all depending on your driving style and needs. And it is certainly not the least expensive. Entry into the Cayenne club starts with the base 300 hp V6 Cayenne at $67,400.

No, the Cayenne GTS is billed as the most agile of this portly SUV family – the one that’s going to make you say “Wow, this thing drives like a gigantic sports car.” Well, darned if that isn’t the case.

To riff once again on that well used phrase, this thing handles like no 2,185 kg SUV has any right to.

I’m out on my favourite back road loop, Sport+ button is pushed, and the GTS rockets from bend to bend, poised, flat and eager to be pushed some more. The steering is sending back plenty of feedback, and there are no question marks as to what the chassis is up to. Am I going to push wide? Is the back end going to get loose?

Body roll appears to be a foreign concept here with the GTS’ standard 20 mm lowered air suspension and Porsche Active Suspension Management. This one was also armed with Torque Vectoring Plus ($1,700). Opt for the active sway bars ($4,010) and your Cayenne GTS would be even more impressive.

Yes, the SUV’s considerable mass makes itself known, and your posterior rides well above the tarmac that streams under those black-satin 20-inch wheels, but damn if the Cayenne GTS doesn’t feel like a… Porsche. To riff once again on that well-used phrase, this thing handles like no 2,185 kg SUV has any right to.

 

The last Cayenne GTS I drove had the whip-crack naturally-aspirated 4.8L V8 that spit out 420 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm, and made glorious V8 noises while doing so. Those days are gone. In the interest of better fuel consumption and lower emissions, the Cayenne GTS now sports a 3.6L twin-turbo V6. Yes, this pressurized engine is more powerful (440 hp) and has more torque (442.5 lb-ft from 1,600 rpm), but what it gains in grunt it loses in soul. This V6 really doesn’t sound like much – kinda' flat and uninspired. Activating the Sport Exhaust button give it a bit more blare and feeds some sound into the cabin.

Still, with the $880 Sports Chrono Package, this ute will blast to 100 km/h in a mere 5.1 seconds and top out at 262 km/h. Compared to the V8, it knocks a few precious seconds off the Nurburgring lap time, and gawd knows that is something we must have.

Transport Canada rates the 2016 Porsche Cayenne GTS at 14.5 L/100 km city and 10.4 L/100 km highway. Premium juice, of course. Oh, and the Cayenne has a huge tank so long distance cruising can be a fairly uninterrupted affair.

The V6 is hooked to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, that, while not as impressive as Porsche’s seven-speed PDK dual-clutch, happily moves through the gears smoothly and responds quickly to paddle shifter requests. All-wheel drive is standard issue, with a decidedly rear bias.

The GTS badge on a Porsche, be it the Cayenne, 911, Boxster or Cayman, signals elevated performance over the S models and a value proposition of sorts. Optioning an S up to GTS spec will cost more and you’ll end up with less anyway, as the GTS cars get their own unique bits that can’t be had otherwise.

The Cayenne GTS has 20 more horsepower than the Cayenne S, and gets big brakes from the Cayenne Turbo - 390 mm front discs and 358 mm pie plates out back. The bright red calipers signal serious stopping power. A rear spoiler, side skirt and wheel arch extensions plus a more Turbo-esque front end with large intakes give the GTS its visual punch.

I must say, in this somewhat demure Meteor Gray Metallic ($910), the GTS snuck through the landscape largely unnoticed, which could be a bonus if you’re into keeping a low profile.

For such a large vehicle, the front cabin has an intimate feel – certainly more sports car than SUV, and those familiar with Porsche switchgear will feel right at home with the button-laden centre console that ramps up to the dash. The 918-inspired steering wheel is functional fine art. The standard GTS Sport Seats are terrific – firm, comfortable and aggressively bolstered. This tester had a $3,390 interior package that added Carmen Red stitching.

By Porsche standards, this specimen wasn’t too outrageously optioned. The aforementioned cabin upgrade was the most costly, followed by a $2,280 Infotainment Bose package with HD radio, the $1,700 Torque Vectoring Plus, $1,680 LED dynamic headlights, $1,360 sunroof, $880, Sports Chrono Package, $750 park assist with rear view camera, $600 heated rear seats, $560 heated windshield, $480 self-dimming mirrors and $380 comfort lighting package.

Conspicuous in their absence are the de rigeur safety systems that pretty much every other premium vehicle on the planet is bristling with. Ya know, blind spot detection, warnings or steering systems to keep you in your lane, collision mitigation, adaptive cruise, yada yada. Which suggests Porsche actually wants you to drive this thing.

And that is certainly what you feel like doing when strapped in. The GTS could be considered a sweet spot in the Cayenne portfolio. Indeed, it will run with the hounds when let off its leash, but it is by no means a one-trick pony. The ride is commendably smooth, the interior a paragon of build quality, the upgraded Bose audio sounds terrific, and GTS’s long haul road manners are (no surprise) autobahn grade. This things lasers for the horizon with serene intent.

The fact that you actually have to unlock the door with the key fob, place said key in a slot to the left of the steering wheel, and then (gasp) twist to start is a bizarre ritual in these times. (There’s a Nissan Versa in my driveway that doesn’t ask that of me). Call it tradition, a quaint throwback or arrogance. Or just call it a Porsche. It’s good. It’s different. You’re paying for it. And this Cayenne GTS drives like no other SUV.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
BMW X5M
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged
Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG

2016 Porsche Cayenne GTS
2016 Porsche Cayenne GTS
Base Price $108,800
Optional Equipment Sports Chrono Package $880; Meteor Gray Metallic $910; Black Int. Package with Carmen Red $3,390; PTV Plus $1,700; sunroof $1,360; heated rear seats $600; heated windshield $560; park assist incl camera $750; LED dynamic headlights $1,680; self dimming mirrors $480; Infotainment Bose package with HD radio $2280; comfort lighting package $380
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,115
Price as Tested $124,385
Optional Equipment