Compromised but oh-so impressive
THE GOOD
  • Divine driving dynamics
  • Polished powertrain
  • Prestige
THE BAD
  • Costly options
  • Lack of standard features
  • Compromised practicality

In the magical world of Porsche, the letters GTS stand for “Gran Turismo Sport,” a fancy designation to describe vehicles that are built with motorsports at their cores but are also suitable for long-distance driving.

Living in the middle of the Cayenne lineup, Porsche says the GTS variant offers a mix of performance and comfort with the so-called coupe design chipping in to add some extra style. There’s no doubt the 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe is fancy and fast, but it does make some compromises along the way.

Style: 9/10

As far as SUV coupes go, the Cayenne is the most attractive of the bunch, exhibiting none of the bloated awkwardness that afflicts its competition from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. As tested in a bright “Sorry, officer” Carmine Red paint ($3,590), huge 22-inch satin black wheels, enormous blacked-out centrally mounted exhaust tips with a carbon-fibre housing, and a sport package ($17,930) that, among other features, includes a carbon-fibre roof and tinted headlights, this GTS model looks both menacing and high-end.

Inside, the fancy vibes continue with a meticulously crafted cabin, faux-suede everywhere, and the best seats ever. If you can option your future Porsche with the automaker’s houndstooth sport seats, green-light that indulgence right away because they go a long way to make the otherwise serious cabin feel inviting and incredibly special.

My only gripe with the interior style is the slab of shiny black surfacing that houses all the touch-capacitive buttons on the centre console; it’s impossible to keep clean and even after just two days, it got unbearably dusty. I also think the automatic spoiler that pops up at highway speeds looks out of place and awkward on an SUV, coupe or otherwise.

Powertrain: 10/10

The Cayenne GTS Coupe is powered by a sublime 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 that outputs 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, all of which is routed to all four wheels by the brand’s seamless eight-speed automatic transmission. With its rear-biased all-wheel drive system and Sport Chrono package, Porsche claims the combination can rocket this big SUV to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, onto a top speed of 270 km/h.

While I’ve started to prefer the silent operation of electric vehicles, there’s nothing like a big, brash, booming V8 to awaken the senses and make you feel the need to King Kong around, howl into the sky, beat your chest, and intimidate everyone around you. The sound coming out of the Cayenne GTS sounds rich and unapologetic, roaring on start-up, burbling under low stress, and barking when you hammer the throttle as a warning for everyone to get out of your way.

Driving Feel: 10/10

The charm of the Cayenne GTS Coupe is how it engages you as a driver on so many levels. It doesn’t work in the same raw and analogue way that a Mazda MX-5 does, mind you, but it’s still a delight for all your senses. You hear the menacing sounds of the V8 egging you on, you grip the faux-suede steering wheel in your hands and you feel a connection to the road, you feel planted and secure in the sport seats, then you stab the throttle and get rewarded by an instant slingshot forward and even more sound and fury. This is as exciting as an SUV can get.

It’s wild how Porsche can make something with a similar build as a rhino move with as much grace and agility as a cheetah. The Cayenne GTS’s eagerness to change directions seems to defy physics, with the optional rear-axle steering ($1,840) that shrinks its turning circle proving itself to be a worthy upgrade.

The Cayenne GTS Coupe displays immense confidence when driven aggressively, assertively diving into corners and holding your chosen line with precision and grace. The engineers have packed in a lot of technology to ensure this SUV performs like a Porsche should, including an adaptive chassis control system that monitors and adapts to changing situations and demands. Combined with the adaptive air suspension and active torque vectoring, the GTS Coupe feels capable in every situation.

I also appreciate how the different driving modes in the GTS change the SUV’s personality. In normal mode, it can be as mellow as you want, but flip it into sport mode, give the throttle a full jab, and suddenly, you’re doing illegal highway speeds in third gear and the engine still has so much to give.

Comfort: 9/10

While the air suspension can soften or firm up the Cayenne GTS Coupe’s ride according to conditions, the SUV still rides quite harshly over broken roads, but this likely has more to do with the enormous 22-inch wheels and low-profile performance tires.

Inside, front-seat occupants have plenty of head- and legroom but it’s a bit tight in the back, especially if there are taller passengers up front. The seats, however, are comfortable and cozy even during long drives.

Practicality: 7/10

Being the coupe version of the Cayenne, this SUV trades off some practicality in the name of style. The Cayenne GTS Coupe holds 625 L of cargo in the trunk, which opens up to 1,540 L with the rear seats folded. The rear seats are generously bolstered, so they don’t fold completely flat, which makes it harder for large items to slide in easily. The aggressively sloped roof and hatch prevent boxes from being stacked, and the trunk isn’t especially accommodating in general. There are, however, buttons in the trunk that can be used to raise and lower the SUV for easier loading. Up front, there aren’t a lot of cubbies for small item storage, either, and the centre console bin is laughably tiny.

User Friendliness: 8/10

Porsche’s 12.3-inch touchscreen is responsive and quick, and the menus are all intuitive so it never takes too long to find what you’re looking for. I appreciate having shortcut buttons on the centre stack to bring up different menus on the touchscreen, though some drivers won’t like the touch-capacitive buttons. The native navigation system is easy to use, though I prefer having the number and letter keyboards on the same screen so you don’t have to toggle between them. The system also allows users to drag and drop icons to customize their screen.

Visibility out the back is a bit compromised because of the sloping roofline, and even out of the front, the windshield is steeply raked so it can feel a bit ponderous to park and squeeze through tighter parking garages and alleyways. The top-down parking cameras are a must-have upgrade.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

Over 500 km of mixed highway and city driving, the Cayenne GTS Coupe was consuming 14.7 L of 93 octane fuel for every 100 km, not too far off from its official ratings of 15.2 L/100 km in the city, 12.4 on the highway, and 14.0 combined. The SUV has a smooth automatic stop/start system that shuts off the engine while coasting to a stop and won’t turn it back on again until you lift your foot from the brake.

Features: 7/10

Porsche isn’t known to include a generous list of standard features, so if you want all the tech, you’ll have to pay extra for it. It does seem crazy to pay six figures for an SUV and not see features like standard wireless phone charging, ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control, or a head-up display, which are all included on many vehicles that cost a fraction of what this Porsche stickers for.

A short list of standard features includes four USB-C ports, an analogue tachometer flanked by two customizable digital screens, keyless entry, conventional cruise control, a heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto that needs a wired connection, a 10-speaker sound system, voice recognition, two-zone climate control, eight-way power seats, and an analogue clock and lap timer on the dash.

Four-zone climate control, a remote parking assistant, traffic sign recognition, soft close doors, heated rear seats, and ventilated front seats are also all extra, and Porsche gives buyers endless customization options, so the cost of adding in all these desirable features adds up quickly. Basically, Porsche offers all the tech you could want but requires you to pay extra for everything.

Safety: 7/10

While it’s packed full of airbags and passive safety provisions, the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe lacks the active safety and driver-assist technology we have come to expect as standard. The only active safety tech included is frontal collision warning with automatic brake assist. If you want a top-down surround-view parking camera, automatic full emergency braking, night vision assist, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display, it’s $7,120 extra. Blind-spot monitoring is also extra.

Value: 8/10

Even with the disturbing lack of standard features, the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe somehow still feels worth the $127,800 (plus $1,500 in freight and PDI fees) starting price the German brand asks. This mostly comes down to the obsessive build quality, flawless powertrain and driving dynamics, and immense brand prestige, and if those are qualities you value, this SUV is worth every penny. Everything in, my tester rang in at $159,090. I really wish Porsche didn’t charge for certain features that should be included as standard at its price, but I also appreciate the fact that if you’re in the market for something this prestigious in the first place, this issue probably won’t faze you.

The Verdict

The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe proudly lives at the intersection of performance and comfort, but the SUV makes some sacrifices in terms of practicality and features. A twin-turbo V8 is inherently charming, though, and the way this SUV drives blows my mind, which alone will likely make the price of admission worth it for drivers who want performance, power, and prestige.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 4.0L   Model Tested 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
Engine Cylinders Twin-turbo V8   Base Price $127,800
Peak Horsepower 453 hp @ 6,000–6,500 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 457 lb-ft @ 1,800–4,500 rpm   Destination Fee $1,500
Fuel Economy 15.2 / 12.4 / 14.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $159,090
Cargo Space 625 / 1,540 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$29,690 – Carmine Red, $3,590; Rear Axle Steering, $1,840; Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus, $4,090; Soft Close Doors, $880; Surround View Camera, $1,360; Premium Plus Sport Package Black, $17,930