Porsche’s new Cayenne is an SUV which thinks it’s a hot hatch

The Cayenne GTS hits the century mark in 5.1 seconds.
The Cayenne GTS hits the century mark in 5.1 seconds.PHOTOS: PORSCHE
The Cayenne GTS hits the century mark in 5.1 seconds.
The Cayenne GTS hits the century mark in 5.1 seconds.PHOTO: PORSCHE

Porsche's latest Cayenne GTS is a hot hatch disguised as an SUV

The Cayenne was the first modern Porsche to don the historic GTS badge in 2008. Since then, those three letters have represented uncompromising sportiness and good value (relatively speaking) across the Porsche range.

The GTS variants fill the gap between the S models and the turbo variants. But can a 2,110kg SUV really be synonymous with Porsche-like driving dynamics?

Firstly, the Cayenne has never been a looker. But in the GTS, you get a Cayenne Turbo front end, extended wheel arches, side sills and 20-inch alloys to soften the blow of the car's overall dumpy form.

Like most cars these days, the GTS has been downsized. Gone is the sonorous 4.3-litre V8 and in its place is a higher-tuned 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 from the Cayenne S.

The good news is that there is an extra 20bhp (to 440bhp) and 85Nm of torque (to 600Nm) compared with its predecessor. The car is cleaner and more efficient too.

  • SPECS/PORSCHE CAYENNE GTS

  • Price: From $505,488 without COE

    Engine: 3,604c 24-valve V6 turbocharged

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 440bhp at 6000rpm

    Torque: 600Nm at 1,600-5,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 5.1 seconds

    Top speed: 262kmh

    Fuel consumption: 9.8 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Stuttgart Auto

Handling-enhancing goodies such as Porsche's Active Suspension Management (PASM) and a 24mm lower ride height are standard issue. To compensate for loss of the old V8's singing voice, there is a sports exhaust system.

The chassis upgrades, together with the new engine, will rearrange your notions of full-sized luxury SUVs - or physics, for that matter. If the Turbo variant utilises sheer speed to shock, the GTS mesmerises with its talents in the bends.

There are three drive modes to choose from: comfort, sport and sport plus. Going from comfort to sports plus, the steering, transmission, throttle response and suspension become decidedly racier.

Although ride quality is firm, you can just about get away with choosing sport mode on a daily basis. But where this behemoth truly shines is in sport plus mode.

Blessed with sublime agility, accurate steering and an incredible ability to hide its bulk when going around corners, the GTS is an SUV which thinks it is a hot hatch. Except this oversized hot hatch is capable of 0 to 100kmh in just 5.1 seconds - way quicker than a VW Golf GTI.

The only time you are reminded you are in a full-sized SUV is when you look down and realise you are half a metre from the ground. Or when you look behind and see your three rear passengers seated comfortably with room to spare.

The new turbo power plant, while not as characterful and vocal as the old V8, has ample punch at lower revs to incite giggles when you put your foot down. And although the GTS lacks Porsche's rapid dual- clutch transmission, its eight-speed automatic is more than up to the job. And it contributes to better efficiency as well.

The GTS is not just a sports car disguised as an SUV. Select comfort mode and it turns into a refined, luxurious tourer. Quality and posh factor in the cabin are top notch, with the only complaint being Porsche's old, laggy infotainment system showing its age against the improved system in the new 911 models.

Having had the chance to drive the S and Turbo variants alongside the GTS during this road test, the GTS clearly strikes the sweetest spot between handling and performance.

Porsche's own Macan was the standard-bearer when it came to sporty SUVs. But the Cayenne GTS has rewritten the rulebook with its bewildering dynamic handling and, with that, is certainly more than worthy of the GTS badge.

  • The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Big and powerful'. Print Edition | Subscribe