Cars and Trucks

Tested: 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe Sings a V-8 Anthem

UPDATE 6/4/21: This review has been updated with test results.

The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe’s twin-turbo V-8 makes it feel powerful and fast. Its massive exhaust pipes make it sound cool. But it’s the integration of that stirring V-8 in the Cayenne lineup’s most aggressive chassis setup that makes it good. As what we’d consider the driver’s pick among big Porsche SUVs, the mid-range GTS Coupe brings together a performance-price compromise that’s difficult to ignore—well, until you start it up and floor the accelerator. Then it’s impossible to ignore.

The GTS formula for the latest Cayenne, both in coupe and SUV bodies, adds only a few new items from Porsche’s parts bin. As in the Panamera GTS, the 4.0-liter V-8 is borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo model yet huffs a little less boost (11.6 psi versus 18.8 psi) to catch a 453-hp buzz, which is closer to the 434-hp Cayenne S than to the 541-hp Turbo. The GTS’s 457 pound-feet of torque, however, is a significant 52 pound-feet more than you get from the S’s twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6. The ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system are standard Cayenne fare.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

HIGHS: Intoxicating V-8 noise, impressive handling balance and grip, beautifully refined.

The Sport Chrono package—launch control, a more relaxed Sport stability-control setting, a dash-mounted stopwatch timer, and a steering-wheel-mounted drive-mode selector with normal, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual settings—is standard on the GTS Coupe but a $1130 option on the conventional squareback model. As equipped, our 5014-pound test car weighed 145 pounds more than a Cayenne S Coupe yet was a smidge quicker. Its 3.9-second 60-mph time and 12.5-second quarter-mile at 110 mph beat the S model by 0.2 second in both measures. However, the gap widens considerably versus the Cayenne Turbo. We haven’t tested a Turbo Coupe yet, but we expect it to mirror the Turbo SUV’s 3.4-second effort to 60 mph. And GTS Coupe buyers will want to be wary of picking a street race with other V-8-powered fastback SUVs, such as the 500-hp Audi SQ8 and the 523-hp BMW X6 M50i. Despite weighing more than the Porsche, both of those models are quicker in a straight line and cost thousands less to start.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Unique to the Cayenne GTS, especially the Coupe version, is a new standard active sport exhaust system that uncorks the 4.0-liter through two darkened tailpipes at each corner of the rear bumper. You can up the sound level further on the GTS Coupe if you’re willing to splurge on the $9140 Lightweight Sport package as fitted to our test car, which adds specially tuned pipes and mufflers that project even more engine noise out of a pair of large, centrally located oval cannons. Also included are a carbon-fiber roof in place of the standard panoramic glass piece, 22-inch wheels (though our tester was fitted with 21-inch wheels and Pirelli P Zero Corsa PZC4 summer tires), painted fender flares, black exterior accents, carbon-fiber interior trim, the awesome houndstooth-and-leather seat covers and a microsuede-wrapped steering wheel. Even-grander Lightweight bundles ranging from $10,350 to $12,260 are available and tack on additional exterior trim rendered in black or carbon fiber, respectively. Lest you question where the GTS Coupe’s priorities lie, that wicked center-exit exhaust precludes towing anything.

LOWS: Six-figure pricing, fancy exhaust precludes towing anything, less-expensive rivals are quicker.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

Turn the vestigial key nub that’s located left of the steering wheel, and the GTS Coupe settles into a deep rumble that transitions to a tempered growl in casual driving. But mat the accelerator and a brassy, 82-decibel roar permeates the cabin through the GTS’s reduced sound insulation in its cargo area. Thankfully, Porsche refrained from adding excessive artificial pops and bangs from the exhaust, and we noticed little if any droning on the highway. A subdued 66-decibel sound measurement at 70 mph reinforced the Cayenne’s luxury billing.

While seriously quick, the GTS’s less-than-ferocious acceleration affords you ample time to soak up the glorious noise as the 4.0-liter revs to its 6800-rpm redline. Shifts from the ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic transmission are almost as quick and faultless as those from Porsche’s dual-clutch transmission (also a ZF product) in the Panamera. And for V-8 audiophiles who scoff at the GTS’s meager horsepower rating, Porsche will soon make the GTS Coupe’s optional center-exit exhaust available on Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupes.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

The added theater of a V-8 with loud pipes makes it that much easier to enjoy hard driving in the GTS Coupe. Porsche’s third-generation Cayenne could already do an impressive impersonation of a sports sedan. The GTS enhances the Cayenne’s cornering talents by fitting standard adjustable air springs. Porsche’s adaptive PASM dampers and PTV Plus torque-vectoring system are standard, as are big cast-iron brake rotors—15.4-inchers with six-piston calipers in front and 14.1-inchers with four-piston calipers at the rear. Larger tungsten-carbide-coated (PSCB) and carbon-ceramic (PCCB) brake setups are optional, but even the standard stoppers can halt the GTS Coupe from 70 mph in just 154 feet.

Our GTS Coupe also featured the Cayenne’s active anti-roll bars ($3590) and rear-axle steering ($1620) with variable Power Steering Plus, which combine to significantly enhance both low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. The GTS Coupe is still a hulking thing, and approaching its 1.00 g of skidpad grip on a back road is a daunting task. But its agility is uncanny for an SUV, and it is possible to slide its back end a bit when booting it out of tight corners in Sport mode. Body control is exemplary even when being tossed through quick transitions with abandon. Porsche’s engineers made slight revisions to the calibration of the GTS’s electrically assisted steering, which has a general lightness to it that increases subtly yet effectively as you load up the chassis in turns. The result is an impressively precise and tactile system that relays plenty of information from the contact patches.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

The Cayenne GTS’s standout quality, other than the sound it makes, is how seamlessly its many high-tech systems gel with the chassis. We’d prefer smaller wheels for dealing with Michigan’s cratered roads, but the Coupe’s Lightweight package necessitates large wheels and we’d regret passing on its rorty exhaust system. Fortunately, overall ride quality is commendable on most surfaces, with the only harshness coming from sharp, high-frequency impacts. As you’d expect, fuel economy can vary widely depending on how aggressively you play the eight-cylinder instrument under the GTS’s hood. We recorded an impressive 23 mpg on our 75-mph highway test—4 mpg better than what the EPA reckons—yet only 16 mpg overall due to our regular romps to the twin-turbo V-8’s redline.

Porsche’s other GTS models are embellished with black exterior accents, and the Cayennes are no different. Inside, you’ll find standard dark brushed-aluminum trim and a sprinkling of GTS logos, as well as microsuede for the seat inserts, headliner, center console armrest, and door panels. Additional red or white accents and contrast stitching can be added, although not in conjunction with the cool, retro fabric houndstooth seat inserts that come with the Coupe’s Lightweight packages. Nicely supportive eight-way power-adjustable sport seats are standard but can be upgraded to either adaptive 18-way units or 14-way comfort thrones. As is the case with Porsche’s other GTS models, the Cayennes bundle a good amount of standard equipment that saves around $4000 or so versus a comparably equipped Cayenne S version.

Marc UrbanoCar and Driver

However, the GTS treatment still makes for an expensive Cayenne—$108,650 to start for the SUV and $111,850 for the coupe. Those prices equate to a $20K-plus upcharge over an equivalent Cayenne S model. And be mindful not to get carried away raiding Porsche’s vast trove of options. Our well-equipped test GTS Coupe stickered for $142,171, but prices can sail past $160K if you opt for all of the performance upgrades plus additional luxury features such as soft-close doors, night vision, and an upgraded Burmester audio system. At that price point, we wouldn’t hesitate to forsake a few frills and turn our attention to the $133,250 Turbo Coupe and its additional 88 horsepower.

Yet, for prospective Cayenne S buyers willing to spend moderately more money for something edgier and more engaging, the GTS brings V-8 power and handling that transcends SUV expectations. Like the other GTS models in the Porsche lineup, the Cayennes offer a tempting brew of performance and value. If you have the discipline to keep the price out of Turbo territory, this could be all the Cayenne you need.

Specifications

Specifications

2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe

Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

PRICE

Base/As Tested: $111,850/$142,171

Options: Lightweight Sport Package, $9140, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, $3590; Chalk paint, $3150; Pirelli P Zero PZC4 tires (dealer installed), $2181; Adaptive Sport Seats Plus with Memory Pack, $1710; rear-axle steering, $1620; Bose Surround Sound system, $1200; Surround View camera system, $1200; thermally and noise-insulated glass, $1130; front and rear heated seats, $1060; Lane Change Assist, $950; Comfort Access, $940; soft-close doors, $780; smartphone compartment with wireless charging, $690; gloss-black upper wing, $560; auto-dimming mirrors, $420

ENGINE

twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 332-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 244 in3, 3996 cm3

Power: 453 hp @ 6500 rpm

Torque: 457 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

CHASSIS

Suspension, F/R: multilink/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 15.4-in vented disc/14.1-in vented disc

Tires: Pirelli P Zero Corsa PZC4

F: 285/40R-21 (109Y) N0

R: 315/35R-21 (111Y) N0

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 196.3 in

Length: 114.0 in

Width: 78.0 in

Height: 66.0 in

Passenger Volume: 104 ft3

Cargo Volume: 21 ft3

Curb Weight: 5014 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS

60 mph: 3.9 sec

100 mph: 10.2 sec

1/4-Mile: 12.5 sec @ 110 mph

130 mph: 18.9 sec

150 mph: 29.8 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 4.9 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.8 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 3.4 sec

Top Speed (mfr’s claim): 168 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 153 ft

Braking, 100–0 mph: 313 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 1.00 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY

Observed: 16 mpg

75-mph Highway Driving: 23 mpg

Highway Range: 540 mi

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/City/Highway: 17/15/19 mpg

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