At its best, the performance crossover marries the dynamics of a sports car with the utility of an SUV. The 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe is at its best.
The largest vehicle in the Porsche stable gets the second highest performance trim in the GTS, but for 2021 it comes with a coupe-like option, same as other Cayenne models. The raked windshield, arcing roofline, and lower height (1.2 inches lower) of the Coupe cut out one seat and about 6 cubic feet of cargo volume, essentially trading out utility for style.
Slotting between the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo, with about a $20,000 difference in either direction, the Cayenne GTS gives performance lovers access to the brand’s fantastic 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 without going full Turbo.
Based on pricing, it would seem Porsche wants shoppers to try out the Cayenne Coupe in GTS form; it’s only $2,700 more for the Coupe ($113,050 total) whereas on other models the Coupe upgrade can range from $3,600 (Turbo) to $8,500 (base) more. The inducement made sense to me, and the performance gains felt even more appropriate in the GTS Coupe than in the Cayenne S Coupe I tested last year.
In short, the Cayenne GTS Coupe behaves like a much smaller vehicle, and a long weekend getaway with it tempted me to skip boat rides down the Wisconsin River for ripping down Wisconsin’s empty two-lane highways.
Hit: Seemingly effortless performance
It’s the kind of vehicle you love more each time you get behind the wheel. The twin-turbo V-8 borrowed from the Cayenne Turbo has less boost and its 453 hp is closer in spec to the twin-turbo V-6 in the Cayenne S (434 hp) than the Turbo (541 hp). The top speed reaches 167 mph, but the bigger difference from the V-6 is the 457 lb-ft of torque made by the V-8. It helps the heavy GTS Coupe burn from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds with the standard Sport Chrono package, which is a half-second quicker than a similarly equipped Cayenne S Coupe.
Everything about driving is effortless, even in Normal mode. A light stab of the throttle, or a light turn of the steering wheel causes a dramatic effect. The gutsy shifts from the 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters are smooth, too, even as the V-8 howls near the red. Two exhaust settings included with the Lightweight Sport package enhance the snap, crackle, pop exiting from dual center-mounted tailpipes. Note: That package precludes the ability to tow. Despite that explosive engine note, the GTS Coupe remains mostly quiet at highway cruising speeds, except for road noise thrumming from the tester’s 22-inch wheels.
The most challenging thing about the Cayenne GTS Coupe is staying legal.
Am I gushing? You will too.
The gushing ends in blushing at the tester’s $139,900 price. My tester included $28,140 worth of options, such as the new Lightweight Sport package ($9,140) with a carbon-fiber roof and other carbon-fiber elements that shave off about 50 lb off the GTS Coupe’s nearly 5,000-lb weight. The $1,710 adaptive sport seats with 18-way power adjustments also automatically firm up the bolsters. I’d pay extra for those seats and their added support. Wireless smartphone charging costs $690 and there’s no cooled seats; at a $110,500 starting price, these should be standard.
The air suspension varies the ground clearance from 7.0 inches in Sport mode to up to 9.2 inches to clear off-road obstacles to off-road. The rear can be lowered from the cargo hold to load items easier, but the real magic happens behind the wheel in concert with the GTS Coupe’s adaptive dampers and electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. All the bits conspire to make for a calm, controlled ride with luxury levels of comfort, until the driver decides to put his money to work and whip the Cayenne in and out of corners with little lean yet with the kind of weight balance expected from a sports car.
2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe S
2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe S
2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe S
Miss: Rear space
The 2+2 seating arrangement fits four adults fine, but rear head room can be tight for 6-footers. The 40/20/40 rear seats fold flat, but the tapering roofline trims cargo room down to 21.1 cubic feet with the seats up. With the seats flat, the 53.4 cubic feet of cargo room is 5.9 feet less than the GTS five seater.
Hit: Rear axle steering
The $1,620 rear-axle steering felt more pronounced and beneficial with the longer wheelbase in the Cayenne than in Porsche’s smaller sport coupes. Paired with a recalibrated electrically assisted steering system, turn-in felt sharp despite the Cayenne’s prodigious proportions. Maneuvering at low speeds kept it nimble and parking was as easy as in a sports car but with added height for a better view.
Miss: All the stalks
With a dial for performance settings, the sport steering wheel houses common multimedia functions but relegates many of the driver-assist functions to two of the four steering wheel stalks. The adaptive cruise control stalk is the most confusing. In addition to up or down to increase or decrease speed, the stalk can be pushed back to set the speed or cancel cruise control. Two buttons, one on the end of the stalk and one underneath, set the speed while the lower button activates the “mode.” In a half-dozen instances of using it. I didn’t feel any more familiar.
Otherwise, the technology with Google mapping in the cluster and crystal clear voice commands continues to improve with every Porsche iteration.
It was hard saying goodbye to the Cayenne GTS Coupe. There’s nothing like a Porsche 911, but to get the kind of joy elicited by a 911 in SUV form, while loading up the cargo area or taking a couple of friends for a countryside spin, the Cayenne GTS Coupe is hardly a compromise.
2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
Base price: $111,850, including $1,350 destination
Price as tested: $139,990
Drivetrain: 453-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 15/19/17 mpg
The hits: Acceleration, handling, ride quality
The misses: Limited cargo and passenger room, price and pricey options