2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe First Test Review: Who Needs Turbo Models?

Porsche Cayenne Full Overview

Just as the most expensive wine on the menu isn’t always the best choice for everyone, picking the priciest Porsche Cayenne Coupe model simply because you can isn’t the smartest choice. By track-testing five Cayennes over the last few years including the $148,150 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe you see here, we’ve learned the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid models don’t actually hit the lineup’s sweet spot. Here’s what the Cayenne GTS Coupe does right and where it falls short.

How Quick Is the Cayenne GTS Coupe?

If you’ve gotta have a V-8, start your search with the Cayenne GTS and Cayenne GTS Coupe. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood produces 453 hp from 6,000-6,500 rpm and 457 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 rpm all the way to 4,500 rpm. Unless you’ve just stepped out of a Cayenne Turbo Coupe, those are impressive numbers, even for a 5,008-pound SUV (as tested). What’s more impressive, though, is how the Cayenne GTS Coupe performs on the track.

The Cayenne GTS Coupe reaches 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds in MotorTrend testing, cutting 0.4-0.7 second from Porsche’s estimates. We’ve tested a 455-hp E-Hybrid hitting 60 in 4.2 seconds, and a base Cayenne finishes the benchmark sprint in a respectable 5.1 seconds (both non-Coupe variants). That’s great, but if this is strictly about beating all comers in an imaginary run down a dragstrip, the GTS model falls 0.6 second behind the Turbo Coupe, which has a 541-hp version of the same V-8 and accelerates to 60 in a stunningly quick 3.2 seconds. We like the Cayenne Turbo Coupe, but there should be more to (Porsche) life than acceleration bragging rights. Just ask our test crew.

GTS Coupe Handling: As Good as a Turbo?

After complimenting the Cayenne GTS Coupe on its explosive power, road test editor Chris Walton had nothing but positive comments on this heavy sports car disguised as an SUV: “The steering in Sport Plus mode is very pointy and precise. I absolutely love how it power-slides off each corner with confidence and precision each time.”

Put it all together, and Walton, who called the Cayenne Turbo Coupe “fast, fluid, unflappable, and fun,” prefers the GTS Coupe. “Somehow, the GTS Coupe is more fun than the Turbo Coupe,” he noted after he drove the latest Cayenne variant on the track. “I’m starting to feel that the GTS trims are an overlooked value compared to the top-dog Turbo or Turbo S models.”

Oh, and if you’re still focused on bragging rights, know that our Cayenne GTS Coupe test SUV pulled a full 1.00 g on the skidpad, whereas the pricier Cayenne Turbo Coupe only managed 0.98 g. However, superior acceleration and braking give the Turbo model a slight advantage on our figure-eight course, which evaluates braking, acceleration, handling, and the transitions in between. The GTS model completed the figure-eight course in 24.2 seconds at 0.79 g (average), just behind the Turbo’s 24.1 seconds at 0.82 g (average).

On the street, the Cayenne GTS Coupe never feels as light as a 911 but is otherwise fun to drive. On the way to your winding road of choice, the available air suspension will soak up most bumps better than you’d expect, though the rear suspension occasionally allows harsh impacts over dips and road imperfections into the cabin. Braking from the available carbon-ceramic discs inspires confidence on the street and the track, where 60-0-mph braking took 104 feet. That’s better than a Lamborghini Urus (107 feet) but just behind the Cayenne Turbo Coupe (100 feet).

The one significant dynamic drawback to the Cayenne GTS Coupe is the way the eight-speed transmission interacts with the engine stop/start system—it’s awful. When you’re hustling, the transmission offers what our test crew described as “quick, snappy shifts.” But in every other driving situation, if you’ve forgotten to turn the steering wheel drive-model dial out of the normal drive mode, the stop/start system turns the engine off before you actually come to a stop. That in itself isn’t bad, but the way the car executes this tech is. So if you get a Cayenne, plan on switching to your custom drive mode every time you get into the SUV.

Two Reasons to Get the GTS-ified Cayenne Coupe

From the moment you wake up the twin-turbo V-8, all eight cylinders remind you why you went GTS. Porsche specially tuned the available Sport Exhaust system that, for now, is exclusive to the GTS Coupe model. Crucially, Porsche realized that owners need to be able to hear it at low rpms as well as when you mischievously surprise your significant other with a full-throttle burst of speed. If that’s your thing, know that Porsche engineers also reduced the amount of insulation in the rear of the SUV to make the aural experience that much better. The Porsche really does sound good, though it’s not the most raucous SUV you can buy. If that’s your top priority, try the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and Range Rover SVAutobiography, two wild SUVs with V-8 exhaust notes that may announce your presence to onlookers before you actually arrive. The two British options are also both arguably more attractive than the Cayenne variants—the Porsche’s blocky front styling isn’t for everyone.

If you’re set on Porsche’s 434-hp six-cylinder S model, we’d suggest a long, hard look at the GTS. That higher trim isn’t much different in price if you add performance options like the air suspension, carbon-ceramic brakes, and rear axle steering (the latter is especially recommended). Assuming you aren’t fazed by guilt about driving a car that can’t manage 20 mpg in EPA testing, the GTS should be on your list. Yes, Porsche offers not one but two plug-in hybrids, but we’d think twice about the 670-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid model because of its needs-work brake feel.

Order VERY Carefully

Wait! Before you order a new Cayenne GTS or Cayenne GTS Coupe, be sure to check the options list very carefully. Porsche still charges extra for features commonly found on sub-$30,000 Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas. Our $148,150 test SUV, for example, had a smart key system added as an option and lacked adaptive cruise control. It’s absurd, but you’re already head over heels for Porsche, aren’t you? This isn’t about value: Whether you’re custom ordering a new Cayenne or picking one off the dealer lot, make sure it has your must-have features. Otherwise, you’ll not only miss using those features—even the special Sport Exhaust system is optional on the GTS Coupe—but some will stare at you when sunlight reflects on the futuristic-looking black center console. For example, our test SUV lacked ventilated front seats but still retained a darkened and unselectable icon for the feature.

So like most Porsches, the Cayenne GTS Coupe doesn’t win on traditional value. But you knew that. Seen another way, Porsche is unmatched compared to its German rivals. Yes, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi all have decades of heritage, but you won’t find a FWD-based $35,000 car in Porsche’s lineup—there’s prestige and snob-appeal in that exclusivity.

Maybe Lease It?

From the Audi Q8 to the Mercedes GLE Coupe and the BMW X6, SUVs like the Cayenne Coupe are about making a statement. And if you have $150,000 burning a hole in your freakishly large pocket, the Cayenne GTS Coupe could work for a performance enthusiast. But it’s not the only quick, style-focused SUV out there—who knows, you may even appreciate the design of the standard Cayenne or Macan more. Really, the biggest issue with the 2021 Cayenne Coupe is the 2022 Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe. It’s nearly refresh time for the Cayenne lineup, which could mean minor design and functional updates your 2021 model will lack. But if the new-car bug has stung you and value isn’t a concern, enjoy a well-optioned Cayenne GTS Coupe. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the most entertaining SUVs available today.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe
BASE PRICE $111,850
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 4.0L/453-hp/457-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,008 lb (56/44%)
WHEELBASE 114.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 193.6 x 78.0 x 66.0 in
0-60 MPH 3.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 12.5 sec @ 109.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 104 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.2 sec @ 0.79 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/177 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.17 lb/mile

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