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Porsche's track-oriented non-turbo crossover is put to the test.

You, as a responsible Leftlane reader, would probably never think take an SUV onto a race track.

But if you were to do so, you would be hard pressed to find any SUV as capable of track day glory than the 2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS.

Once derided by Porschephiles as a rolling form of sacrilege, models in the Cayenne line have become the brand's best-selling vehicle. The GTS label indicates that this is the naturally-aspirated hot rod version, a thoroughly sport-oriented ride that is remarkably home on a closed course.

What is it?

One of six variations available for the 2013 model year, the Porsche Cayenne GTS is a five-passenger sport utility vehicle with pure Porsche DNA. Powered by the largest nose-breather in the Porsche stable, its 4.8-liter direct injection V8 punches through the air with 420-horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 380 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. That's 20 ponies and 12 lb-ft of torque better than the Porsche Cayenne S.

The engine is mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic-S automatic transmission with auto start/stop for enhanced fuel economy. The included Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM - we can't wait for Super Porsche Active Suspension Management) offers on-the-fly suspension tuning from comfort to normal to sport settings and the ability to lower the overall ride by 24 mm. You surely remember the proverb about giving someone an inch.

Power is sent from the transmission to an advanced traction control system and an active four-wheel-drive setup with independent double wishbones in front and a multilink kit at the rear. Finally on the stopping side of the equation, the Cayenne's 21-inch alloys are equipped with 14.2-inch rotors and 6-pot calipers in front and 13-inchers with four pistons-per-side at the rear.

Our tester was equipped with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3,510), which offers an assist both on and off road. In case of total squirreliness, the rear differential is equipped with the available ($1,490) Porsche Torque Vectoring system (PTV). From there, the sky's the limit as far as options are concerned.

Our GTS tipped the scales at 4,597 lbs. and has a towing capacity of up to 7,716 lbs.

What's it up against?

The Cayenne is available in a wide variety of flavors ranging from V6 power to Hybrid, and all the way up to the King of the Hill Turbo. So too, its competitors. In this case, think BMW X5 M and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, plus maybe the Mercedes-Benz ML550.

How does it look?

Originally blobby and slightly awkward, the Cayenne has come into its own. Now well into its second generation, starting with the 2011 model year, it has cast off the boxier utilitarian appearance it shared with the Touareg.

It now features the more fluid and curvy appearances that are seen with the Porsche 911 and Panamera. The swoopier looks help to keep the brand DNA clearly front and center.

The GTS shares the gaping vent work seen on the big brother Turbo model. It is also equipped with the new body-colored SportDesign package of side skirts, a roof spoiler with a twin-wing appearance, and wheel arch extensions, all of which look a little silly on an SUV, if you ask us.

And on the inside?

The interior is the equivalent of an ultra-suede love fest, except for the fact that it is really synthetic Alcantara. Offering a grippy tactile sensation, it is used to cover virtually every surface inside that a human will come in contact with. Its purpose is twofold: to offer the sense of luxury, but also the utility of holding them firmly in place while this hot rod SUV maneuvers through the urban and suburban jungles.

The seats offered all-day comfort, front and rear, although we would have enjoyed them more if they were ventilated, to compensate for the higher temperatures that arrive in spring.

A grippy three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters mimics the design found in early 911's and as a result is surprisingly devoid of buttons, toggles and other switches found on contemporary wheels these days. Instead, controls are well within arm's reach of the driver, usually found on the center console.

A stellar, but costly, Burmester sound system was included for the princely sum of $5,690. Offering some of the clearest audio we have ever heard, it was a shame that it did, from time to time, manage to drown out the other type of music coming from underhood.

The navigation system offers 3D Bird's Eye view with satellite imagery, but overall, we find the console to be a touch busy, owing to Porsche's current fascination with small buttons. The five-gauge layout is here, stretching across the binnacle of the driver's IP. We like the programmable TFT screen within one of the gauges that is configurable for navigation, audio, Bluetooth, trip, and vehicle functions, just by stepping through with a stalk-mounted control lever.

Cargo capacity in the way-back is rated at nearly 63 cubic feet.

But does it go?

The GTS is an interesting take on a performance vehicle. Not the top of the line, like the Cayenne Turbo, it still manages to offer blistering acceleration with surprising economy. The 4.8-liter V8 is truly a work of art, whose power and aural sensations managed to impress an 85-year-old mother-in-law to the point where she was giggling like a schoolgirl. Essentially a sports car that doesn't quite realize that it's an SUV, our model had us switching modes depending on our situation.

In comfort mode, our Cayenne GTS operated like the cushiest of cushy SUVs, coddling its passengers with great interior comfort and a not-a-care-in-the-world driving experience that would make most other Utes envious. Switching over to sport realized a Jekyll and Hyde transformation that ladles on the boy racer goodness with a thickness that oozes performance.

From the tightened steering feel to the higher tip-in of the throttle, to the rev-matching downshifts, we could see the GTS meant business.

You don't buy a Cayenne GTS for its fuel economy, but our tester's 15/21 mpg rating proved achievable - we averaged 17.8 mpg compared to the window sticker's 17 mpg figure.

Tenacious G - as in grip - was served up by the Michelin Latitude Sport tires, which did their part to make the vehicle handle like one with half its mass. Sport mode offered rev-matching downshifts when applying the brakes, almost in anticipation of our next move.

Other controls offered variable settings including ride height. Conversely an off-road setting raises the chassis for added clearance. But if you attempt to take this vehicle off-road, you should have your head examined. It belongs on the paved surfaces of some of the world's greatest roads.

Leftlane's bottom line

The Porsche Cayenne GTS is a middle-of-the-road SUV that is anything but middle of the road. Offering performance just short of the top of the line Cayenne Turbo, it is a tarted up hussy that manages to "go to eleven."

2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS base price, $82,050. As tested, $123,265.

Meteor Grey Metallic, $790; GTS Interior package, $3,665; Auto dimming mirrors, $420; Light comfort package, $250; Sport Chrono package, $270; SiriusXM radio, $1,120; Noise insulation, $1,120; PDCC, $3,510; Trailer hitch, $650; PTV Plus, $1,490; Sport Wheel, $290; Panorama Sun Roof, $660; Cargo Management, $590; Heated seats, F+R, $1,050; Porsche Entry, $1,090; GTS Exterior Package, $3,450; PCM with Navigation, $3,675; Rear View Camera, $1,750; LCA, $850; Adaptive Cruise control, $2,490; Burmester Audio, $5,690; Extended LED lighting, $845; Car Key Painted, $335; 21-inch Alloy wheels, $2,605; Aluminum Tiptronic gear lever, $495; Stainless door sill guards, $1,100; Destination, $975.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.