x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A review of the energy-packed 2014 Porsche Cayenne GTS.

The 2013 Porsche Cayenne. Courtesy of Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
The 2013 Porsche Cayenne. Courtesy of Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Peridot; maybe it’s just me, but I had to look it up to be reminded. It’s a brilliant green gemstone, and if your birthday falls in August then it’s your birthstone. Treat yourself, it’s quite beautiful.

It’s not, however, a colour normally covering a car, unless, of course, it’s a 10-year-old Civic with a deafening aftermarket exhaust, driven by some gormless 20-year-old with his hat on backward and his trousers hanging precariously low. Or perhaps it would be on a ridiculously fast and expensive supercar, driven by a much older and much more affluent member of society. Funny how there’s that correlation.

And, it’s the colour of this Porsche. Well, it is a Porsche, after all, and you’d certainly need to be on the affluent side to afford its Dh378,000 sticker price. But this isn’t a wild 911 Turbo or even the lithe Cayman, it’s the Cayenne. An SUV. A family hauler.

Granted, it does haul. The GTS is the Cayenne’s top-of-the-line model, a 420hp screamer with a limited top speed of 261kph. And room for five – kids, make sure to buckle in. But if you like to be noticed, then you won’t mind the metallic lime – excuse me, peridot, according to Porsche – paint job on this car. And if you don’t mind the colour, you are probably looking for something a little on the wild side, and this GTS certainly delivers that.

Push the throttle down and hold on to your juice box; 515Nm of torque coming at just 3,500rpm will launch it to 100kph in 5.8 seconds, just a tick slower than its main rival, the Range Rover Sport. There are cars out there quicker, but sitting high in the saddle heightens the feeling of speed, and darting around traffic, passing on the motorway or getting to work early are exciting propositions for the GTS.

Normally, I’m all about the performance of a car; I take an “instant on” approach with the ubiquitous Sport button when I strap into a car and turn the engine over. But after a few times driving around town in Sport with the GTS, I decided to leave it off. Activating the Sport mode changes the gearbox for a more aggressive shift pattern, holding the gear longer and shifting quicker. But this is a luxurious SUV, not a sports car – no matter how much Porsche will tell you otherwise. On city streets, the Sport mode is just too rough a drive, jerking the car with every shift and revving high enough to sound like that V8 is going to explode. Plus, the car has more than enough power in Normal mode to rocket off at the signals and ensure your spot in the fast lane on the motorway.

Surprisingly, its handling is a match for the V8’s power. I say surprisingly not because it’s a Porsche; you just have to expect that from the German car maker. But surprisingly because this 2,085 kilogram, tall SUV seems to defy the laws of physics when it comes to cornering. It would have to be coming into a turn at very foolish speeds before the tyres just start to screech, and that’s thanks to a traction control system that splits the torque automatically to whichever wheel needs it the most. Also lending a hand is what the engineers behind the 911 and Caymen call Pasm – Porsche Active Suspension Management. Many car makers offer similar suspensions; each damper adjusts its firmness independently and instantly, keeping the car flat and solid under heavy braking or cornering. For an SUV with more than 400hp, these systems are pretty well necessary to keep it reined in safely, and they work sublimely in tandem here. The Pasm also allows the ride height to be raised or lowered, depending if you want to hit the track or climb a curb for parking; unfortunately, though it is an all-wheel-drive SUV, its low-profile tyres really aren’t suited for serious desert trekking.

But the GTS isn’t all about performance; this is a spacious, luxury SUV meant to coddle just as much as excite. Inside, the sport seats are comfortable and supportive, with black leather on this model covering just about every interior surface – all put together with body-matching, lime-coloured stitching, a design feature exclusive to the GTS. It’s a nice touch. And while the centre console seems lined with a confusing array of buttons, they all make sense once you spend some time with the car. There seems to be just about every convenience available to the driver – except a rear-view camera. In such a large and very exclusive car as this, it seems to be an unforgivable oversight.

Rear camera aside, all of this adds up to a very good car, of course. The Cayenne GTS is pretty well impeccable when it comes to fit and finish, luxury and performance. But is it too much? This is an SUV; I’d like to know who will actually take this on a track, because pushing its limits of power and handling would be far, far beyond what would be safe on public roads. The Sport mode is too rough for everyday driving and, quite frankly, I really didn’t feel like driving this tall vehicle like a maniac anyway. I like the pampering luxury, the high driving position, the smooth power available under my foot; while the GTS’s handling is admittedly very good, it’s still no sports car, certainly not a 911, and I have a feeling that buying a lower-model Cayenne – saving tens of thousands of dirhams in the process – would be just as satisfying, if not more so. Maybe all that money saved could go towards a Cayman for some real fun on the track.