2009 Porsche Cayenne

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First Drive: 2008 Porsche Cayenne GTS

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2010.

Algarve, Portugal — Porsche, a marque distinguished for setting sports-car standards throughout the automotive realm, decided in 2002 that it would inch out on a limb and launch its own line of Sport Utility Vehicles. The birth of the Cayenne proved a smart move and arrived in multiple trim levels from a base V-6 model to the top-of-the-line turbocharged V-8 juggernaut. Cayennes are competent on-road performers and yet fairly capable off-road explorers, but therein lies the compromise. Porsche's desire to keep its brand identity prominent within each model line has inspired the most road-focused Cayenne yet, the GTS.

The GTS, in power and price, splits the difference between the S and Turbo models. Peak engine output has been upped by 20 bhp over the S to 405, which occurs at 6500 rpm instead of 6200, thanks to flow optimization of the intake manifold and a 6-mm-larger throttle body, now 82 mm in diameter. Peak torque remains unchanged at 369 lb.-ft. and still comes in nice and low at 3500 rpm.

Equipped with the standard 6-speed manual (available for the first time with the V-8), the GTS pulls nicely even out of relatively tight turns in 3rd gear. Credit the V-8's available torque for this, but a new shorter final-drive ratio of 4.1:1 from 3.55:1 (the automatic already came with this ratio) also makes a fair contribution. The manual gearbox has slightly longer throws than what you would expect from a traditional Porsche, but the engagement is familiarly exact with a pedal arrangement that allows for natural heel-and-toeing.

We wouldn't blame you for choosing the 6-speed Tiptronic automatic in the interest of sanity preservation in heavy traffic, but we've never really grown accustomed to the awkward placement of the thumb shifters for sporting purposes.

As we made our way along the western coast of Portugal, a fair number of smooth mountain roads provided a great proving ground for the sportier suspension tuning. The GTS comes standard with air suspension for the U.S. along with new calibration for PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management). This means that although it rides 20 mm lower than the S, you'll still enjoy the benefit of multiple suspension heights and damper settings.

PDCC, Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, is Porsche's version of active roll control, which you may be familiar with on some high-end cars. Available as an option, this system is able to alter anti-roll- bar force electronically, opposing body roll up to 0.65g. Porsche purposefully limits roll compensation to this amount to avoid isolating the driver completely from road input, which some over-boosted systems often do.

Huge 21-in. alloy wheels wrapped in aggressive 295/35R-21 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber keep us nicely attached to the curvy roads and bumpers of ostensibly sportier cars. Our stopping hardware is impressive and confidence-inspiring with 13.7-in. rotors and 6-piston monobloc calipers in the front, and 13.0-in. rotors with 4-piston monoblocs at the rear, hauling down a minimum of 5000 lb. to a standstill at any given moment.

The exterior of the GTS is very similar to that of the Turbo, which shares both front and rear fascias giving it a very hunkered-down stance. The wheel arches are flared an additional 0.55 in. to make way for the gigantic alloys as Porsche Sports Design Package side-sills complete the look.

Inside the GTS, leather abounds, interspersed with aluminum trim. Alcantara details enhance the interior visually, along the headliner and center console, door panels, gear shift and seat center sections. If $69,300 falls within your automotive budget, you'll be able to pick up your own GTS at a Porsche dealer this April.

Content provided byRoad & Track.
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BB06 - 4/16/2014 3:22:45 AM