Ice, snow and a 434bhp, 163mph SUV might seem like a combination best suited to a disaster movie, but this is no ordinary SUV. Porsche has brought its latest Cayenne in GTS form to its winter driving centre in Skellefteå, northern Sweden, even though in the UK it’s more likely to experience a nice heated garage on days when the thermometer is showing -10.
The Cayenne may have had something of a rocky start when it first appeared in 2002 – mainly due to its divisive looks that try to force too many 911 design cues onto a big body – but since then it’s not only sold by the container-load and secured the future of Porsche, it has also won many fans who want something big and relatively sensible but without foregoing the fun factor altogether.
As with other models in the Porsche range, the GTS tag denotes the sportiest model available, bar anything wearing a Turbo or GT3 badge. You get a power boost over the Cayenne S, but where the old model used a roaring naturally aspirated V8 you now get a twin-turbocharged V6. Purists will be aghast, accountants will be happy; on a like-for-like basis the new GTS has an extra 20bhp and 60lb.ft of torque yet emits 23g fewer grammes of CO2 per kilometre. Emissions are king, which is why Porsche isn’t the only high performance manufacturer switching to turbochargers.
GTS also means exterior enhancements, notably a discreet bodykit finished in the same shade as the body itself. Add in the handsome wheels finished in black and you have the best-looking Cayenne of the lot, not forgetting that this second-generation version is already far more handsome than the original. The interior is deliciously welcoming, even more so when it’s snowing and sub-zero outside. GTS spec means Alcantara everywhere; the roof lining, door pillars and seats, but unfortunately not the steering wheel. The standard sports seats hug you tightly and the relationship between the high centre tunnel, seating position and window line means you get an excellent view while feeling comfortably snug. When it’s madness outside – be that arctic conditions or Cannon Street – the Cayenne is the perfect place to shut it all out.
The twin-turbo V6 sends to all four wheels a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, and it shifts swiftly and seamlessly, helping you to make the most of the performance. With a thick layer of snow under tyre a serious squeeze of the throttle will break traction, but even then the acceleration is rapid; in ideal conditions 0-62mph is possible in just 5.1 seconds, and the GTS feels every bit as fast as that. The switch to a turbo V6 means the soundtrack isn’t quite as thrilling, but there’s still a characterful rasp when you apply the right pedal.
What really separates the Cayenne from its rivals, however, is its behaviour in the bends. GTS cars get Porsche Active Suspension Management as standard, with 24mm lowering on cars with steel suspension and 20mm for air-sprung cars. Switching between softer and stiffer settings shows the breadth of its ability; ride comfort is remarkably good for a car wearing such huge wheels, but body roll never becomes an issue.
Conversely, if you decide to start throwing it around it displays remarkable balance, control and accuracy, especially for a car of this size. Porsche laid on a handling track, which was not only tighter than an underground car park but also treacherously slippery, so much so that even those on foot couldn’t stay upright (me included). Even so, the Cayenne GTS could be hustled, drifted and blasted around the tight turns with the grace of something much smaller and lighter.
The Cayenne’s place in the Porsche line up is secured. It is its best-selling model for a multitude of reasons but happily that hasn’t stopped the improvements coming. Like with so many of its siblings the GTS model is the pick of the range, being very well-specified, good-looking and a complete hoot to drive.
0-62MPH: 5.1 secs
TOP SPEED: 163mph
CO2 G/KM: 228g/km
MPG COMBINED: 28.8mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★★