Taking electric stuff out of the equation, it feels like the realm of fast SUVs is the corner of the performance car industry which is progressing the fastest.
At the pointy supercar end of the spectrum, for instance, gains have become marginal - it feels like fast car science is already being pushed as far as it can. But SUVs? It seems there’s still work to be done when it comes to making tall, heavy things corner like they’re not tall, heavy things at all.
Just when we think we’ve gotten used to the bizarrely tidy handling characteristics of a modern uber SUV, the limits are pushed further still. As a perfect case in point, I declared only a couple of weeks ago that the Audi RSQ8 had - dynamically, at least - just about edged the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. But now, there’s a Cayenne GTS, and that’s better than both.
Mechanically, the suspension doesn’t differ from the Turbo’s. However, as with the Panamera GTS, this Cayenne is deliberately set up to be the most focused derivative in the range. Get it on a twisty bit of road, and this is obvious almost immediately. You can massively load up the front beyond what you think is acceptable, squeeze on a little more throttle, and feel the whole thing neatly pivot in the middle as traction briefly departs the rear axle.
Fast changes of direction are brushed off like they’re nothing, and there isn’t a great deal of body roll. The caveat here is ‘our’ GTS test car had rear-axle steering, and on an SUV we’d feel more compelled to recommend speccing than on something like a 911. It’s on these silly fast SUVs where this kind of tech - combined with parts like the also optional and also worth having air suspension - really makes the difference.
I don’t know if the Cayenne GTS can quite be described as ‘silly fast’, though. It may have the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 as the Cayenne Turbo, but the boost pressure is turned down to lower the power from 542bhp to 454bhp, while the torque drops from 568lb ft to 457lb ft.
Still a healthy output, but there is a lot of metal to propel here. The 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds is respectable rather than laugh out loud fast - for comparison, the Turbo will happily smash out the same benchmark in 3.9. And sure enough, it does lack outright drama when you put your foot down.
The lower boost pressures do make for a noticeably more responsive engine, however, and since the power output isn’t too ridiculous, you can enjoy longer bouts of wide-open throttle before needing to lift. A welcome thing, since the V8 sounds nicely rorty, if a little muted.
Unlike the Panamera GTS and its dual-clutch gearbox, the Cayenne uses a conventional torque converter auto, as that’s better for towing things. It may lack the outright aggression of the ‘PDK’ transmission, but it’s really not that far away. The GTS also gets bonus points for using lovely metal shifters, as opposed to the horrible plastic tabs some manufacturers are sticking on the back of steering wheel.
So far, so good. There’s even an electric power steering setup which gives - shock horror - some degree of feedback, as well as bang-on speed and weighting. If you read our Audi RSQ8 review, though, you’ll know that at this point, proceedings can go sideways, with the realisation that the rest of the SUV has been horribly compromised to achieve the bafflingly good dynamics.
Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. Yes, even with the optional air suspension knocked back to its softest setting, the GTS does ride more firmly than some performance SUVs, but it’s well within the realms of acceptability. Meanwhile, the cockpit is brilliantly laid out, solidly built, and is fitted with one of the best infotainment systems in the business.
There’s very little to get annoyed about with the Cayenne GTS. I’ve wracked my brains, and the only things that stick out (literally, as it happens) are the grab handles, which poke a little far into the footwells. Oh, and we do have to take umbrage with the carbon fibre roof option on the ‘Coupe’ - on something like this it’s just a needless waste of money.
Speaking of which, before anything is specced, you’re looking at £85,930 for a standard GTS, or £88,750. This messes with our usual fast SUV caveat that you’d be better off with the cheaper, lighter and lower estate equivalent - it turns out the Panamera GTS Sport Turismo is quite a bit pricier at £109,326.
And so, Porsche has done it again, making another fast SUV that’s almost annoyingly good on every level. You can moan about the existence of these cars all you want, but the brilliance of the execution simply can’t be ignored.