Most sporty SUVs represent a compromise. They attempt to be all things to all people, combining their practicality and size while offering enjoyable handling and performance. But while many contenders try to walk this fine line, almost none succeed. Making a tall SUV filled with all of the heavy tech and luxury materials that most buyers expect that is still genuinely fun to drive is a tall order. However, by simply ignoring the laws of physics, the 2022 Porsche Cayenne GTS achieves just that.
By most metrics, the third-generation Porsche Cayenne is a great luxury SUV. Big, tall, spacious, and with some of the best-build quality in the business, it delivers on its promises. However, step up to the GTS, which stands for Gran Turismo Sport, and you get a V8-powered family hauler that is quick in a straight line, agile in the corners, and with its direct steering, a true joy to drive. The Cayenne GTS is one of few SUVs that doesn’t sacrifice its driving experience for practicality.
The 2022 Porsche Cayenne GTS wears its size well. Despite its sizable 193.7-in length, 78.1-in width, and up to 66.8-in height, it comes across as much smaller than it is. This is likely due in part to its soft-flowing lines. There’s not a harsh angle anywhere on this SUV’s bodywork, allowing its front-end styling to neatly transition through its sides and out to its rear end. Although this GTS isn’t a Coupé, its roofline still slopes considerably, tying in nicely with the rest of its subtle lines.
This third-gen GTS builds on the styling elements that made its successors popular with enthusiasts and normies alike. Like those earlier models, it doesn’t wear outer chrome trim or any other details that exist purely to draw attention. Take its standard satin black 21-in RS Spyder wheels, for example. Despite showcasing a sporty multi-spoke design, they’re executed in a subtle shade that doesn’t stand out for the wrong reasons.
The same goes for its intakes up front and rear diffuser out back. These are unique to the GTS but don’t immediately appear so. At a glance, it’s tough to tell that you’re looking at an SUV with a twin-turbocharged V8 under its hood. It’s only when you step closer and look at its darkened headlights, taillights, black badges, and gloss black elements throughout does it become apparent that you’re looking at something special.
Despite firmly positioning itself as a sporty SUV, the Cayenne GTS retains an elegance that its closest competitors often lack. Even my tester, with its $3,150 Carmine Red exterior finish, flies under the radar. It knows what it is and sees no need to shout about it.
As soon as you turn the key and fire the Cayenne GTS’ 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8; it begins to shatter misconceptions. This SUV burbles at idle like a muscle car, and once its valves are open, its engine’s throatiness only builds. Porsche’s standard Sport Exhaust system allows this engine to sing its song without muffling it to retain a luxurious experience. Although it’s piped via the cabin’s speakers, the sound still comes across as authentic and not overly digital.
Step on the gas, and it’s hard to believe that this SUV only develops 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Despite lacking a proper PDK transmission and counting on a Tiptronic S eight-speed automatic, the Cayenne GTS still rips gear changes and, with a standard all-wheel-drive system, makes full use of its available power, making it feel like much more than it actually is. Flat out, it’ll hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds before continuing onto its 168 mph top speed.
Since modern performance stats have largely spoiled us, those acceleration figures may not seem all that impressive, but when considering the GTS’ 4,954-lb curb weight, they’re formidable. And it feels just as intense from inside the cabin. With peak torque at 1,800 rpm and very little turbo lag, this Cayenne’s aggressive pull in a straight line brings into question why anyone would step up to a Turbo or Turbo S.
Raw speed aside, the GTS impresses with its composure. Slam the gas, and it doesn’t rock backward like many high-riding competitors. The same goes for the corners, where even during an aggressive run up a canyon road, the GTS remains perfectly stable as if the laws of physics don’t apply. Porsche achieved this by revising its active dampers and three-chamber air suspension system, which combats body-roll and lowers the GTS’ ride height by nearly 1.2 in when compared to a Cayenne S.
Around town, the GTS is undeniably firmer than its S sibling, but not excessively. It’s the almost unavoidable trade-off of having an SUV that corners as well as a proper sports car. Road imperfections are more noticeable, but not to the detriment of this SUV’s driving experience. The GTS never proved uncomfortable or unforgiving, even through Los Angeles’ pothole-filled city streets.
The Cayenne’s driving experience is made not only by its performance but by how communicative it is. Even on the tightest canyon roads, the GTS is an agile machine. With incredible front-end grip, it turns in both quickly and neatly. It’s eager to change direction, masking its substantial curb weight. Unlike most competitors, its steering is direct and offers excellent feedback. Its smaller sporty steering wheel only adds to the experience, as it’s the complete opposite of the sizable options found in most luxury SUVs.
My tester wore a set of $9,980 carbon-ceramic brakes, which seemed utterly unphased, regardless of how hard I pushed them. Although the stock steel brakes would do fine as well, even this pricey option is only a drop in the bucket when talking about an SUV that costs $143,320 as-tested, so you might as well have them.
Inside, the 2022 Porsche Cayenne GTS doesn’t forget its luxury roots. Take its $420 18-way adjustable Adaptive Sport Seats, which are available as an upgrade to its $4,030 Premium Package. Although they tighten enough to hold you in through the corners, they still prioritize all-around comfort for daily driving. With their excellent levels of adjustability, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. They allow you to lower to the point where you feel like you’re down low instead of towering over the surrounding small cars in traffic.
Although a standard Cayenne starts much closer to $70,000, its build quality is still impressive in this $143,320 GTS. My tester builds on this solid foundation with its $2,970 GTS interior package, which takes the standard black leather and Race-Tex combination and adds embroidered headrests, and Carmine Red stitching on the seats, doors, center console, and dashboard. The package brings in some of the bright exterior finish into the cabin without overdoing it.
On the tech front, the GTS counts on the same 12.3-in central touchscreen as other Cayenne models, which features both Apple CarPlay and Android Connectivity and the sixth-generation PCM infotainment system. Although I prefer smartphone connectivity for its ease of use, the Cayenne’s standard system is sleek and easy to use, even including red accents to match the rest of this SUV’s aesthetic.
The 2022 Porsche Cayenne GTS costs $109,000 plus a $1,350 delivery fee. My tester, with its notable options like its $3,150 Carmine Red paint, $3,590 Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, and $9,980 Ceramic Brakes, elevate that base figure to $143,320.
Similarly-priced competitors include the BMW X5 M, GLE 63 S Coupe, and Audi RS Q8, and while all of these make more power than the GTS and offer greater straight-line performance, none can match it in terms of pure driving fun. Besides, those interested in straight-line speed can continue climbing the Porsche ladder to the Turbo, Turbo S, or Turbo GT.
The 2022 Cayenne GTS doesn’t sacrifice its driving experience in the name of cargo space. It’s quick, agile, and above all else, fun to drive. From its powerful V8 engine that delivers ample torque and a burly note to its flat handling characteristics and incredible grip, this SUV can go toe to toe with a proper sports car. Anyone who buys one for it won’t feel short-changed on a twisty road.
Ditch my tester’s bright Carmine Red exterior finish, and you’re left with a family hauler that is fun when you want it but flies under the radar for daily driving. It’s subtle, elegant, and not boastful about its capabilities. Although it’s not the quickest, most powerful, or most expensive SUV on the market, its lack of compromises makes it one of the most enjoyable.