WE ARRIVED BY PRIVATE JET IN KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA, like Warren Buffett dropping in for truffles. And like Warren, we were prepared to be amused. The particular truffle we hunted, singular item, was Porsche’s latest SUV, the GTS. We were to be forced to drive it through the Carinthian Alps, a filthy scheme meant to distract us from noticing any shortcomings.
We asked our hosts if we’d be doing any off-roading in the Alps. We were met with a misty grin. Of course, the GTS can be ordered with skid plates and all that. Three or four buyers do so every year, and each are having their heads examined as we speak. Rare is the owner who will chance gouging his GTS’s front fender on a jagged rock. That would be a bad day.
Our hosts make no apology. They stress the GTS’s appeal is strongly “emotional.” Its first and strongest impression, with two gaping outboard air intakes in the grill, recalls the Cayenne Turbo. Yet this GTS is normally aspirated, and, in fact, the outboard intakes are blanks. Whatzzat? Pure Turbo-Look. Remember the ’80s?
The first-generation GTS was a great success, with 15,766 units sold (17 percent of world Cayenne sales). But, worldwide, only three percent of them were ordered with a manual transmission. Not surprisingly, then, all second-generation GTSs are born with the eight-speed Tiptronic, with seventh and eighth gears overdriven.
Just as its nose has the look of power, the GTS goes out of its way to provide real — if not quite Turbo — power and performance. What’s more, it makes double damn sure the driver hears and feels this power and performance. The satisfyingly brawny 4.8-liter V8 achieves 420 hp — 20 more than the Cayenne S 4.8 — thanks to new camshafts that lift the intake valves one millimeter higher than before. The engine makes 380 lb-ft at 3500 rpm, and its torque curve remains obligingly flat across most of the upper range.
In addition to this useful, basic thrust, the GTS has a Sport button on the console. When pushed, it not only brings the driver sharper throttle response — here comes the smoke and mirrors — but a Hollywood soundtrack, complete with racy sounds, rumbling exhaust note, and plenty of revvy roaring. Why isn’t Sport the default setting? Its testier throttle response means slightly poorer fuel economy.
Transmitting these sonic good tidings via what Porsche calls a Sound Symposer, the designers have burrowed and gouged channels into the GTS frame, even creeping halfway up inside the A-pillars like some weird pipe organ — really! — to carry 4.8 liters of naturally amplified metallic mayhem direct to your famished ears. Okay, it’s a bit Hollywood. But, given the GTS’s substantial real-world performance — which feels as legitimate as its soundtrack feels “emotional” (to use Porsche’s vaguely squirmy term) — this GTS blasts to 60 mph in a forceful 5.4 seconds. By any SUV standard, that’s slam-bang fast.