First Drive
*Porsche sure knows how to carve the beef-as long as you want your slice fast or faster. Just look at the number of premium cuts the company carves from the 911. But although each model can be garnished from a long menu of side orders, none of the extras ever overwhelm the savory appeal of the main dish.

And so it has gone with the Cayenne. It might be a fat-rimmed roast to the 911's lean tenderloin, but just like the sports car, the big SUV is available in a variety of juicy cuts, each one a hearty banquet of speed, comfort and utility.

Porsche is offering four Cayennes for 2008 and the newest hunk is called the GTS, a nomenclature that will surely stick in the Porsche purist's craw like an overly ambitious bite of weisswurst. Made famous by the fabulous 904 GTS Carrera, the GTS badge-on a truck-is surely a grievous error of marketing chutzpah. Or maybe not.

After ripping the 405-hp GTS around some challenging roads, I'm not so sure the connection is entirely misplaced. Except for the inescapable physics of wrestling a nearly 5,000-pound slab of vehicle through some of the tighter bends, I had a blast in this sportiest of Cayennes, especially with the new six-speed manual transmission. Tiptronic is surely the way to go for most Cayenne owners, but if, like me, you prefer a closer connection to a vehicle's physicality, then the three-pedal version will not disappoint.

Throw the lever into first, let out the clutch and hang on, because the 4.8-liter V8, a massaged version of the 385-hp engine in the Cayenne S, will haul the big SUV from standstill to 62 mph in (according to Porsche) 6.1 seconds with the six-speed manual and 6.5 with the six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. A more aggressive final drive gives the manual its edge, but Tiptronic drivers will notice little difference between their fast and the faster GTS. Both versions hit 100 mph in about the same stunning 15 seconds.

Lateral acuity is just as sharply defined as the vehicle's longitudinal gifts. Like other U.S.-bound Cayennes, air suspension combines with Porsche's superb Active Suspension Management to provide a wide range of behavior, from shock settings to ride height, but the GTS gets 21-inch running gear and aggressive suspension tuning for a more intimate relationship to the road. The ride is understandably stiffer, but the wheels always stay on the ground and the nose invariably stays pointed in the desired direction-even when going a little nuts over a washboard dirt road.

The GTS fits neatly between the Cayenne S and the Turbo in both price ($69,300) and power. And it looks the part of the performance model, with front and rear fascias taken from the Turbo, wider wheel arches, blacked-out pillars and an optional twin-winged roof spoiler. The cockpit is beautifully finished, full of standard leather and upscale electronics, but the front sports seats will be most appreciated by drivers who want to emulate the GTS' namesake. The Cayenne GTS might be as far from a 904 GTS as Stuttgart is from San Antonio, but it's still a prime cut of beef that would be just as appetizing on a Texas highway as over a mountain pass.

By Greg N. Brown
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