We love manual transmissions in this office, so it's tough to admit that there is one of the vehicles in the fleet this week that would be better off with an automatic: the Porsche Cayenne GTS. Yes, you heard that correctly, this is a Porsche that is better with an automatic tranny. The Cayenne's gearbox is imprecise, and it makes the whole driving experience cumbersome. It's great that Porsche now offers a manual gearbox with the V-8 engine, but we'd recommend the six-speed automatic if you're looking for a thirsty, heavy, yet still quite nimble SUV. Plus, the slightly tweaked V-8 in the GTS does sound very nice.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
I usually agree with Marc, especially where transmissions are concerned, but I have to disagree here. I'm no fan of the Cayenne-to me, it's always represented everything that Porsche wasn't supposed to be, a marketing exercise in search of a purpose-but this is probably my favorite of the bunch. And I don't think it'd be better off with an automatic, even given how monstrously unsatisfying the six-speed manual is. The shifter is vague, the throws are long, the synchros are surprisingly notchy, and the entire experience is just too truckish, but the manual Cayenne is at least somewhat involving. (The automatic leaves me cold.) I could do without the imported-from-the-Touareg widely spaced pedal layout, but at least it requires you to pay attention. And the unhinged exhaust note, the nicely balanced suspension, and the neatly tricked-out interior make for a nice package. All of the other Cayenne variants tend to just make me want to drive an ordinary truck. Or a real sports car.
Still, even in ubermensch, hyper-focused GTS form, I don't think the Cayenne is quite worth the money or deserving of the badge on its nose. It's capable, and I know it's helping keep the company afloat, but it's not necessarily fun beyond the novelty value.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
Sorry Marc, but I'm going to have to sit on Sam's side of the aisle on this one, too: The stick shift in the Cayenne GTS is very un-Porsche, with long throws and imprecise action. Yet it's still pretty fun to bang through the trucky gears, easily heel-and-toeing and leaving beautiful, high-strung V-8 music in your wake. However, I can imagine that this particular stick-shift experience could get pretty tedious after a couple weeks of ownership...
With its rear spoiler, fender flares, and aggressive stance, the GTS is the best-looking Cayenne of the bunch, in my opinion. Sharing my opinion was some dude in a crappy Ford Aspire, who gave me an approving head nod after I burbled by his car.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor