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