Porsche Cayenne GTS vs Audi RS4 Avant. SUV vs estate wagon. Who comes out on top?[Not a valid template]
Not long ago we welcomed the new Porsche Cayenne GTS to the Middle East. And we were impressed. It offered not only sizeable grunt and beefy exhaust notes, but thanks to new sports suspension and improved steering response, the GTS handles like no SUV has a right to.
Here’s the thing though: I don’t really get it.
SUVs tend to be heavy and quite large, ideal for taking the seven-strong family for a leisurely cruise but probably not your first choice for a tyre-melting run around the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit. Precision can be tweaked and honed of course, but there’s a price to pay. Every tweak to make the SUV more dynamic – including lowering the suspension, stiffening the chassis and upping the ferocity of the gear changes – takes away that comfort and practicality. Lowering the suspension reduces the ground clearance, consequently limiting the SUV’s effectiveness off-road and lopping off a key selling point for the model. That would be fine if the SUV now handles like a Caterham, but chances are it’s not going to: it’s still going to be heavy and quite large. So, again, what’s the point?
Sportiness and practicality after all are parameters easily met by the humble estate car, as we discovered with another new arrival in the region, the Audi RS4 Avant. As we found out during our first drive, it’s sporty, has bags of room, offers sizeable oomph, handles like it’s on rails, and offers exactly what the GTS does, albeit closer to the ground. For my mind to be swayed then, the Porsche needs something pretty special up its green sleeve if it’s to out-perform the Audi.
Let’s take our contenders at face value. In the Sepang Blue corner we have the new RS4 Avant, Ingolstadt’s tribute to the original RS4 that packs a 450hp 4.2-litre V8, kicks out 317lb ft of torque, boasts a 0-100kph time of 4.7 seconds and an electronically limited 250kph top speed (but chuck a few extra quid at the Audi boffins and they’ll ramp the top speed up to 280kph for you). It also boasts a body style that looks the nuts.
Audi’s design team has thrown the easel that penned the second gen ‘cute’ RS4 out the window, and gone mental with the crayons. Gone are the curvaceous lines of the second gen model in favour of aggressively carved headlights, sharpened bonnet stripes, subtly flared wheel arches, and 20-inch five V-spoke alloys. In tribute to the original RS4 though, the new third gen model will only be available as an Avant. Clearly company execs have so much confidence in the third generation RS that they believe it will still rake in the money. There is though one big stumbling block to showroom sales: the Audi is not an SUV.
That brings us to our other contender. In the retina-searing lime green corner we have the Cayenne GTS. Since its launch in 2002, the Cayenne has never won the sash at beauty contests, but with the new gen has come significant improvements. It’s still not what you’d call pretty, but whereas before the Cayenne looked like a big, awkward 911, re-designed headlights, a cheeky roof lip spoiler and a less aggressively designed rear end now make it a bona fide Porsche SUV. Under the rippled bonnet lies a 4.8-litre V8 capable of chucking out 450hp (30hp more than the Audi) and a whopping 380lb ft of torque, enough for a 0-100kph time of 5.9 seconds (1.2 seconds slower than the Audi) and a 261kph. Plus, it’s an SUV. And it’s lime green (sorry, Peridot). It’s a statement. Check mate?
Not quite. This particular Cayenne is the ‘sports car of the SUV’ line-up. Consequently it stands 24mm lower than its second-gen Cayenne brethren (reducing its ground clearance), boasts new steel spring suspension and a stiffer chassis in an effort to improve manoeuvrability. All magnificent hallmarks for a sports car, but not exactly banner items for a desert hack. Then there’s that awkward issue of $120,495 for our test model: it’s a brave man who takes that into the desert, knowing that the repair bills for a scuffed front bumper or a broken headlight will be hideous.
So, the Cayenne may be fully capable on the rough stuff but the GTS doesn’t look a contender for weekend duning. That’s a big scalp for the Audi, and the Porsche will now have to prove its worth on the road. Something we know it’s more than capable of doing.
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