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Story and Photographs by Jack Baruth

Three months ago, we reported that the Cayenne GTS manual was in danger of cancellation, but as you can see, we were dead wrong. The first manual-transmission Cayenne GTS in the state has hit the ground and it’s in our hot little hands for a long-term test.

Normally, when a magazine talks about a “long-term test”, they mean they’ve finagled a free press car from a manufacturer for somewhat longer than the normal one-week period, but this time we mean long-term. As in, we’ve managed to drop almost ninety-four “stacks”, which is to say, $93,800, on a 2008 GTS of our very own. Props go out to our good friend, “The Big Dog”, who made this possible by opening his wallet just a little farther than was prudent. With the keys in hand, we immediately set out to do what Porsche designed the Cayenne specifically to do: namely, haul some parts for our Neon ACR race car.

Count the Porsche Exclusive options you can see: red dials, carbon fiber wheel, carbon fiber grab handles, Alcantara headliner.

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With just seven days before the first race of the season, our little Performance Touring Neon is in pretty sad shape. An off-track excursion caused by a seized bearing during our first practice day meant we’ve had to tear the whole front end apart in record time while simultaneously replacing the rollcage and fixing all sorts of body damage. The worklist is long, and it started with the refinishing and repair of our steering knuckles. Luckily, Poland’s second-most-famous racing driver, Z.B. Lorenc of SigmaTec, agreed to come in on a Saturday and get the work done. All we needed was a truck…

…and we had one! True, you don’t need a 405-horsepower, 21″-wheeled, six-speed manual-transmission SUV to deliver a couple of steering knuckles across town, but we’ll take any excuse to drive our newest hot pepper. While it’s easy to argue that Porsche didn’t need a fourth Cayenne model, the GTS makes a strong argument from the moment you fire it up. The transmission, unique among V8-powered Cayennes in this market, isn’t particularly slick or user-friendly, but it’s solid and well-gated. It only takes a few miles to get in the spirit of things, and just a few beyond that to try a little heel-and-toe. The pedals are large and spaced fairly far apart, so those of us with normal feet will need to operate the pedals in Best Motoring fashion to properly match revs.

Give the Germans credit – if you have enough inner pimp to order red dials, you can have ’em.

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Our GTS’s option total puts it into Cayenne Turbo territory, but which would you rather have: a bare-bones Turbo with cheap wheels and plastic grab handles, or a fully loaded GTS complete with wacky biplane rear spoiler and an Alcantara roof? While the Turbo is certainly faster in raw terms, the GTS delivers more satisfaction per mile. There’s only so much pace one can maintain on the public road, and the new 4.8 direct-injection engine extracts it all despite the lack of twin turbochargers. Body roll is low, the brakes are fade-free in these conditions, and the steering is reasonably trustworthy, so the limiting factor in fast road driving is really the Cayenne’s width, which is substantial. It would take a very dedicated sport-sedan driver to see off this 4900-pound truck on any but the most twisty tarmac.

Turbo-spec front end and stainless-steel accents make this car an intimidating tailgater.

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We’re at Z.B.’s shop in no time. This is a great day for Polish racing; Z.B.’s countryman, Robert Kubica, has just snagged his first pole position in Formula One. In no time, we have the refinished steering knuckles, complete with Mopar hubs and bearings, ready to go. Our chances of making the grid next Friday look better and better – and we know it won’t take us long to get back to our garage and start working.

Over the next year or so, we’ll be getting to know the GTS better and sharing our findings with you. The prospect of a 405-horsepower, ninety-thousand-plus-dollar, four-person truck really borders on the preposterous – but with this much power and this kind of interior detailing, it’s a prospect which has our complete, and charmed, attention. We apologize for not cleaning the Cayenne up a bit prior to taking the photographs – but sometimes the pressure of time means you have to, er, ride a bit dirty!

Mopar race bearings have a twelve-hour service life, which means they’re costing us more per hour than the average daytime stripper.

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Jack Baruth

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