We've Embarked on Porsche's Adventure Tour of Romania
Two days and two incredible roads in the heart of Eastern Europe, plus the best of Porsche's SUVs: the Macan GTS and Cayenne GTS
Two days on the most impressive mountain roads of Romania together with the new GTS versions of Porsche Cayenne and Macan? Yes, sir! Don't mind if I do!
The event organized by Porsche Central Europe and Porsche Travel Club took us to Sibiu, a medieval city right in the heart of Transylvania. For the next two days, we were to explore the Transalpina road and the famous Transfagarasan, the alpine highway named "the most beautiful road in the world" by the original Top Gear trio. So, we packed our bags and took the road to Sibiu. Here, in the parking lot of a Hilton hotel, a few units of the new Porsche Macan GTS were nicely lined up on one side, while several Porsche Cayenne GTS models mirrored them on the other side.
What does GTS stand for? These three letters stand for exceptional sportiness. And also for Gran Turismo Sport. They bring to mind the famous 1964 904 Carrera GTS. The first Cayenne GTS breathed new life into the three letters in 2007. Ever since, GTS has stood for the extremely agile model versions at Porsche. We reached Sibiu on a Sunday evening, and we had to wait until the next morning before we could sample the best of Porsche and Romania's mountain roads.
Transalpina and Porsche Cayenne GTS
First thing on Monday morning's menu was the Cayenne GTS and a trip on the second-most famous road in Romania: Transalpina. But first, we got to know the car.
The Cayenne GTS is positioned between the Cayenne S and the Cayenne Turbo. It is the most agile and passionate version of the model series. Its complex chassis achieves good transverse dynamics and makes it an agile and sporty SUV in conjunction with a powerful engine delivering 440 hp and 600 Nm of torque. The vehicle's styling highlights its character with expressive GTS-typical detailing.
The Cayenne GTS rounds the North Loop at the Nürburgring in eight minutes and 13 seconds. It also ditched the 4.8-liter V8 engine, and now features a 3.6-liter V6 biturbo delivering 440 hp at 6,000 rpm and 600 Nm between 1,600 and 5,000 rpm.
The Cayenne GTS surely doesn't lack power, but the new engine seems to be struggling sometimes to properly move the SUV's big body. Fortunately, the steering is heavy and sufficiently sharp. The chassis is alert and thanks to the air suspension, body roll is kept to a minimum. Even in Comfort mode, the suspension is firmer than that on the standard model.
You can tweak the engine sound by pushing a button, but this won't compensate for the numbed feeling you get from the new engine. The V8 version was bonkers, while this new V6-powered Cayenne seems deflated.
It's a pity that the Cayenne GTS lost a piece of its soul. If money is no object, you can still tick every single available option and get quite a capable Cayenne. But the price will be dangerously close to the Turbo version. The interior has started to age; also, it retains the old PCM infotainment system and therefore feels outdated.
But, criticism aside, the Cayenne GTS helped us to discover another gem of a road hidden in the mountains of Romania. It's called Transalpina and offers almost 150 km of bends nestled between mountains and forests. The alpine section is stunning, but the road surface has parts where it simply vanishes. Still, if you come here to sample Transfagarasan, stay another day and take a ride along Transalpina also.
Transfagarasan and Porsche Macan GTS
This is truly a match made in heaven! I had a previous contact with a Macan diesel but I wasn't too impressed. This time, the Macan GTS blew my mind. It has a perfect engine under the hood, and a truly great suspension. For power, Porsche relies on a 3.0-liter biturbo V6 churning some 360 hp at 6,000 rpm and 500 Nm between 1,650-6,000 rpm. The Macan GTS slots between the lesser petrol stablemate and the Turbo version. It's also quick for a 1.9-ton SUV, as it sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds.
To help harness the power, Porsche offers its PASM adjustable chassis as standard. Also, the body sits 15 mm lower than the standard car. The air suspension is optional, but totally worth it. For a angrier look, the Macan GTS can be fitted with optional LED headlights. In the back, four black-tipped exhaust pipes come to life with a throaty bark. The brakes are borrowed from the Turbo version and this version of the Macan features the latest PCM infotainment system as seen on the facelifted 911.
You can drive the Macan GTS in the default mode without any drama. The gearbox is a little sluggish, but everything else is on point. Press the Sport button on the central console and the exhaust changes tune while the dampers reach their first stage of stiffness. Throttle response sharpens up, the gearbox is quicker. It's the perfect setting for the bendy Transfagarasan road. The Macan GTS darts to the corner, and as you point the direction, it blasts out with a lot of punch. The clever 4WD system automatically transfers power between the front and rear axle to give the driver perfect traction in any situation.
Halfway down the road, I have to collect my dropped jaw. The nearly two-ton SUV is a properly sorted machine. It is superb to drive this thing across one of the most beautiful roads in the world. There's barely any body movement, the steering is crisp and precise and you sit behind a luscious Alcantara-clad wheel (optional). For an extra layer of drama, there is the Sport Plus button that further escalates things. Fit and finish are superb, enhanced by the use of a lot of Alcantara leather. Also, there is plenty of GTS badging.
Without any doubt, Porsche Macan GTS is the best choice if you are after a dynamic-oriented SUV that also can be driven in a relaxed cruising fashion.
And, by the way, the Transfagarasan road is just as beautiful as they say. Especially the section you access from Sibiu. After some bends in the foresty first passage of the road, the scenery opens to stunning views. Right before the tunnel that marks the peak, you need to pull over and enjoy the breathtaking view. The tarmac snake can be seen in all its glory. It's definitely a trip worth making.