We know the Cayenne is the most sporty SUV around. And then we drove the BMW X6 M.Next thing we know we’re sit­ting six feet off our favourite road with one de­ci­sion to make



We take two large and heavy sportscars to our favourite road

THE X6 M IS QUITE A rev­e­la­tion. You just don’t ex­pect it to be so bru­tally fast. I re­mem­ber driv­ing it at the Chen­nai track last year and boy oh boy, the trac­tion through cor­ners and ac­cel­er­a­tion out of it. Then we took it to a drag strip and the blue blob showed its arse to an M4. An M4! Not a joke.

Nat­u­rally, cu­rios­ity was rife within the team on the X6 M’s an­tics on-road but it is the kind of car that wins you over eas­ily. It’s just hi­lar­i­ously fast and grippy. No, to get some sort of ob­jec­tiv­ity, we needed a wor­thy com­pe­ti­tior. En­ter the Cayenne GTS. BMW may have in­vented the sporty SUV with the orig­i­nal X5 but the Cayenne is the one that stretched New­ton’s laws fur­ther.

So, here we are on our favourite road sit­ting way higher than we nor­mally are used to and about to take a call.

Be­gin­ner’s lessons

Press the starter but­ton, get the gear­box to Sport, the en­gine map to rowdy and the steer­ing weight to com­fort. Step on the gas, try to hold it down for a few gears, back off, breathe. Breathe some more. Then breathe a sigh of re­lief. Now rewind to the minute be­fore you smashed the throt­tle, back to open­ing the door and get­ting into those volup­tuous leather buck­ets. The X6 M, as I’ve said, is quite a rev­e­la­tion. When you take to the driver’s seat it is wel­com­ing, the fat steer­ing wheel is al­most cush­iony and the smooth top of that M di­vi­sion gear se­lec­tor cups into your left palm for a sooth­ing ef­fect. You’ve got to get a lit­tle racy to do jus­tice to that M badge and so the said lu­di­crous drive set­tings. What hap­pens in the sec­onds be­fore you catch your breath? The X6 M will hit its red­line, slam into sec­ond, grab your head and smash it against the head re­straint, red­line again and give you an­other knock when it grabs third. Usu­ally my eyes are on the gauges but the X6 M is huge and the road is nar­row so I’ve got my eyes pinned on the road ahead. It takes a few min­utes to sink in as I dial down the re­sponses, get back to its dullest set­tings of all and let Sirish in the Cayenne GTS catch up to the X6 M’s not-so-pretty (well, at least to me) der­riere.

I like what I see in my mir­rors though. The Cayenne has come a long way from the first gen­er­a­tion hard-todi­gest-mug to be­ing the more de­sir­able de­sign in this com­par­i­son. It’s got a lot of Cayenne Turbo in it mi­nus the twin-turbo V8. This new GTS gets a smaller 3.6-litre V6 breathed on by two tur­bos and good for 435bhp and 600Nm of torque. It has the Cayenne Turbo’s front bumper, body kit and 20-inch black RS Spy­der al­loy wheels to let all and sundry know that this chilli is a bit

When you’ve got 750Nm of shove all through the midrange, time ticks slowly and dis­tances are a fast mov­ing com­mod­ity

Few min­utes in the GTS and you will be of­fer­ing steer­ing and throt­tle in­puts like you’ve owned it for years

spicier. The GTS sits 24mm lower than the Cayenne S and with its air sus­pen­sion in Sport at its low­est level, the GTS is just 168mm above the ground. Your view from the driver’s seat is that of one in a hatch­back with the seat ratch­eted all the way up. A scary fast hatch­back.

The GTS is muted to the growl of the X6 M. The BMW doesn’t sound like thun­der but it is thun­der­ous – it shares its en­gine with the M5 and mas­sages more power out of it and its mon­ster twin-turbo V8 makes the Cayenne’s specs look pos­i­tively weak. Try 567 horses and 750Nm. Also try 2359kg ver­sus the Cayenne’s 2110kg kerb weight. Only thing go­ing in the Cayenne’s favour is its price, which is `26 lakh off the BMW. This is an ar­gu­ment that sim­ply can’t be set­tled on pa­per so it is a good thing that we are at that point where the road starts to climb and van­ish into the Cayenne GTS’ nat­u­ral habi­tat.

Like a Pro

The GTS isn’t in­tim­i­dat­ing. A cou­ple of min­utes in it and you will be of­fer­ing steer­ing and throt­tle in­puts like you’ve owned it for years. The silky smooth tur­bocharged V6 gets you into rhythm, there’s so lit­tle lag it is ac­tu­ally hard to tell it is tur­bocharged and the shifts from the 8-speed au­to­matic are quick, yet sub­tle. The gearshifts from the X6 M are like up­per­cuts to your face in com­par­i­son. You don’t get to al­ter steer­ing weight in the GTS, but it is lighter than the com­fort set­ting in the X6 M and the ef­fort re­quired in the GTS to turn in is spot on. At­tack­ing a set of cor­ners doesn’t feel like you are fight­ing un­der­steer from 2.1 tonnes try­ing to sling­shot you off the cliff. You feel di­alled in for a long and en­ter­tain­ing drive ahead and I’m ac­tu­ally be­gin­ning to think its 132 horse deficit is a good thing. It al­lows you to bal­let the Cayenne through cor­ners where the X6 M has to be mus­cled. Even brak­ing the GTS into cor­ners is less of an ef­fort in weight man­age­ment than it is in the X6 M – there’s fan­tas­tic bite and feel from its six pis­ton, 390mm front discs. What’s more, body con­trol is splen­did and the torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem works un­ob­tru­sively to keep the Cayenne com­posed.

Its also got a smoother ride. The sus­pen­sion doesn’t crash into pot­holes and the 275/45 R20 tyres all round are just the right size for the Cayenne. The X6 M with its 285/40 R20 fronts and 325/35 R20 rears is over­tyred to the point that it tram­lines over ridges and im­per­fec­tions. Even the McLaren P1 has nar­rower tyres! The wide foot­print does give the X6 M good grip but the weight and ex­tra per­for­mance don’t cor­re­spond to equal lev­els of stop­ping power. It takes some get­ting used to. Once you gauge the ac­cel­er­a­tion, weight trans­fer and grip lev­els though, the X6 M pro­vides a dif­fer­ent kind of fun. If you like Thor’s ham­mer over Ali’s sting-like-a-bee, you’ll like the X6 M. On tight wind­ing roads you need to brake early, point it in the right di­rec­tion and then step hard on the throt­tle. That all-wheel drive sys­tem will let you put the power down early and once boost ar­rives (well, it al­ways seems to have ar­rived) you will sling­shot out and the Cayenne won’t see which way you went. When you’ve got 750Nm of shove all through the mid-range, time ticks slowly and dis­tances are a fast mov­ing com­mod­ity.

Mean­while on the in­side

There is so much hap­pen­ing at the wheel of th­ese two, you tend to for­get that they also are lux­u­ri­ous SUVs bathed in high qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. The plethora of but­tons on the cen­tre con­sole of the Porsche are in stark con­trast to the min­i­mal­is­tic BMW con­sole. You get used to get­ting all the con­trols right at arm’s length with­out search­ing for them and that keeps your eyes pinned on the road. Driver fo­cus in the Porsche is all about the di­als in front of you. The large rev counter takes cen­tre stage and be­ing the GTS vari­ant, the dial gets a racy red face. You’ve got nav­i­ga­tion on the right dial, speedo on the left and the ex­treme right and left di­als get all the tem­per­a­ture and fuel gauges. It’s a busy place. The X6 M like all other BMW in­stru­ment clus­ters is sim­ple, shows you your driv­ing modes, and there’s also a headup dis­play that comes in handy when you are push­ing it. Be­sides, the X6 M will keep you busy ad­just­ing its long list of am­bi­ent light­ing op­tions or fid­dling with its easy to use iDrive con­troller.

Rhythm break

THE X6 M gets easy con­trols and that’s a good thing be­cause with the speeds it can sud­denly thrust into your lap, you need to keep your wits about you all the time and therein lies the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the two. With the Porsche, you get into rhythm, you’re not fight­ing the car and it never feels like it will take a chunk out of your leg if you take lib­er­ties with it. Driven fast, the X6 M is edgy, the Cayenne just shrugs its shoul­ders and gets down to it. It won’t tire you, give you sweaty palms or scare you silly. As a daily driver, the Cayenne GTS is just bril­liant. If there’s one thing the Porsche lacks, it’s a sweet ex­haust note. With the X6 M, there’s the reg­u­lar growl of a tur­bocharged V8 but it’s not much to rave about ei­ther. It’s louder than the Porsche though.

Where the X6 M makes the Porsche eat its dust is in the sheer ac­cel­er­a­tion of the thing. It is a sec­ond faster to 100kmph and on the road it feels like much more. In fact in the sub 5-sec­ond sprint world, that’s a lot of day­light be­tween the two. It feels plusher on the in­side and sportier on the out­side. De­spite the raised height, it isn’t an SUV you’d want to take to work or be driven around in daily. The ride is harsh and the pow­er­train isn’t happy be­ing re­strained. If you like bru­tal­ity, if you like turn­ing the vol­ume up and if you like in­y­our-face, the X6 M will do it for you.

Me? I like the Cayenne’s pre­ci­sion, its abil­ity to con­trol all that weight, the sup­ple edge to the ride, the lack of ef­fort re­quired in cov­er­ing ground fast. Most of all though I re­ally like the way it dances.

Top left: The in­side of the X6 M is chunky and leather clad. Above: You need ev­ery bit of aero to get the blob to hus­tle. Right: Twin-turbo V8 packs a bru­tal punch

Top: The drive set­tings are sim­ple but way too many but­tons. Right:

The Cayenne GTS has a busy but very sporty cabin. Bot­tom: Twin-turbo V6 is creamy smooth. Fac­ing page: Le Mans win­ning 919 Hy­brid -in­spired LED DRLs look fan­tas­tic

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