The Porsche Cayenne GTS is a high-performance version of the groundbreaking SUV.
  • I pitted a 2020 Maserati Levante GTS against a 2021 Porsche Cayenne GTS is a battle of high-performance, luxury SUVs that are ... both GTS's!
  • The Porsche I tested was quite a bit more expensive than the Maserati, but it was crammed with options — the base Cayenne is actually cheaper than the base Levante.
  • Both SUVs have potent V8 engines, but the Levante's puts out a bunch more horsepower. Yet the 0-100 kph times are separated by only half a second.
  • As magnificent as the Maserati Levante GTS is, the Porsche Cayenne GTS has an edge.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Italian or German? 

No, I'm not asking about preferences in opera. I want to know if you like your automotive arias with a plate of pasta or a side of spaetzle. You know what I'm talking about: the classic Maserati vs. Porsche conundrum. 

OK, so classic is a stretch here. Porsche more naturally battles with Ferrari, but Maranello hasn't yet produced the SUV it has promised. As Ferrari's sister company, however, Maserati is a good stand-in, and the Levante is a solid preview of what you should expect from the FUV (that's Ferrari Utility Vehicle). 

So I've matched up Stuttgart's masterpiece, the 2021 Cayenne GTS, with one of the top dogs in Bologna's lineup, the Levante GTS. 

So, Italian GTS against German GTS. Which GTS rules the continent?

Let's start with the stonking 2020 Maserati Levante GTS. My tester arrived wearing a Blu Emozione paint job.
Maserati Levante GT
The glorious piece of Italian design is either the best-looking SUV on Earth or a solid number two, depending on what you think of the Jaguar F-PACE.
Maserati Levante GT
The "Nerissimo" pack was an add-on that brought some slick, black highlights to the exterior, notably the grille.
Maserati Levante GTS
Like Mercedes, Maserati has retained a flush hood ornament, as well as the prominent trident badge, in chrome.
Maserati Levante GTS
Yes, it's a Maserati, so it must sport the signature ports on the flanks, rimmed in chrome.
Maserati Levante GT
The 22-inch wheels cost extra. The three-season tires added more. The red brake calipers came gratis!
Maserati Levante GTS
Usually, an SUV's back end demands compromise. Not so with the Levante. As with the F-PACE and, to a lesser degree, Levante's stablemate, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Levante's designers nailed the elegant hind-quarters.
Maserati Levante GTS

Cargo capacity for the Maserati Levante GTS will be more than enough to handle my week-in-the-'burbs shopping needs.

Gaze upon the glory of a 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged, 550-horsepower V8 engine, making 538 pound-feet of torque and sending the oomph to an all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Maserati Levante GTS


Moving along, it's time to slip inside and sample the red and black interior, clad in "pieno fiore," or full-grain, leather. I've always found Maserati interiors to be nearly impeccable. In the Levante, there's no "nearly."
Maserati Levante GT
The multifunction steering wheel is leather-wrapped. Mounted on the steering column is a pair of long, carbon-fiber paddle shifters.
Maserati Levante GTS
The backs seats are just as sweetly appointed, but legroom is merely adequate. The dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with natural light.
Maserati Levante GTS
The infotainment system is undergirded by FCA's excellent Uconnect. It runs on a 21cm screen, which is small by the standards of the luxury market.
Maserati Levante GTS
Touchscreen functionality is supported by a limited knob-and-button selector. Note the switch that raises and lowers the Levante's chassis. The system works well. Bluetooth pairing is a snap, there are USB ports to connect devices, and GPS navigation is effective. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. My tester also came with a mellifluous Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system.
Maserati Levante GTS
So what's the bottom line on this glimpse of what a Ferrari SUV might be like?
Maserati Levante GTS

As I wrote in my original review, the Maserati Levante GTS is a thing of beauty — but once the lookin' is done, the driving can begin. And this is where the SUV offers a compelling reason to write the big check.

The V8 roars to life and then keeps right on roaring. The soundtrack is spectacular. But it isn't just noise. The 0-100 kph run is, according to Maserati, a four-second phenomenon, but I thought it came in a hair under that. And the GTS is exceptionally capable in the corners. The best part of that is diving into a curve and then powering out, feeling the energy flow through the car, into the wheels, the tires, and then down into the pavement as the Levante grabs hold.

Yes, other high-performance SUVs can do this. But the Levante GTS does it with an exhaust note that's downright mythological while cosseting you in acres of Italian style. It never gets old.

Moving right along, we have the indomitable Porsche Cayenne GTS. My 2020 tester wore a glorious Carmine Red paint job
Porsche Cayenne GTS
I personally prefer the silhouette of the SUV body-style over the new Cayenne coupé, but there's no question that the ute form is boxier.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Cayenne has never been an attractive vehicle, but it can't be mistaken for anything but a Porsche. It's all about those distinctive headlights. Bug-eyes? Well, sure, but the swept-back design somewhat mitigates that effect.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
The ride height has been dropped 30 millimeters lower than on the Cayenne S, according to Porsche. This enhances airflow at speed, but owners can use the air suspension to increase ride height over uneven terrain. The Porsche badge brings a modest splash of gold to the hood.
Porsche Cayenne GTS

Porsche Cayenne GTS
The 22-inch "Sport Classic" wheels, in glossy black and brushed alloy tones, evoke an iconic Porsche design, familiar to fans of the cars from the 1980s. These snazzy wheels were, as you might expect, an expensive extra.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Cayenne's rear end is not pretty, but the cargo capacity is appealing.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
The Cayenne GTS rocks a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The power is sent to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode.
Porsche Cayenne GTS

The EPA hasn't yet rated the Cayenne GTS for fuel economy, but I found the punchy V8 to be moderately thirsty; in two days worth of driving, I managed to incinerate almost a half a tank of premium petrol.

Porsche interiors aren't overtly luxurious. They aren't supposed to be. But the Cayenne GTS's has something else going for it: sporty touches.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
Carmine red topstitching on the black leather seats matches the exterior, as does the GTS call-out. (The seats are comfy for cruising, yet sufficiently bolstered for spirited driving.)
Porsche Cayenne GTS
A steering-wheel-mounted selector enables you to switch drive modes: Comfort, Sport, Sport +, and Individual.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
The rear seats are luxurious, and legroom is decent. My Porsche Cayenne GTS tester was fully outfitted for rear-seat entertainment, an offbeat option for what's supposed to be a high-performance trim.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
Porsche's infotainment system is quite good, although it isn't the best. It's outdone by Audi's (Porsche's corporate VW Group stablemate). But the system checks all the right boxes, from Bluetooth pairing to USB device connectivity to GPS navigation. There's also wireless charging. A Burmester 3D audio system added more to the final tally. Worth it? Oh yes. This is one of the top systems on the market.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
And the winner is the Porsche Cayenne GTS!
Porsche Cayenne GTS

In my review I wrote:

Essentially, what we have with the GTS is the Cayenne that critics feared the SUV wouldn't be: a very fast (0-100 in about 4.5 seconds) four-door Porsche with a big ol' cargo hold. It corners like it's on rails (rear-axle steering lends an assist) and it can drop the hammer in a straight line. On certain American highways, favored by freight carriers, you can pass semis all day long and feel the bottomless oomph that the GTS's magnificent engine produces, never laggy, always ready to punch like a prizefighter.

So why does the Porsche emerge the victor in the GTS throwdown? After all, the Levante is faster to 100 kph by a full half-second, and brings almost 100 more horsepower to the battle. On top of all that, the Levante is better-looking, less expensive by about one Toyota Corolla, and far more stylish and premium on the inside.

Make no mistake, the Levante GTS is impressive. It's just that that Porsche Cayenne GTS is so, so friggin' good. It's simply hard to beat a Porsche SUV in a driving contest. In short, I love the Maserati, but I admire the Porsche.

Does that mean you should take a pass on the Mas? Nope. Obviously, options matter and my Porsche Cayenne GTS tester was crammed with them. By some measures, the Porsche is overpriced as configured (of course, the GTS has a cheaper starting price). You might not really want to dive hard into corners in an SUV, preferring instead to indulge the fury of that big Maserati motor while enjoying its superior interior.

In a weird way, the debate reduced to the classic Porsche vs. Ferrari showdown, with the Maserati acting as Maranello's proxy. The Levante's noise is more joyful, while the Cayenne is bliss in the hands when the power hits the placement. The Mas is also more intimidating, while the Porsche at times almost drives itself.

I've raved about both rides. But in the end, the Porsche Cayenne GTS has the edge.

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