Fast, luxurious, practical and entertaining, what’s not to like about the third-generation Porsche Cayenne Turbo?
I’ve never shared the widespread view among follow motoring journalists and car enthusiasts that performance SUVs are the devil’s spawn. Of course, I’d prefer something with a lower centre of gravity but I don’t begrudge those that purchase a Cayenne over a Panamera.
On the international launch of the first-generation Cayenne in Spain, Porsche’s legendary designer, Harm Lagaay, explained that the typical Porsche owner had three cars, one of which was an SUV. The Boxster might have saved the company in the late 1990s, but the Cayenne provided Porsche with a level of profitability that continues to produce desirable driver’s cars such as the GT2 and GT3, and short-run legends such as the 911 R and 918 Spyder.
Now into its third generation, the Cayenne continues to defy physics with car-like handling and sports car performance. At the top of the current range sits the Turbo in regular five-door wagon body style tested here ($239,000), or the recently released Coupe variant ($254,000). Regardless of the choice of body, both Turbo models are powered by the same 3996cc twin-turbocharged V8 that sends its considerable outputs to all four wheels via an eight-speed PDK transmission.
The V8 makes its 404kW peak available from 5750-6000rpm and has a rev ceiling of 6800rpm. It’s quite a thing to be hauling along, revving to nearly 7000rpm in a 2175kg SUV. Here’s a fun fact for car nerds (perhaps that’s just me): the Cayenne Turbo’s 770Nm torque max is the same as that of the McLaren 720S (which also uses a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8). In the Porsche, the torque first reports at 1960rpm and doesn’t clock off until 4500rpm.
Despite the Cayenne Turbo’s considerable heft, these outputs ensure that the SUV is nothing short of thunderously fast. When optioned with Sport Chrono, the Turbo scampers away from rest and hits 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. When the first-generation Cayenne launched back in 2002, a sub-four-second sprint to 100km/h was reserved for bona fide supercars. And the Turbo’s 286km/h top speed isn’t far off supercar territory, either.
Of course, all of these impressive numbers won’t mean much if the Cayenne Turbo is a bus to drive. Thankfully and not surprisingly, the big SUV has been sprinkled with the usual Porsche brilliance and the Cayenne Turbo is a genuinely entertaining vehicle to drive quickly, while also displaying a spread of talents that will keep all members of the family happy. Even the dog.
Around the suburbs, where most cars (not just SUVs) spend much of their time, the Porsche is an easy-going companion. Perhaps the ride is a little terse over the worst of Sydney’s roads, but that’s not a huge surprise when you clock the 21-inch alloys wrapped in strips of liquorice (285/40 ZR21 up front and 315/35 ZR21 under the rear). Beyond that, the Cayenne Turbo slips into the daily grind, modestly hiding its performance under a bushel of civility and practicality.
The relaxed nature remains present as you slip the city and hit the open road, and even the ride settles as the speed increases. Our time with the Cayenne Turbo included a sombre four-up trip to the country for a funeral, and the big Porsche embraced its occupants with quiet luxury and minimal fuss.
A few days later, a solo drive on evo Australia’s usual test roads allowed me to discover the other side of the Cayenne Turbo and made me wonder is buyers ever make the same discovery. The firepower from the engine is astonishing, and the Turbo builds big speed in very short order. While you’re always aware of the mass of the Porsche, it never feels like a runaway train. That’s partly because you can always call on the tireless and enormous brakes to chomp big speed in half time and again. The front rotors measure 415mm and are squeezed hard by 10-piston calipers. Yes, 10! The 365mm rear rotors make do with four-piston calipers that wouldn’t look out of place on the front axle of many sports cars. Once there’s some warmth in the brakes, the pedal delivers feel and faithful consistency, allowing you to trust them and brake right to the apex of a corner.
The other reason that a charging 404kW, 2175kg Cayenne Turbo doesn’t feel out of control is that the chassis provides a platform from which you can drive hard and fast, but without stepping over the edge. The variable-rack steering doesn’t provide the last word on feedback, but it does point the nose with consistency and accuracy. Firm up the adaptive air suspension and there’s minimal pitch and dive in the longitudinal plane, nor much roll in the lateral plane. Regarding roll, there’s just enough to allow you to judge how hard those enormous tyres are working and what they might have in reserve.
I’d be lying if I said that a blast down a twisty road in a Cayenne Turbo is as much fun as the same drive in a hot hatch or a sports sedan. However, the Porsche blends entertainment, practicality and luxury in such a way that if this was your only car, you wouldn’t feel short changed. And in my fantasy garage, it’d make a great tow car for my 911 GT3 R race car. Jesse Taylor
Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo
Power 404kW @ 5750-6000rpm
Torque 770Nm @ 1960-4500rpm
Weight 2175kg (186kW/tonne)
0-100km/h 3.9 sec
Top speed 286km/h
Basic Price $239,000