It’s nearly 15 years since the first Porsche Cayenne Turbo barged its way unceremoniously to the front of many a well-heeled Porsche customer’s mind. What a shock that ‘955’ Cayenne was. Was Porsche really serious? Was its SUV really going to look like, well, that?
It was. With a typically Germanic deadpan delivery, Porsche was absolutely, unremittingly serious – about all of it, including the bit where the Cayenne, highly proficient off-road, could also put the sweats on many a hot hatch. Much has changed since: Porsche is now an SUV manufacturing giant that happens to also make sports cars, and today every high-end manufacturer has not just one high-performance SUV, but a range of them.
By and large Porsche has ring-fenced that oxymoronic market niche, the drivers’ 4×4, and now there’s this Mk3 Cayenne Turbo, which looks a lot like the last one to these eyes, but is longer and lower and nothing like it under the skin. It’s based on the same platform that underpins the Bentley Bentayga and the Audi Q7, and under its multi-metal exterior remains a twin-turbo V8 engine, now of 4-litre displacement instead of the previous 4.8. First seen in the new Panamera, it produces a resounding 543bhp with 568lb ft of torque.
The V8 is hooked up to an eight-speed torque-converter Tiptronic S gearbox and then an electronically controlled multi-plate cutch. The unique 21-inch alloy wheels are suspended by a multi-link arrangement, front and rear, with new three-chamber air struts standard on the Turbo. The Turbo also gets Porsche’s PTV+ torque-vectoring diff, plus for the first time the options of electric rear-wheel steering and a new form of the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) active anti-roll bars. Now electric rather than hydraulically operated, this latest PDCC is the 48-volt system also seen on the Bentayga and Audi Q7.
The Turbo is properly fast. It’ll rip to 62mph from rest in just 3.9sec with the optional Sport Chrono pack (£774), or 4.1sec without, then top out at 177mph, a speed at which it must punch a frighteningly dramatic hole through the air. It has a cultured engine, too: reserved on a light throttle, darkly persistent through the mid-range and then capable of a hammer blow when fully extended.
Life aboard the Turbo feels good. It feels built to an exacting standard – not something you can say of all its rivals – and unusually for Porsche, the standard spec is fairly generous. The rear seats move fore and aft and their backrests tilt, while there’s 680 litres of storage space even before the rear seats are lowered. Dry stuff, yes, but it’s not hard to see why wealthy buyers with their so-called active lifestyles have migrated en masse away from big saloons and GT cars.
Two options you really need are the PDCC and rear-wheel steering (£2315 and £1448 respectively). The former is a revelation, because its ability to slacken things off when the Turbo is mooching along in a straight line eradicates the previously inevitable roll-rock that affects high-performance SUVs. The Cayenne rides really well, and is a refined long-distance cruiser. The rear-steer conspires with the PDCC and the Cayenne’s other systems, monitored by a new ‘4D Chassis’ overlord, to provide quite astonishing agility and – amusingly – power oversteer: be aggressive on turn-in, plant the throttle, and you’ll need to find some countersteer, smartish.
Driven more sensibly, it makes for an incredibly nimble SUV, one that’s exploitable thanks to fine steering and adept body control. Making indecently rapid progress is a bizarre experience, like piloting your living room down a B-road with the footage speeded up.
The new Cayenne Turbo is mightily impressive, then, but a Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate is also very practical and I’d rather be driving a proper car.
‘It’s like piloting your living room down a B-road with the footage speeded up’
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATION 2018 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Typ-PO536
Engine V8, 3996cc, twin-turbo
Power 543bhp @ 5750-6000rpm / DIN
Torque 568lb ft @ 1960-4000rpm / DIN
0-62mph 4.1sec (claimed)
Top speed 177mph (claimed)
Weight 2175kg (254bhp/ton)
Basic price £99,291
+ Huge performance, surprising agility, refinement
– It’s still a two-ton-plus SUV
Drive-My rating 4.0