by Sebastian Cenizo
When Porsche makes something new, it makes sure it handles like a Porsche should. Although the midsize Cayenne SUV has been around for some time now, it's held on to that brilliance in the bends and is undeniably quick, especially when in Turbo guise. Thanks to a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that powers all four wheels with the aid of an eight-speed automatic, this 541-horsepower, 567 lb-ft of torque SUV is something truly special. Sharing a platform with the likes of the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus, this is the perfect antidote to the BMW X5 M Competition. Still, as much as Porsches have improved, so has the competition. Is the Cayenne Turbo still the boss?
The Porsche Cayenne Turbo is completely unaltered for the 2021 model, save for a price increase from $126,500 to $127,800. The non-Turbo range sees the return of the GTS, but those lesser models are reviewed separately.
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The sleek Cayenne returns with those trademark LED headlights, a gaping front mouth, and standard 21-inch wheels, specific to only Turbo models. A panoramic roof lets light into the cabin, while the rear sees an adaptive roof spoiler coupled with LED taillights and a quad-exit exhaust tip arrangement.
The Cayenne Turbo is a large and heavy machine, with a curb weight that starts at a whopping 5,056 pounds. Length measures 194 inches while width is 78.1 inches with the mirrors folded. The wheelbase is 114 inches and height measures 65.9 inches. Should you wish to take it off-road, the Cayenne Turbo boasts an approach angle of 27.5 degrees with the air suspension in its highest setting. Break-over and departure angles measure 21.3 and 24.4 degrees respectively in the same guise. Ground clearance starts at 7.4 inches, but since this model is equipped with air suspension, this can rise to 9.6 inches.
As standard, you can choose between just white or black, but if you're willing to be a little more adventurous, you can have metallic finishes like Quartzite Grey, Mahogany, Moonlight Blue, Dolomite Silver, Jet Black, and Carrara White. If those still aren't exciting enough, special colors like Carmine Red, Chalk, Lava Orange, and Cashmere Beige Metallic are available, but each of these cost an additional $3,150.
The Cayenne Turbo is a standalone model that comes in only one variant, with the electrified Turbo S E-Hybrid reviewed separately. Still, that's not to say that the Cayenne Turbo isn't that great. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 generates an astonishing 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque, all of which is split among the front and rear wheels with the assistance of an eight-speed automatic transmission. This works incredibly well for launches, with the Turbo capable of 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds (3.7 if you spec the Sport Chrono package, which includes launch control). Keep your foot hard down and the Cayenne Turbo tops out at 177 mph. Despite this incredible performance, the Turbo is pretty practical too, with the SUV capable of towing as much as 7,700 lbs behind it.
Just one engine and transmission configuration is on offer, with the Cayenne Turbo featuring a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. This powers all four wheels with the aid of an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. As you'd expect of any Porsche with a Turbo badge, the force that this engine produces is phenomenal, and the throttle response is mind-boggling. This engine is a true masterpiece and keeps pushing throughout the rev range, never feeling underwhelmed by whatever you ask of it. Whether it's taking off from the lights or overtaking slower traffic, the Turbo just wants to go. This is helped along by a sweet companion of a gearbox that is both smooth and sharp, always changing to the correct ratio at just the right time. Naturally, a manual mode allows you to take control, and like most everything with Porsche, the responses are right up there with the best. If there's a reason to dislike the Cayenne Turbo, you won't find it under the hood.
Porsche has fitted the Cayenne Turbo with a system called 4D Chassis Control. Along with adaptive air suspension, this means that the large SUV is remarkably good around corners, and goes through them with more speed and composure than anything else that weighs this much has the right to. It's sharp, direct, and yet still comfortable, cosseting, and luxurious, but at the expense of involvement, often feeling highly competent but completely anesthetized. The steering is an absolute delight, and if you opt for rear-axle steering, turning the wheel results in even quicker reactions when you're changing direction. Even without it, the grip is incredible and the hulking SUV stays flatter than you'd expect. Essentially, it drives like a much smaller car.
Still, as we hinted at above, it manages to be smooth and soft over pockmarked asphalt and soaks up bumps big and small alike without a hint of complaint. The brakes are also astonishing, with 10-piston calipers up front joined by four-piston calipers at the rear. The size of the calipers isn't the only factor, however, as the discs are coated in a tungsten-carbide film that improves their lifespan. This means that you can push harder for longer. Despite such sharp stoppers, they're not too aggressive for daily driving and can be easily modulated in traffic.
As you'd expect of such a powerful engine, fuel consumption can be alarmingly rapid. EPA estimates predicted that the 2020 Cayenne Turbo will return a rather woeful 15/19/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. We don't expect this to change for the mechanically identical 2021 model. With the gas tank able to contain 23.7 gallons worth of premium unleaded, this should equate to a mixed driving range of around 403 miles. Naturally, if you're driving hard or towing a load, that will drop even further, but it's still worth noting that the BMW X5 M Competition returns 2 mpg less in a mix of city and highway driving.
The Cayenne is big, but it's the way the interior is laid out that makes it feel even more spacious. The dash seems to go on forever, helped on by a 12.3-inch touchscreen display that looks absolutely gorgeous. Above this hi-tech display is an ode to a time gone by, with the analog stopwatch in the center of the dash to remind us that Porsche still cares about sports cars, even when SUVs pay the bills. There's room for five and all passengers get heated seats, although the front occupants get the greatest benefit with 18-way power-adjustable adaptive sports seats.
The Cayenne's seating layout is called a 4+1 by Porsche, and as you can probably guess, this means that it's best to restrict adult numbers in the car to just four if you don't want to hear complaints from the second row. Still, the outboard seats offer plenty of headroom and legroom, and those sitting up front get 18-way adaptive seats to ensure excellent visibility, comfort, and support. Getting in and out of the Cayenne is made especially easy by the air suspension system. In its lowest setting, climbing in and out is child's play.
As you'd expect in something that retails for almost $130,000, the interior is clad in leather. What you may not be expecting is that the headliner is finished in soft Alcantara. As standard, you can choose between leather in Slate Grey or black at no charge, but if you want two-tone leather, it will cost you at least $430. This will give you access to Graphite Blue/Chalk, Slate Grey/Mojave Beige, Black/Mojave Beige, and Black/Bordeaux Red combinations. Should you be willing to spend anything from $1,420 to $1,990 or more, you can have Club leather in Truffle Brown or Truffle Brown with contrasting Cohiba Brown. Naturally, a number of trim inlay choices are open to you too, but some will cause conflicts with certain upholstery choices, so it's best to play around with the online configurator to ascertain what you can get away with.
The Cayenne is spacious in the cabin, but its cargo area is a little lacking. It offers just 26.3 cubic feet of volume, while rivals from BMW and Mercedes-AMG offer well over 30 cubes. Still, this can't be known as the driver's SUV and the perfect van for the soccer mom at the same time. If you do need more space, then you can fold the rear seats to increase volume to 59.3 cubes - enough for a bicycle and some additional miscellaneous adventure gear.
In the cabin, each door has a recess for bottles, and both rows get a pair of cupholders and decent center armrest storage. Up front, you also get a decent glovebox, but there's no obvious space for your phone.
As standard, the Cayenne Turbo is equipped with an auto stop/start system, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive air suspension, and an adaptive roof spoiler. It also gets rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic roof, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, a rearview camera, cruise control, speed-sensitive steering, and keyless ignition. A heated steering wheel and heated seats are also thrown in, along with forward collision assist with automatic emergency braking. However, as is often the case with Porsche, the really good stuff is restricted to the options list. Here you'll find features like quad-zone climate control, LED matrix headlights, lane change assist, ambient lighting, a surround-view camera, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane keep assist, a night vision camera, launch control, rear-axle steering, an off-road package with better undertray protection, soft-close doors, ventilated seats, massaging front seats, power sunshades, and a smartphone compartment with wireless charging.
The infotainment system of today's Cayenne Turbo is far better than what we had to contend with a couple of years ago. Now, you get a stunning, responsive, and intuitive system featured on an expansive 12.3-inch touchscreen display. The system still has its faults, however, as Android Auto is still off the cards. Still, at least you get wireless Apple CarPlay, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, voice control, HD Radio, aux input, four USB-C ports, navigation, and a 14-speaker Bose sound system. If that's not good enough for you, a 21-speaker Burmester 3D surround sound system can be fitted for $5,810. You can also add a six-disc CD/DVD changer and a pair of 10-inch rear-seat touchscreen displays with internal memory, wireless headphones, and inputs for HDMI, SD cards, and USB.
The 2021 model of the Cayenne Turbo has thus far been free of recalls. However, its mechanically identical 2020 predecessor was subject to two. One for a faulty display connected to the brake pad wear sensors while the other was for a transmission oil pipe that may leak.
To quell your qualms, a limited warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance is included for the first four years or 50,000 miles of ownership. This comes along with a one-year/10,000-mile maintenance plan.
Cars that cost this much are rarely subjected to crash tests and the Cayenne Turbo is no different with no records available from the IIHS or NHTSA. However, a long list of safety features should keep occupants safe.
As standard, the Cayenne Turbo comes with adaptive LED headlights, forward collision assist with automatic emergency braking, parking sensors at the front and at the rear, a rearview camera, and rain-sensing wipers. You also get frontal, side-impact, knee, and curtain rollover airbags as standard. The really impressive stuff, however, costs extra. Available features include adaptive LED matrix headlights, lane change assist, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a surround-view camera, a night vision camera, and a head-up display.
If you value space and standard features, then buying a Cayenne Turbo may not be for you. Then again, if those are the qualities you're looking for in your next car, you probably shouldn't be looking at anything with a Porsche badge in the first place. Porsche builds cars that drive beautifully. That is, first and foremost, what people expect of the brand and what the brand expects of itself. So yes, a BMW X5 or a Merc GLE will carry more stuff, but it's the Cayenne that will make the trip more exciting. There's no disputing that the Cayenne's rivals are fast, but this Porsche handles as they can only dream to. It's simply the best in its class, and with infotainment and luxury systems in the Cayenne Turbo better than ever, it's pretty close to being the perfect family car. Should you buy one? That's not a question for those who doubt themselves. Do it.
The 2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo starts at a base price of $127,800 before you factor in $1,350 for delivery, processing, and handling. Fully loaded, the options list can be a dangerous thing for your account balance, with us being able to easily exceed $200,000 when clicking through the configurator.
The Cayenne Turbo is a standalone model, with the Turbo S E-Hybrid considered separately and non-Turbo models in a different class altogether. It is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 541 hp and 567 lb-ft of torque. It puts its power to the ground with the help of an all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. This helps it achieve a 0-60 mph time of under four seconds, while top speed only arrives at 177 mph. Inside, you get leather seats and an Alcantara headliner, adaptive sports seats, dual-zone climate control, heated first and second rows, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display that supports wireless Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM satellite radio, voice control, and navigation. A Bose sound system is standard, but the options list includes a Burmester 21-speaker surround sound system that puts the standard setup to shame. Other enhancements are available too, with quad-zone climate control, ventilated and massaging seats, a head-up display, and rear-axle steering among the most interesting.
Numerous choices are open to those who are willing to spend extra. Among these is the Premium Package Plus option, which adds $3,750 to your bill along with quad-zone climate control, LED matrix headlights, ventilated front seats, lane change assist, and ambient lighting. If you're more interested in safety features, you can have the Assistance package, which adds a surround-view camera, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane keep assist with traffic sign recognition, and a night vision camera. This costs an extra $6,250. The Sport Chrono package is another popular choice, and at $1,130, seems worthwhile. This adds launch control, an analog and digital stopwatch, a drive mode selector on the steering wheel, and a Sport Plus mode that speeds up responses of the engine, gearbox, and chassis.
The Porsche car configurator's options list can be an absolute minefield, filled with unnecessary upholstery options and details that seem cool when you're clicking but add a lot of excess weight to your final build cost if you're not careful. We'd keep things relatively simple. We'd opt for the Sport Chrono package to unlock the Turbo's maximum potential and we'd also maximize safety by speccing the Assistance Package. Ventilated and massaging seats are also tempting, as is quad-zone climate control, but we wouldn't go much further than this.
In order for this to be a fair fight, it's the SVR version that we're comparing the Cayenne Turbo to. With a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 under the hood, this British brute produces 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Much like the Cayenne Turbo, it comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. However, despite the extra power, the Range Rover Sport SVR takes 4.3 seconds to gallop from zero to sixty, while even the regular Cayenne Turbo without launch control can do it almost half a second quicker. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that while Porsche was honing the ultimate on-road SUV for driving when creating the Cayenne, the Range Rover Sport is bred from the desire to be brilliantly capable off-road, and this is where the Porker stands no chance. If you're going to go trailblazing pretty often, then, we'd have the SVR. If not, the Turbo seems like a lot more fun.
BMW also has a reputation for astonishing on-road dynamics, and although the average Bimmer may not be quite as crisp as your average Porsche, the X5 M is no slouch. It's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces as much as 617 hp in the Competition model and will be right alongside the Cayenne Turbo in the dash from 0-60 mph. Top speed is the same too, with the limit arriving at 177 mph. In addition to being a cheaper alternative with similar performance credentials, the BMW X5 M also features a larger cargo area of 33.9 cubic feet and more standard features that include a surround-view camera, quad-zone climate control, a head-up display, and BMW's own version of lane change assist - all as standard, while the Porsche charges extra for each and every one. On paper, the X5 M is a better deal in every way, but you may want to drive them back to back to be sure.
Check out some informative Porsche Cayenne Turbo video reviews below.