by Karl Furlong
The Porsche Cayenne has always been the clear dynamic benchmark in the SUV segment, combining car-like handling characteristics with the added versatility of an SUV. In the case of the Cayenne Turbo, you can add dramatic performance to its spread of talents because it takes just 3.7 seconds for it to reach 60 mph, courtesy of that 541-horsepower twin-turbo V8. Last year, the Cayenne range received a complete redesign with refined styling and a move to the Volkswagen Group's MLBevo platform, shared with the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. This goes some way to explaining the latest Turbo's brilliant combination of handling and ride comfort. The Cayenne doesn't only have these exotic rivals to compete with, though - the cheaper BMW X5 M Competition is just as fast and packs in far more standard equipment. We also have reservations about how fussy some of the touch-sensitive controls are to use. Other than that, for an SUV that hurtles down the road like a much more compact machine, the Cayenne Turbo has few peers.
Although a new Cayenne Coupe has been released, the regular Cayenne continues into 2020 unchanged, still fresh from its comprehensive 2019 update when the styling was brought more into line with other Porsche models, the infotainment interface was revised, and new driver assistance features were introduced.
See trim levels and configurations:
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The latest Cayenne has come a long way from the unloved first-generation model's awkward proportions. Although there are still more glamorous SUVs out there, the Cayenne now appears quite purposeful and the details have been nicely refined. The LED headlights feature three-dimensional light modules, the side windows have been narrowed, and the rear-end appears broader, thanks to an integrated light strip. Standard features include an adaptive roof spoiler for improved aerodynamics, 21-inch alloy wheels, and quad exhaust outlets. A wide range of wheel options are available at an added cost and measure up to 22-inches in size. A SportDesign Package in carbon fiber is another option to give the exterior a lift.
The latest Cayenne is slightly smaller than a BMW X5 M, with the main difference being height: the Bimmer is a full three inches taller than the Cayenne Turbo. The Porsche is 194 inches long, 78.1 inches wide (86.4 inches wide including the side mirrors), 65.9 inches in height (66.4 including the roof rails), and with a 114-inch wheelbase. At 5,056 pounds, the Cayenne Turbo is a heavy machine, yet it's still 369 pounds lighter than the X5 M. Not that many Cayenne's will head off-road, but in case you want to, the Porsche has a maximum ground clearance of 9.6 inches, a wading depth of 20.8 inches, and maximum approach/departure angles of 27.5/24.4 degrees, respectively.
The Cayenne Turbo's color palette extends to a total of 12 shades. Black and white are the two solid colors, while there are seven metallics: Carrara White, Jet Black, Dolomite Silver, Biscay Blue, Moonlight Blue, Mahogany and Quartzite Grey. Three 'special' colors are available at $3,150 each: Chalk, Lava Orange, and Cashmere Beige. Lava Orange is by far the most eye-popping shade, but it isn't the most attractive, either. The Cayenne looks good in black while Cashmere Beige imparts a touch of luxury.
The Cayenne Turbo is a seriously rapid SUV. The 4.0-liter V8 is boosted by twin turbochargers to generate peak outputs of 541 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. With standard all-wheel drive, the Cayenne Turbo will launch itself to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds with the available Sport Chrono package and continue on to a top speed of 177 mph. These figures are identical to BMW's claims for the X5 M Competition, although the X5 needs 617 horsepower to match the Porsche off the line. Still, the Cayenne Turbo is a blisteringly quick SUV and makes a mockery of its curb weight of over 5,000 pounds when you floor it. If you'll be using your Cayenne for towing duties, the Turbo has a good maximum towing capacity of 7,700 lbs.
As with many other Porsches, much of the Cayenne Turbo experience is dominated by the powerful engine. In this case, it's a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood and pumps out 541 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque. The flexible motor serves up its peak torque figure all the way from 1,960-4,500 rpm, so even though it'll happily chase the red line, there's plenty of grunt lower down. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Off the mark, the Cayenne Turbo shoves you back into your seat and provides an endless surge of power. If you need to pass slower traffic, the gearbox is quick to select the right gear and sends you flying past pretty much everything else. The latest V8 has lost just a bit of emotion and exuberance in its soundtrack compared to the older 4.8-liter unit, though: there's still a pleasing V8 growl, but it's a bit more sanitized than you'd want. What you do get is exceptional throttle response, near-absent turbo lag, and the sensation that this could easily be a larger-capacity naturally aspirated engine. With the optional Sport Chrono Package fitted, a special Sport Plus driving mode further sharpens up the transmission's responsiveness for the fastest gearshifts and crushingly effective launches.
Along with Porsche's legendary chassis tuning, lots of technology has gone into making the large and heavy Cayenne as maneuverable as possible. Together with all-wheel-drive, the Turbo gets a standard adaptive air suspension with a self-leveling function and ride-height adjustment. The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), meanwhile, continuously adjusts the damping force on individual wheels, depending on conditions and the driving style. Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes can be specified. In addition, rear-axle steering can be had as an option to improve agility.
It all adds up to an SUV that really doesn't drive like an SUV. There's grip aplenty, the steering is crisp and accurate (requiring only moderate applications when paired with the rear-axle steering), and body roll is beautifully contained. With the optional Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV+) system, power is transferred from side to side to further enhance balance through twisty stretches. If you want a driver's SUV, you simply can't do better than this - the only black mark against the Cayenne is steering that's mostly devoid of feedback.
Impressively, none of the big SUV's dynamic agility comes at the expense of ride comfort. In Comfort mode, progress is unruffled and the Porsche irons out surface imperfections admirably. Along with its ability to keep road noise at bay, you can cover hundreds of miles in this Cayenne with ease. Standard on the Turbo is the new Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) - the discs get an extremely hard tungsten-carbide coating and special brake pads which the manufacturer claims amounts to a 30 percent longer life. The system certainly has no trouble reining in the Cayenne Turbo from high speeds.
As expected, the Cayenne Turbo's powerful engine requires a fair amount of fuel. Its EPA-rated economy numbers work out to 15/19/17 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a gas tank size of 23.7 gallons, the Cayenne's combined cruising range will work out to approximately 403 miles, but expect this number to vary quite dramatically based on driving style. Still, the Cayenne Turbo is more efficient than the BMW X5 M, which can only manage 13/18/15 mpg.
The Porsche has a clean and sophisticated look to its high-quality cabin. Although an especially wide infotainment screen is fitted, and physical buttons have largely been replaced with touch-sensitive controls, we appreciate that Porsche has retained the iconic central tachometer - even the font is instantly familiar. A strict five-seater, the Cayenne provides acres of space for occupants along with a sporty driving position. However, you won't find as many standard features here as you would in a BMW or Mercedes-Benz. You do still get 18-way power adaptive sport seats, front and rear seat heating, and a heated steering wheel, but items like massaging seats, seat ventilation, and four-zone automatic climate control are all on the options list.
The Cayenne seats five occupants and the seats are upholstered in leather. There's generous legroom on offer for all occupants and especially ample rear legroom, so taller passengers won't have to worry about sitting at the back. The headroom is also good, even when seated in the middle rear seat, which is slightly raised relative to the rear outboard seats. The Cayenne isn't especially tall for a large SUV, so ingress and egress are particularly convenient as there is no big step up needed to get inside - you can merely slide onto the seats. Overall, this SUV is a great bet for carrying five passengers in comfort.
Unlike cheaper Cayennes, the Turbo variant gets leather upholstery as standard in a choice of either black or Slate Grey. To get access to more flamboyant two-tone interior colors, you'll have to fork out an extra $430. These color combinations include Black/Bordeaux Red, Black/Mojave Beige, Slate Grey/Mojave Beige, and Graphite Blue/Chalk. Finally, there are two club leather interior options for even more opulence: Truffle Brown costs $1,420 and Truffle Brown/Cohiba Brown will set you back $1,990. There are many more interior trim options at extra cost, from Alcantara on the steering wheel and grab handles, to Red Gum and Anthracite Chestnut interior trim. Dark Walnut and Natural Olive Grey wood are the default available trims. As standard, the Turbo has a roof lining in Alcantara.
In contrast to the Cayenne's spacious seating, the cargo area isn't quite as impressive. With the rear seats in the normal position, the trunk offers 26.2 cubic feet of space. While that is by no means poky, the BMW X5 has a much better 33.9 cubes and the Mercedes-Benz GLE an even more generous 38.2 cubes. With the 40/20/40-split rear seats folded, the Cayenne has 59.3 cubes of total cargo space, again down on the GLE's commodious 80.3 cu-ft.
In the cabin, there are door pockets, a glovebox, and a reasonably sized center console for stashing smaller items. A pair of cupholders are also conveniently placed for front-seat occupants. Although the rear-seat occupants get a fold-down center armrest, it isn't particularly comfortable to use as the center section (where you'd typically rest your arm) is taken up by the cupholder moldings.
The Cayenne Turbo is better-equipped than other models in the range, but while there are many options, some of them should be standard. You get 18-way power-adjustable adaptive sport seats with a comfort memory package, front/rear seat heating, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming exterior and interior mirrors, a HomeLink garage door opener, front and rear parking sensors, and a power-adjustable steering wheel. The options list is extensive, with available features like massaging seats, ventilated seats, a power sunblind for the rear side windows, ambient lighting, soft-close doors, and four-zone climate control. Unfortunately, many driver assistance systems are also only available as options, including a surround-view camera system, lane keep assist, a head-up display, and adaptive cruise control.
As soon as you get into the Cayenne, you'll notice the incredibly crisp 12.3-inch high-definition touchscreen that forms part of the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system. It takes care of infotainment, while key driver information is displayed on twin seven-inch screens on either side of the central tachometer. Back to the PCM system, the touchscreen and a variety of touch-sensitive controls (with haptic feedback) combine to manage key functions. The system is reasonably intuitive and there are no complaints about the touchscreen's rapid responses, although the menu structure takes some time to adjust to. The touch-sensitive buttons are also a bit too easy to activate inadvertently when reaching for something else. As standard, the setup comprises Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto), four USB ports, satellite radio, navigation, and Bluetooth connectivity. A Bose surround-sound system is standard, but you can upgrade to a 21-speaker Burmester 3D high-end surround-sound system. A rear entertainment system with two ten-inch touchscreen displays, two sets of Porsche Bluetooth wireless headphones, and HDMI input, is also available.
A consumer-verified J.D. Power rating of 84 out of 100 indicates that the Porsche Cayenne Turbo should provide thousands of miles of reliable motoring. That being said, the Cayenne Turbo has been affected by a couple of recalls in recent years. 2019-2020 models had an issue where there was no visual warning of brake pad wear, which could reduce braking performance. In another case, a 2019 Cayenne Turbo had shock absorber forks that may result in loosening shock absorbers, but this only affected a single vehicle. Certain Cayennes also had an issue with a seat belt buckle that may break in the event of a crash, but it's unclear if the Turbo variant was specifically affected.
Porsche provides a four-year/50,000-mile limited vehicle warranty that includes 24-hour roadside assistance. Also standard is a four-year/50,000-mile limited paint warranty and a 12-year/unlimited-miles corrosion warranty.
Premium luxury SUVs are rarely evaluated for crashworthiness and the Cayenne Turbo is one such example, with both the IIHS and the NHTSA not having assessed it. Still, we doubt that a prolific marque like Porsche has built anything less than a supremely safe vehicle.
Fully equipped, the Cayenne Turbo has much of the modern safety gear you'd expect in an SUV of this price. Unfortunately, many of these features are added-cost options. That means you need to pay extra for a head-up display, lane keeping assist with traffic light recognition, adaptive cruise control, night vision assist and lane change assist.
You do get airbags front and rear, electronic stability control, traction control, daytime running lights, a rearview camera, and brake assist, but it's really disappointing that Porsche has been so stingy with features that are proven to increase driver awareness and safety.
The most successful vehicles tend to have one important virtue in common: people look at them and instantly know what they represent. The Ford F-150 is the default do-it-all truck, the Toyota Camry is a bulletproof family sedan, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the luxury car benchmark. While the pricey Porsche Cayenne Turbo will never sell in the huge volumes of some of these cars, its identity is crystal clear: this is the best driver's SUV on the planet. It may have a large cabin and some off-road capability, but it's still a focused driver's machine, like every other Porsche. The Lamborghini Urus may have something to say about all of this, but its stratospheric price places it in another league altogether. In its latest form, the Cayenne Turbo is hellishly quick, it handles supremely well (and even better when equipped with Porsche's optional tech like the rear-axle steering), and has been styled to more closely resemble the iconic 911 - that can only be a good thing, of course. Other upsides to the Cayenne Turbo are the sturdy cabin, plentiful passenger space, and excellent comfort. Although some of the touch-sensitive controls can frustrate, and the cargo capacity is below-average, Porsche has built an SUV that engages the driver like few others. Mission accomplished, we'd say.
The privilege of owning the Cayenne Turbo doesn't come cheaply with a base MSRP of $126,500. This excludes options, tax, licensing, registration, and a delivery, processing, and handling fee of $1,350. The more powerful and much better equipped BMW X5 M Competition is over $10,000 cheaper at $114,100.
There's only one Cayenne Turbo to choose from (the only other Cayenne Turbo is the S E-Hybrid which we review separately). The Turbo gets a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 541 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, enough for it to complete the 0-60 mph run in just 3.7 seconds when equipped with the Sport Chrono Package. An eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, and an adaptive air suspension are standard.
The smoother exterior design features LED lighting, 21-inch wheels in dark titanium, an adaptive roof spoiler and quad exhaust outlets. Inside the leather-trimmed cabin, there's spacious seating for five passengers. The driver and front passenger get 18-way adaptive sport seats with integrated headrests, a comfort memory package, and heating. The rear seats are heated too, while front/rear seat ventilation is an option. Other inclusions are dual-zone automatic climate control, a Bose surround-sound system, a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with navigation and Apple CarPlay, and two seven-inch displays on either side of the central tachometer. The many available options include a rear-seat entertainment system, Burmester 3D premium surround-sound system, four-zone automatic climate control and driver aids like night vision assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane change assist.
On some luxury vehicles, the available packages feel superfluous, but when it comes to the Cayenne Turbo, you feel that at least a few boxes need to be ticked to equip the large SUV to an appropriate level. For $3,740, the Premium Package Plus adds four-zone automatic climate control, LED matrix headlights, front-seat ventilation, lane change assist, comfort access and ambient lighting. The Assistance Package goes for a costly $6,240 and adds several driver safety aids, many of which should be standard. They include a surround-view system, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane keep assist with traffic sign recognition, and night vision assist. For around a third of this price, Mercedes-Benz - as just one example - offers more than twice the number of driver safety aids as part of its extended safety package.
The pricey extras continue with the Porsche's exterior. A SportDesign package in carbon fiber goes for an eye-watering $8,370, while roof rails in high gloss black (along with a roof transport system) costs $1,110. 21-inch wheels are available, but they'll cost you in excess of $7,000. In the cabin, the most noteworthy upgrades are the Burmester 3D high-end audio system at $5,810, a rear-seat entertainment system for $1,920, and a smartphone compartment with inductive wireless charging for $690. You can also specify leather trim for the dashboard and door panels at $1,190, an Alcantara steering wheel rim for $200, and carbon fiber trim for $1,000.
Being a performance SUV, we expect that a fair amount of buyers will opt for the Sport Chrono Package (which drops the 0-60 mph time) at $1,130, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus at $1,500, and the rear-axle steering at $1,620. An off-road package with increased underbody protection, adds a second towing eye and additional dashboard displays goes for $2,000.
As you can probably tell by now, creating your ideal Cayenne Turbo is an expensive exercise. Through gritted teeth, we'd tick the box for the Premium Package Plus but, instead of the exorbitantly expensive Assistance Package, we'd choose the two or so driver aids that we want most - the head-up-display ($1,720) and the adaptive cruise control ($2,000) seem genuinely useful for everyday needs. We'd also want our Cayenne Turbo to perform as well as it can, so the Sport Chrono Package and the rear-axle steering are other options we'd add. Once you've tallied up all of these extras, the Cayenne Turbo will cost a dear $138,060 including destination, and that's just scraping the surface of an options list that can add many more tens of thousands of dollars to the final price.
The X5 M may be heavier than the Cayenne Turbo, but in the case of the X5 M Competition, it compensates with BMW's most powerful available engine: a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 617 horsepower. The X5 M gets to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and the Competition model does the same in 3.7 seconds, so both are just as quick as the Cayenne Turbo while costing over $10,000 less. The X5 gets BMW's M-tuned xDrive all-wheel-drive system which allows it to carry monstrous speeds through the bends, but it doesn't feel as agile as the more athletic Cayenne. Performance credentials aside, the X5 is the superior SUV because not only does it have much more cargo space (33.9 cubic feet behind the rear seats relative to the Cayenne's 26.2), but the X5 M also gets standard four-zone automatic climate control, hands-free tailgate opening, active blind-spot detection, surround-view cameras with 3D view, a full-color head-up display, and frontal collision warning, all of which are either optional or unavailable on the Cayenne. The Porsche is the better drive, but the X5 M offers more and gets the overall vote between these two.
It's the meanest Range Rover Sport you can get. The SVR boasts a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 575 horsepower, a swanky design that is also instantly recognizable as an SUV from one of the purveyors of the concept, and a 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds. Okay, so the Cayenne Turbo is quite a bit faster and has superior on-road dynamics, but the SVR is also a comfortable luxury chariot and will go further than the Cayenne can off-road (for example, the Porsche's wading depth of 20.8 inches doesn't come close to the SVR's 33.5 inches). The SVR's supercharged V8 also makes an intoxicating noise. Both have classy cabins with plenty of room for five and acres of soft leather mixed with metal and wood accents. Once again, though, the Cayenne Turbo falls short in terms of its standard specification. As with the BMW X5 M, the Cayenne Turbo's superiority is in its capability on-road, but the SVR is sheer theatre, costs less, has more equipment on board, and it's got the brand's legendary off-road prowess to boot.
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