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The super-SUV segment is no place for shrinking violets. Now Porsche dials it up to 11.

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The Porsche Cayenne Turbo was among the most divisive cars of the early noughties. Yet if it hadn’t survived all of the slings and arrows of public opinion aimed at it since 2002, and gone on to establish such a clearly profitable business model in spite of all the hate, would the Lamborghini Urus, the Bentley Bentayga, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan and now the Ferrari Purosangue have followed? This was the car to first provide concrete evidence that wealthy people were ready to spend big money on seriously fast and desirable luxury SUVs. And now it’s out to battle its way back to the top of the niche that it created. 

The Cayenne Turbo GT is a new top-of-the-range performance derivative for the Cayenne model line. Available only with the lower-roofed Cayenne Coupé bodystyle, it features as standard every active suspension, steering and braking technology offered optionally on lesser Cayenne models, but also represents a thorough technical reworking of many of those systems, and features a widely upgraded turbocharged V8 engine to boot. It’s a product whose intent is “to fully exploit the dynamic potential” of the Cayenne: a statement that, if delivered on, ought to send shivers to various offices around the European luxury car business. 

Why settle for one rear spoiler when you can have the GT's roof-mounted wing as well? Carbonfibre side plates were a little over the top for some testers’ tastes, but they are certainly purposeful-looking.

This week, then, we find out just how well Porsche can make a 2.3-tonne luxury SUV handle when fully committing to the idea, and exactly how fast that SUV can be made to accelerate and stop as verified by our satellite timing gear. Get ready for some startling numbers.

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The Porsche Cayenne Coupe line-up at a glance

There are now three six-cylinder Cayenne Coupés in Porsche’s model range and four V8s – the Cayenne GTS being the crossover point. Two models out of seven offer plug-in hybrid drive, although they do it at quite different prices and performance levels. There are no secondary trim levels but there are a number of options to splurge on plus Lightweight Sport weight-saving equipment packages.

EnginesPowerPrice from

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

335bhp£67,100
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Coupe456bhp£75,320
Porsche Cayenne S Coupe434bhp£79,340
Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe453bhp£92,150
Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe543bhp£112,970
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Turbo S Coupe671bhp£134,180
Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT Coupe*632bhp£147,510

*Model tested

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT

DESIGN & STYLING

2 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT pan

The current, third-generation Cayenne was one of the first cars to appear among its immediate Volkswagen Group relations – Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus – back in 2017. Like its relations, it uses the MLB-Evo model platform; but unlike any of them, it sits on the shorter-wheelbase version, having 100mm less distance between its axles than a Bentayga or a Q7 or Q8, and more than 100mm less than an Urus. And if you’re looking for a naturally agile large SUV, a shorter wheelbase is a good place to start. 

While it may seem superfluous in connection with a car like this, Porsche clearly had an eye on both saving weight and lowering the centre of gravity in the design and specification of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT. That’s why it elected to work only with the marginally leaner, lower-roofed Cayenne Coupé bodystyle. It also explains the standard-fit carbonfibre roof (which saves 22kg over the glass roof typically fitted to a Cayenne Coupé, and does so at the highest point of the car), the lightweight titanium exhaust (18kg lighter than the Turbo’s) and the standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes. We weighed our test car at 2251kg – more than 50kg lighter than the regular Turbo we tested in 2018 and 34kg lighter than the Urus we tested a year later. 

The enlarged bootlid spoiler liplooks all the more conspicuous when the panel it’s attached to is extended. It will mean you need more clear roof space in your garage in order to open the boot fully, too. Porsche says it adds 40kg of downforce at top speed.

The Turbo GT rides up to 17mm lower than a regular Cayenne Turbo, on revised, height-adjustable, three-chamber air suspension of effective spring rates between 10% and 15% higher than those of its sibling model (depending on the selected driving mode). Significant material changes were also made to its PASM adaptive dampers, its PTV torque-vectoring rear differential (which delivers a greater locking ratio than a Turbo’s) and its four-wheel steering system, while the car’s active anti-roll control system was comprehensively retuned.

The Cayenne Turbo GT’s front-axle geometry was reappraised, too, to allow for the fitment of 22in alloy wheels wider in the rim than on any Cayenne before, and has half a degree of extra negative camber to the improvement of peak lateral grip. Longer helper springs and stiffer axle mounts have been fitted at both ends of the car. Pirelli P Zero Corsa performance tyres come as standard.

Under the bonnet is fitted a widely overhauled version of the 4.0-litre V8 for which Porsche led development on behalf of the VW Group several years ago. Producing 632bhp of peak power, it is slightly less mighty on paper than the related unit found in the Urus (strategically speaking, wouldn’t it have to be?) but identically as torquey. It has different crankshaft, pistons, conrods, chain drive, turbos, intercoolers and engine mounts than the regular Cayenne Turbo engine, as well as three additional radiators, and it runs with a slightly reduced compression ratio in order to cope with the additional boost pressure.

INTERIOR

10 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT straightdash

The cabin of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT is typical of Porsche for its understated sense of luxury and tactile but purposeful, down-to-business ambience. This is a comfortable and quietly lavish four-seater ready to carry adults in both rows.

It isn’t an especially accommodating large SUV, though. Anyone over 6ft 2in will probably find the headlining with their scalp when sitting in either of the individual rear seats, and there’s no middle seat or seatbelt but instead just a plastic storage tray. Leg room is in generous supply wherever you sit, however, while seat comfort is generally good. Although the 40:20:40 rear chairs don’t fold completely flat, they do make for a cargo area that is easily big enough for bulky items, is easy to expand and could serve family touring requirements well.

The standard-fit decorative trim is an unusual glossy black and carbonfibre mix, but you can swap the carbon inlay bit out for brushed or textured aluminium if you prefer.

Up front, Porsche has made wide use of grey Alcantara synthetic suede (dashboard, door cards, steering wheel, gearlever, grab handles and seats), which is blended with grey leather, grey decorative carbonfibre trim and gloss black trim. It is a slightly limited material palette, and makes for a dark and serious driving environment but still an inviting and expensive-feeling one (although you might have some concerns about all that Alcantara trim coming into contact with dirt, mud or water).

The instrument binnacle has a large central ‘real’ tachometer (rather than a digital equivalent), and it’s flanked by digital screens whose content can be tailored to your liking. On the raised centre console to the driver’s left are physical blower controls, plenty of permanent menu shortcut buttons to help navigate the infotainment screen above and permanent capacitive controls for the suspension and stability controls.

Driving modes are toggled via a golf ball-sized knob on the bottom-right quadrant of the steering wheel, which also has some useful infotainment and trip computer controls on its spokes but still doesn’t feel overburdened with switchgear.

Multimedia

The Turbo GT is the first new Porsche Cayenne derivative with a new sixth-generation Porsche Communication Management infotainment system (it’s now part of series-production specification for lesser models, too). Its most significant advancements compared with former versions are deeper integration of Apple Music and Podcasts (so you don’t need to connect your phone to access either), as well as proper device mirroring for Android smartphones. If you’re an existing Apple Music subscriber, then, you can scroll and access music easily (you get three years’ mobile data connectivity with the car for free), and music system reproduction is pretty strong even with only the standard 150W Sound Package Plus audio set-up fitted. 

The main touchscreen interface is easy to navigate thanks to menu controls that are conveniently placed under the display, and the navigation is simple to set, with mapping very clearly displayed and straightforward to adapt to suit your preferences.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

3 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT frontcorner

When, during its road test three years ago, the Lamborghini Urus rocketed to 60mph in 3.3sec and 100mph in 7.8sec, while covering a standing quarter mile in just 11.6sec, we were staggered at an array of performance benchmarks we thought we would never see from any car so large and heavy. Inevitably, though, they have been beaten. And so, if the first key measure of success for the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT was to reassert Porsche’s status as maker of the VW Group’s fastest SUV (as, on an unspoken level at least, surely it must have been), the car gets off to the perfect start.

On a dry and warm day at Millbrook Proving Ground, this 2251kg Porsche Cayenne needed just 3.1sec to hit 60mph from rest, 7.6sec to hit 100mph and 11.4sec for a standing quarter mile. Those are serious figures for any kind of performance car: quicker than a Mercedes-AMG GT 63 4-Door Coupé and even than the last Nissan GT-R we tested (a GT-R Recaro in 2017). From an SUV, they are little short of mind-blowing. 

The titanium exhaust has one fewer silencer than that of a regular Cayenne Turbo. Since there are bypasses for the other one, in Sport mode it produces a V8 rumble about as unmuffled as it can be, allowing for modern exhaust after-treatment. It’s nicely naughty, and not far off a Range Rover Sport SVR for audible presence.

The outright performance is the result not just of massive power (on a power-to-weight basis, the Turbo GT is equivalent only to a mid-level 911), but an accomplished combination of grip, traction and the usual top-level modern electronic systems syncopation. You might imagine that any car with this much power and weight would splatter its torque onto the road like a toddler daubing emulsion with a 4in paintbrush. In fact, its launch control starts are as neat and closely managed as they are physically uncompromising.

There’s an elastic, catapult-like quality about the way the automatic gearbox uses all that torque when taking off quickly from rest, only for the engine to rush through the lower intermediate ratios like a magician dealing baccarat cards. There is give and take to the power delivery also due to some turbo lag evident below 2500rpm, Porsche’s lowering of the compression ratio of its turbo V8 taking a small but noticeable toll on low-range tractability. Even so, if you were trying to pick upshift points for the gearbox yourself under full throttle in manual mode, you would have a tough job indeed until hitting third or fourth gear.

At its most wild, the Cayenne Turbo GT doesn’t waste any opportunity to show its visceral brutality – but, running in normal driving mode, that V8 engine is a distant audible presence only, the gearbox is slick and accommodating, and progress can be smooth and mechanically refined. Flick that steering wheel rotor 180deg clockwise in Sport Plus, however, and there’s a starkness to the sudden change in dynamic character. Bristling extra control weight and response materialises, as does a bassy but likeable bellow from the V8, while the gearbox keeps the engine on song by downshifting early, holding onto lower gears for longer and announcing the Porsche’s sporting agenda to anyone within earshot. 

There is a remarkably long-travel calibration for the accelerator pedal, via which it is hard to immediately compute just how much faster the car will go as you delve deeper towards the carpet. Typically, the answer is ‘plenty’. The carbon-ceramic brakes have decent bite, useful progression, and all the power and fade resistance you would want in such a heavy performance machine.

RIDE & HANDLING

4 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT reardrift

There are cars you feel you really ought to dress up for before driving – and for this one, only a wrestler’s cape and a Lycra mask would do.

That’s because the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT is a car that demands plenty of physical effort and commitment from its driver. It’s a big, heavy and very fast car ready to communicate the physical forces acting on it – and they are considerable. Get to grips with it in just the right environment, and you’ll find it will do things that other super-sized muscle cars simply won’t – but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it isn’t subtle, lithe, delicate or agile.

Stable on turn-in, the chassis needs a moment to settle in tighter bends, and gathering the car’s mass over its front axle on turn-in doesn’t speed up the process much.

Rather, it's as if it wants to be physically dominated; it’s very difficult to overdrive; and it tends to take a slightly approximate line and attitude when driven through a corner on the limit of grip, showing off a certain badly behaved charm that makes it all the more engaging – if only where it’s safe to unearth it.

In default normal mode, steering is medium-weighted, consistently paced, intuitive and discreetly feelsome. It makes the car easy to guide on longer trips, and imbues plenty of reassurance and precision, but allows you to relax at the wheel. Body control is neat and tidy, but not at the expense of some compliance. But in its sportier settings, there is twice as much weight and feedback through the Cayenne Turbo GT’s steering rim – considerably more, in both cases, than most luxury-minded SUVs tend to allow – as well as much closer and less compromising body control.

The darting alertness of something like an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is shunned, however. This Porsche prefers a measured turn-in, and in tighter turns it needs a second or so to settle into a cornering line, to pass its lateral load from its front contact patches to those at the rear, and to be ready to accelerate through the apex.

On those Corsa tyres, though, this is a car with outright grip levels of a magnitude that clearly and appreciably test its powers of body control when you fully exploit them. It will stick to a very fast and tight line once its mass is steady, can be remarkably stable in very high-speed bends, and can channel its torque right where it’s needed for power oversteer on demand. Given its size and mass, though, that’s not something you would learn anywhere but on a wide, clear racetrack.

Comfort & isolation

The Turbo GT’s driver’s seat is only medium-sized by the standards of larger SUVs, and might not suit the largest drivers, but our testers found it comfortable over long distance and, critically, also supportive enough to keep their backsides secure when driving the car to its considerably high adhesive limits. It’s fairly highset but, thanks to the adjustable suspension, can be easy enough to access even for the smaller of stature.

Those 22in wheels and increased suspension rates do have an impact on ride comfort and bump isolation, though. Even in the softer-set driving modes, there is a level of curt abruptness to it over sharper edges and bits of raised ironwork that you might not expect. Leaving plenty of travel in the suspension gives the axles enough articulation to soak up bigger intrusions fairly well, but dial up Sport or Sport Plus and the lowspeed ride gets pretty animated and unyielding, until you speed up.

The better news is that, at its gentlest, this isn’t a noisy tourer. It has good wind isolation and filters out road roar from those Corsa tyres well, registering only 68dBA on our noise meter at a 70mph cruise (versus the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S’s 71dBA).

Track notes

Striking the right kind of limit handling compromise in a car like the Cayenne Turbo GT is tricky, because bigger, taller cars need greater inherent stability than lighter, lower ones. There have been performance SUVs in recent years with misguided ambitions, but this Cayenne isn’t one of them.

It grips really hard when the contact patches are loaded, and needs more than enough effort in the driving to keep you fully invested in the process, but it still communicates vividly and inspires confidence, not feeling nervous or hyper-responsive but intuitive and predictable.

Body movements are reduced in Sport Plus mode but still pronounced enough to let you know how hard the chassis is working when it is really carrying speed. The active anti-roll and four-wheel steering systems make for a predictable corner entry, and never feel like they are manipulating the car’s mass or trajectory unnaturally.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

1 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT fronttrack

This may be a fully loaded Porsche Cayenne in a big-picture sense, with all of the key dynamic options you might want fitted as standard, but it’s also a Porsche. That means you can still spend plenty ticking options boxes – some of which few other brands could get away with charging for.

On this near-£150,000 SUV, for example, items such as wireless smartphone charging, a spacesaver spare wheel, a quick-clear heated windscreen and adaptive cruise control are all cost options – and in 2022, on a car like this, they shouldn’t be. And then there are the myriad colour and trim options that Porsche offers, as a net result of which a car fit for your driveway could easily cost upwards of £160,000.

The Cayenne’s interior is showing its age in places, but I do like that you needn’t spend an hour familiarising yourself with the infotainment system before you even dare to start the engine. It’s still a ‘hop in and enjoy yourself’ type of device – just as it should be.

Our test subject proved itself capable of topping 25mpg on a longer touring run, which is typical of a car of its size and performance and, with a 90-litre fuel tank, makes it capable of putting almost 400 miles between fills (however expensive those fills may be at present).

VERDICT

22 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT static

Porsche has been biding its time as its exotic brand rivals have turned their hands to super-SUVs over the past five years, each stealing a chunk of the business that the Cayenne Turbo originally drummed up. And now it has responded with a Cayenne intended to rule them all – and, in the ways you expect of the brand, that is precisely what the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT does. 

This car has the outright pace, and the dynamic poise and tenacity, to shade anything you might buy from Bentley, Aston Martin or Lamborghini instead, not to mention Mercedes-AMG or BMW M, as our timing gear has now proven. It also has a visceral and purposeful dynamic character that keen drivers will no doubt love to tussle with.

It doesn’t offer as much breadth of ability as a luxury car, though, or quite as much space, versatility or lavish on-board richness as some more typical SUV buyers might expect. It could prove an acid test for those after the fastest, naughtiest SUV out there. Living with it wouldn’t come without compromises, but it has as great a surfeit of performance drama as outright performance, and would add a heap of spice to your daily motoring life.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT 2021-2023 First drives