As you will read in our latest edition of TopGear SA Magazine, the Porsche Cayenne is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and we pay homage to a model that was first frowned upon by purists when it first broke cover. Looking back now, the model was actually a masterstroke for the Stuttgart brand and has single-handedly insured that Porsche can continue to keep the lights, but also be financially flush enough to pour R&D into its sportscar programme. A fascinating story, but let me not digress from the subject of this article, the Cayenne Turbo GT.
Based on the coupe version of the Cayenne, the Turbo GT is essentially the sportiest and most focussed Cayenne, having been fettled by the GT department that builds the company's most focussed sportscars. Think GT4 RS, GT3 and GT2 RS to name a few. So, finally, this is a Cayenne built to take on the upper echelons of the Super SUV segment occupied by the Lamborghini Urus and recently, the Aston Martin DBX 707, which you can also read about in our latest edition. The stakes couldn’t have been higher and I reckon that Porsche was tired of standing on the sidelines when it comes to building the most dynamic Super SUV. So, have they done enough?
Before we can answer that question, let us see what has been done to elevate this Turbo GT’s dynamic endowment above the already sorted Turbo Coupe. Firstly, the car squats 17mm closer to terra firma, while both passive chassis components and active control systems have been optimised for performance and handling. There are larger air-intakes up front, a full carbon roof, and plastic wheel arch extensions that house 22” Neodyme wheels that are home to standard Carbon Ceramic Brakes. There is a unique carbon roof spoiler with winglets on either side, while the boot spoiler is 25mm larger than that on the Turbo Coupe and said to offer up to 40kg of rear downforce at top speed. Below the rear valance is a carbon diffuser with twin titanium exhaust outlets.
The rigidity of the three-chamber air-suspension has been increased by 15% and the dampers settings of the PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) system have been adapted accordingly. In addition, the power steering and rear axle steering calibration have been tightened ever so slightly, the former giving feedback so sharp, it wouldn’t be out of place in a low-slung sportscar.
Meanwhile, the cabin has been extensively festooned with alcantara from the form hugging pews to the roof, while the steering wheel, with its yellow directional marking, is wreathed in the sporty material. Overall, it is an inviting sanctuary for the enthusiast, but where the Turbo GT’s brilliance bristles is in the way it goes down the road and the way it carves corners.
Under the bonnet, nestles the familiar displacement 4-litre twin turbo V8, but the wick has been dialled to eleven, thanks to uprated turbo chargers, crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, direct fuel injection, intake and intercooler to name a few. The result is a bump in power from 404kW to 471kW and 850Nm. All this is shuffled to all four wheels via fast-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission.
Slot the Drive Mode rotary to Sport+ and mash the throttle to the floorboards from standstill, and there’s momentarily some lag before the turbos spool up. However, once past that twilight zone, this thing tears up the tarmac like an absolute thug. It also has a soundtrack to back it up, sounding like Zeus himself taking a morning fluoride gargle.
But then the road ahead kinks and I feel that it is here that the Cayenne Turbo GT truly shows its rivals a clear pair of heels. Never have I before driven a SUV that corners this flat and this hard before that it belies its very SUV roots. Feedback and response from the tiller is straight from the sportscar book, making this easily the most rounded performance SUV. Sure, the design is a little demure if I’m honest and will go under the radar, but that is typically Porker. It goes like the proverbial waste off a shovel, steers like nothing else in its segment, and stops on a dime, thanks to those huge anchors. The chassis is playful and lets the rear move around when booted out of corners, adding another delectable layer of enjoyment to the package.
At a price of R3 500 000 base, it manages to undercut its rivals by quite a margin. That said, it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, feel shortchanged in any way. The overall tactile feel of the cabin and switchgear is of the top-shelf premium variety. Performance is on the apex of the Super SUV totem pole and every bit of the vehicle feels that way inclined.
The Turbo GT has truly elevated the dynamic quotient of the Cayenne to exemplary lofty heights. It makes a statement not only in the segment generally, but also amongst its arch rivals. Think of that player on the sidelines with immense potential, but no one has really taken note of before, until they decide to show off their mettle on the playing field. The Cayenne Turbo GT is the automotive equivalent of that analogy. And while I’m not a huge fan of performance SUVs in general, this thing makes a compelling case to convince me otherwise. Yes, it really is that properly resolved. Well played, Porsche. Very well played indeed!