The badge on the steering wheel suggests that navigating the familiar right-hander ahead shouldn’t be a problem. A heavy dab of the brake pedal shifts the weight forward while the trick suspension sorts out the mid-corner bump. Once settled, steering lock is released and the throttle percentage increases, but the nose doesn’t lift. The front stays planted and the back-end undergoes a gentle, manageable yaw movement, subtly stepping out before hunkering down as the 315-section rear boots bite into the tarmac for ultimate traction.
It’s moments like these, caught in slow motion when reality is in fast forward, that mean you have to constantly remind yourself you’re in an SUV – the all-new, $239,400 third-gen Porsche Cayenne Turbo, to be exact.
Just how this 2175kg behemoth has as much sporting talent as it does is mind boggling. A 404kW/770Nm twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (shared with the Panamera Turbo) somewhat explains how the Cayenne nullifies its overt obstacles, while the MLB Evo modular platform’s hybrid mix of alloy and steel makes it lighter than before. Three-chamber air suspension, a new electromechanical 48-volt roll stabilisation system, all-wheel drive and huge brakes further affirm the performance brief.
The Turbo befits its status as ‘the really fast one’. With Sport Chrono optioned, a 0-100km/h time of 3.9sec is achievable. And it feels every bit as fast as that. With both twin-scroll turbos located in the valley to create a ‘hot vee’ V8, the unit produces a relentless amount of lag-free grunt throughout the rev range and ties in well with the torque-converter eight speed automatic.
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The only caveat is that the orchestral act doesn’t quite match the linear, torque-filled theatre of the powertain. The quad tailpipes are slightly muted; the thunderous baritones of the old 4.8 are gone.
While overall length has grown 63mm, the wheelbase has remained at 2895mm. Hence, even without the optional rear-wheel steering fitted, the way in which the Turbo can stop, clip the apex, rotate and fire out the other side of a hairpin is addictive. That’s also thanks to the torque vectoring AWD system and road-biased P Zero rubber.
As a result of the stabilisation technology, the body stays remarkably flat. And, given the air suspension doesn’t have to be super stiff to control body movements, the ride quality, on 21-inch wheels, is exemplary. Even with the suspension lowered in Sport Plus and the dampers firmed, it has an incredible level of comfort and control with confidence-inspiring stability.
The point-to-point pace is incredible. You could frighten many hot hatches through twisty terrain. There’s something naughty and thrilling about driving the portly, rear-biased Cayenne this quickly. It’s as if you’ve snuck out of bed late at night as a youngster to watch SBS while the household is asleep. The Turbo seems to embrace its heft like a politically correct plus-size model and runs with it.
However, despite the Cayenne’s brilliance and hot-hatch-esque persona, it can, on certain roads, feel like the Titanic in a bathtub. Although direct and easy to place, the steering, too, can freeze you out from feel, meaning you’re not always privy to what’s occurring beneath you. It’s not in any way a sinking ship, but the physics-defying tech can’t mask the icebergs all of the time.
Although, like the infamous ocean liner, the Turbo’s interior is lavishly appointed and undoubtedly a first-class cabin. Supple materials abound, NVH levels are top notch, the infotainment system is ergonomically sound, the technology is up to date and the seating position is just right for an SUV.
There’s even a 745-litre boot, five off-road modes, diff locks and up to 245mm of ground clearance (525mm fording depth). As a ‘car’ that can do just about everything, the Cayenne Turbo is a hell of a proposition.
Okay, romanticising the dynamic capabilities of an expensive, heavy SUV seems facetious. Let’s be clear, this isn’t a 911. However, the Cayenne is still a Porsche, so expectations are automatically placed on its ability.
Luckily the moments of true performance aren’t ephemeral. The Turbo is much more than a culmination of impressive figures and weight-evading tech wrapped in a luxurious off-roading body. It’s the fact the SUV platform is so easily forgotten in the Cayenne Turbo narrative that makes it such a master stroke.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
2018 PORSCHE CAYENNE TURBO SPECS:
Engine: 3996cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 404kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 770Nm @ 1960-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Price: $255,600 (as tested)
Like: Unbelievable straight-line stonk; largely defies the laws of physics; premium cabin
Dislike: It’s still hefty; remote steering feel; soundtrack could be angrier; getting pricey
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars