Few cars do it all quite like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. It’s fast enough to be a drag racer, sharp enough to be a sports car, big enough to be a family vehicle and capable enough to be an off-roader. This has always been true of the Cayenne Turbo, pretty much since its launch 15 years ago, but now, with the redesigned 2019 model, it’s more true than ever.
I borrowed the new 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo from Circle Porsche in Long Beach, California, where the latest Cayenne is just starting to arrive, and where there was precisely one Cayenne Turbo that hadn’t yet been sold when I was ready to review it. It’s black with a black interior and it has a $160,000 price tag — the only drawback to this otherwise fantastic car. Well, not quite the only drawback, as I can identify one more, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, I want to talk about the driving experience. The Cayenne Turbo has always been a highly competent car, and the outgoing Cayenne Turbo, which made its debut for the 2011 model year, was especially competent, but the new one is even more fantastic than the old one. The 8-speed automatic transmission still hasn’t been upgraded to Porsche’s ultra-quick PDK dual clutch (Porsche says PDK can’t tow as much as an old-school torque converter), but you’d never know, given how quickly the transmission rips through the gears in sport mode. In normal mode, it’s the exact opposite: there’s no gear ripping, but instead it’s as smooth as can be. It’s amazing how much changes when you flip a little switch on the steering wheel.
Beyond the transmission, there’s the sheer acceleration: the Cayenne Turbo now has about 540 horsepower and 570 lb-ft of torque, which means that it’s doing 0-to-60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds, which means that it’s faster than the old Cayenne Turbo S, which means that it’s the fastest Cayenne Turbo ever. It feels it. It’s amazing how quickly the Cayenne Turbo builds power, and there’s no dubious lag like the original one 15 years ago. Now it’s smooth and forceful, and it shoves you back in your seat like a sports car. Until you look behind you and realize you’re carrying four people and all their gear.
Handling, too, is top-notch. The Cayenne Turbo is tremendously composed around corners with minimal body roll, and its steering is direct and sharp — even though it feels a bit light, like most modern cars. The Cayenne Turbo really feels like it was developed as a sporty SUV first and foremost, unlike the BMW X5M, which seems like it was adapted to that role after first fulfilling its task to be a popular midsize luxury crossover. The Cayenne Turbo just has an amazing chassis that’s up for just about any curve or corner you can imagine. It’s truly impressive to drive this thing and realize that you’re not just in an SUV, but a luxury SUV with all the weight and size involved — and it still feels as capable and sporty as it does.
Speaking of the Cayenne Turbo’s role as a luxury SUV, it does other luxury SUV stuff well, too. Porsche isn’t exactly a leader in in-car tech, and the Cayenne Turbo is no exception — it’s still missing a system where you can write out words on the navigation system, for instance, and instead you have to enter destinations letter by letter. There are a few other examples of some old-school design touches in the new Cayenne, too — the gauge cluster isn’t a full screen, for instance — but mostly, the tech is excellent. The Cayenne now has a much larger center touchscreen than before, it’s far more responsive than prior screens, and the car is loaded with all the tech and features you’ll probably want for 160 grand.
But, indeed, that’s the problem: 160 grand. The Cayenne Turbo starts at $125,000, and the one I drove was well equipped, even for a Cayenne Turbo, with the Burmester sound system and Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes, both of which cost over $5,000 each — but still, the point is clear: a Cayenne Turbo costs a lot of money, especially in a segment where brand-new models are increasingly starting to come out of the woodwork, even from brands that weren’t competing before like Lamborghini, Bentley, Maserati and even high-performance versions of certain Land Rover models.
And it’s especially big money when you get to my other gripe with the new Cayenne: it looks just like the old one. The old one wasn’t ugly, to be clear, and they did make a few changes, like a big light bar in the back. But while the Volkswagen Group’s “evolutionary, not revolutionary” styling seems to work in many cases, in this case, I think it’ll just make the new Cayenne feel old sooner, as it’s very difficult to distinguish the new one from the old one.
Regardless, those are relatively minor gripes considering how great the Cayenne is. It’s the class leader, and it’s one of the best all-around vehicles on the market — if you can stomach the price of entry.