SUVs have become the shapeshifters of the automotive world, but they’ve never managed to become sportscars. However, the tide is turning, heritage sportscars are getting hybrid powertrains, they’re getting heavier, and in a year where we’ve seen super-sedans tip the scale at more than 2.1 tonnes, there’s room for a super-SUV that performs sportscar duties.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that one of the top sportscar manufacturers in the world would create one of the only SUVs that can measure up on a twisty piece of road. Because when it comes to creating great-driving sportscars, Porsche has a habit of nailing the basics.
Allow us to introduce the 2023 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT, the fastest SUV on the planet, a Nurburgring lap-record holder, and more importantly, one of the only SUVs that can become a sportscar.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT Gets the Sportscar Basics Right
While plenty of manufacturers tick the boxes in terms of power, brakes and straight-line performance, very few get the basics right. You wouldn’t believe how many fast cars miss the mark in driving position, steering feel, and lateral changes in direction. These things make a good car great and they signify the fundamental difference between a fast car and a sportscar.
Of course, all of these things are rarely associated with big pieces of metal that are better used to drop your kids at school. However, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT wants to rewrite the history books. It’s the first SUV we’ve ever driven that could truly hang with the sportscars it seeks to emulate.
It Starts With Everything You Touch and Feel
First and foremost, the experience starts as soon as you take a seat in the Porsche eight-way adjustable sports seats. Adorned with special Turbo GT lettering on the headrests, they’re finished in a gorgeous combination of Alcantara with contrast accents in either Neodyme or Arctic Grey. It might be a gimmick, but the 12 o’clock marking on the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel adds to the occasion and is a glimpse at the performance the Cayenne Turbo GT offers.
Look around the cabin and you quickly realise everything else is covered in Alcantara too. It’s very ‘race car’ and tells you the Turbo GT really means business, but there’s a little too much for our liking. Our passengers certainly appreciated the “oh sh*t handles” on either side of the front seats, while we appreciated the new PCM 6.0 infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
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The interior elements combine to give you a real sense of occasion when you’re sitting in the Turbo GT. You know you’re sitting in an SUV because of the size, but the cabin shrinks around you as the seats hug you tight, the steering wheel grips your hands, and the feedback you get through it reveals some of the biggest changes made to the car immediately. Speaking of which, it’s about time we talk about suspension and cornering.
Significant Changes Have Been Made to the Suspension
Up until the Turbo GT arrived, the Cayenne Turbo Coupé was the most extreme Porsche SUV you could buy. However, significant changes have been made to the GT’s suspension to help propel the car to the record-breaking time at Nürburgring Nordschleife. Test driver Lars Kern needed just 7:38.925 minutes to lap the ring, and you can feel every ounce of change that’s been made to the chassis to record such a time.
“Over the first few metres of the Nordschleife in this Cayenne, you’re tempted to turn around to make sure that you’re really sitting in a spacious SUV. Its high steering precision and stoically stable rear axle gave me a lot of confidence in the Hatzenbach section,” said Lars Kern, who also played a big role in the car’s development.
Technically speaking, the Turbo GT rides up to 17 millimetres lower (depending on driving mode), while the rigidity of the three-chamber air suspension has been increased by up to 15 per cent, and the damper characteristics of the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), as well as the application of the Power Steering Plus and rear-axle steering, have also been adapted. Don’t think for a second that this means it’s uncomfortable, it’s not, and it retains its SUV charm for everyday use.
We really noticed the difference the increase in negative camber makes on the front end. Compared to the Turbo Coupé, its front wheels are an inch wider and the negative camber has been increased by 0.45 degrees, this aids turn-in and offers aggressive mid-corner performance.
You can attack a corner harder than any SUV we’ve driven. Dive on the huge standard-fit Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes (PCCB), balance the weight of the car on the nose, and you’re rewarded with sportscar characteristics – the rear end gets light, the front end grips, and you balance the weight transfer perfectly.
Lest we forget to credit the changes the brand made to the Porsche Torque Vectoring system to allow higher torque bias ratios and make all of this magic happen.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT Has Supercar Level Speed
Make no mistake, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT is a VERY quick SUV. As we pointed out in our ‘Best Cars of 2022’ round-up, the 0-100km/h time of 3.34 seconds (as tested by Performance Drive) is far from the full story because the way the Turbo GT accelerates above the legal speed limit is equally as impressive.
It accelerates from 0-200km/h faster than most dual-cab utes on the road, with an independently recorded 0-200km/h time of 11.77 seconds. For reference, a 911 GT3 was tested at 11.23 seconds 0-200km/h. And we highly recommend you watch it spank a few of its nearest rivals in Hagerty’s ‘World’s Quickest SUVs drag race to get a real sense of the ridiculous speed.
It Sounds Great at Any Speed
Now, why would you buy such a fast car to cruise around the suburbs? Well, it produces one of the best sounds of any car money can buy today, and it does so at any speed.
Twist the steering wheel-mounted Porsche drive mode controller into ‘Sports Plus’ and the Cayenne Turbo GT opens its exhaust valves, raises its idle level by 400rpm, and creates a choppy V8 idle that’s all kinds of naughty.
It’s in part thanks to the lightweight and heat-resistant titanium exhaust that exits through central tailpipes, unique to the Cayenne Turbo GT, but it’s mostly thanks to the 4.0-litre V8 masterpiece – whose fundamental elements, such as its crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, timing chain drive and torsional vibration dampers differ from the Turbo Coupé.
Should You Buy the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT?
We voted the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT as “the best SUV we drove in 2022,” however, if truth be told, it wasn’t far off being the best car we drove last year. The combination of performance, handling, and speed, which combines with reasonable everyday practicality make this a particularly special vehicle. Not to mention the fact it flies under the radar to all but the most appreciative gearhead.
You’ll spend a bit of time at the petrol station and the increased camber on the front end does result in quite a ‘busy’ drive on motorways, however, the tradeoff in sound and performance more than makes up for it on almost every occasion.
We also think the car looks great – if not a little understated for how much performance it offers – and the interior fit and finish are still up there with the best in class. Being priced at $351,900 AUD (before on-road costs), you won’t drive away with any change from half a million dollars, but if you compare it to the class above, including the Bentley Bentayga Speed and Lamborghini Urus (of which it shares an engine) it seems like a relative bargain.
The perfect two-car solution for a 911 GT3 or 911 Turbo S? We’ll take the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT.
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