VROOM WITH A VIEW
The Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT is the hottest SUV in town
In the world of the insane uber-SUV, Porsche still has something new to say.
We all have our routines. I get up, drink coffee, stoke the fire and read the news. With my wife on night duty with the baby, I’m on from about 6am, while she catches up on sleep.
I wake the older kids, grab the baby, hustle them through breakfast and make sure they’ve packed their lunchboxes and cricket bats and gum guards and iPads and water bottles and the cello and the big one’s got her phone and the card for Miss Philander and the homework and that they’ve all got a jacket and straight ties and the dust from the outer rings of Saturn that the class WhatsApp group told us we needed to organise at 7.37pm.
Then we all pile into whatever car I’ve got lying around in a kind of lovely chaotic mess. For a few days this week there was one additional routine: start the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT and immediately engage the “sports exhaust”. It sounds the business and has the added benefit of irritating a particular neighbour in the flats across the road.
I love my mornings. Apart from the family mayhem, one of my routines is to drive over Kloof Nek and down into Clifton and on to Sea Point. It’s a hell of a way to start the day in any car, but the Cayenne Turbo GT is a pretty cool way to get into your inbox.
It’s not unreasonable to ask yourself: What the hell is all this about? A coupé version of a four-year-old family SUV, with carbon-ceramic brakes the size of the gong at the start of old movies, a rear spoiler that actually creates downforce and a 471kW turbocharged V8 up front? Is this really necessary, even from Porsche, not a company known for worrying about what thin-lipped judgemental types might feel about consumption and wealth?
The Cayenne Turbo GT does in fact have rather a big job to do. First, it had to set the record time for an SUV around the Nürburgring. That’s in the bag, taking seven minutes and 38.9 seconds, for those who care, quicker — really — than a Bugatti Veyron, a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, an Audi R8 V10 and a Ferrari 599 GTB. To be really, really clear, this is brutally quick for any car, let alone an SUV.
Why bother with all this posturing?
The answer lies in the fast-moving world of super-SUVs. As much as the world is electrifying fast, until that day comes you can expect Porsche — the most electric-focused of all sports car brands — to fight like hell to maintain leadership in a space it’s occupied for 20 years now.
Porsche’s Cayenne may be used to highly competent challenges from the Range Rover SVR and Jaguar F-Pace SVR, but now there are all kinds of luxury offerings: from within the VW Group family such as the Bentley (Bentayga), Lamborghini Urus and Audi Q8 RS, from the Aston Martin DBX and, from next year, a Ferrari SUV. These are brands that very much fancy having a go at Porsche’s positioning as the go-to manufacturer of SUVs for sporting drivers.
In the Turbo GT, Porsche has thrown down the gauntlet, especially to Ferrari, which will need to pull a rabbit out of its hat to best the Nürburgring time with its first-ever SUV. It’s an away game for Ferrari, and Porsche wants them to know it.
Perhaps Ferrari’s greatest challenge will be to make the car do all that and be perfectly capable of the school run.
In Comfort mode, while there’s no question you can feel the quantity of rubber at each corner, it just rumbles around town quite peaceably, its enormous central twin exhausts quietly burbling away. It’s even got an old-school torque converter eight-speed automatic gearbox, so you completely dispense with the juddery, jerky urban limitations of even the best dual-clutch gearboxes. There’s plenty of space, with a big boot despite the shorn-off roofline, so it swallows cellos and lunchboxes and cricket gear.
The interior is nice, too. Good touchscreen, excellent Alcantara and very comfortable seats. Build quality: immaculate.
All this comfort and space and school-run competence can lull you into a false sense of security because the moment you ask the GT to get a move on it pretty much rips your head off. It’s supercar-fast, dispensing with 100km/h in less than 3.3 seconds. It’s powerful enough to kick out its rear tyres on the exit of a corner. The driving position is spot-on and the ride, firm in sports modes, never verges beyond communicative.
Engineering voodoo is at work under the skin, with four-wheel steer and enormously powerful electrics keeping the 2-tonne car flat and true despite the cornering forces.
As an SUV, all of this ought not to be possible. Hustling up a mountain pass or hunkering down for a fast cruise, the Cayenne Turbo GT is the most car-like of the SUVs yet. There’s a completely uncanny pointability and accuracy in this car, and the sheer power obliterates any shortcomings related to size and weight.
It’ll be interesting to see where Porsche goes with the GT badging — how it plays out with the company’s plan to electrify everything soon. What’s for sure: at the end of the internal combustion age, pretty much everything Porsche is building is a classic the moment it drives off the showroom floor. DM168
Alexander Parker is a journalist, author and consultant.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.