2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe First Test Review: Sports SUV

2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe First Test Review: Sports SUV

01/26/2021

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes close. The BMW X6 M does, too, but no other SUV drives as “small” as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe does. More than one of our editors who whipped the Cayenne Coupe on sinuous mountain roads listed this as one of its defining qualities. Features editor Christian Seabaugh echoed our group sentiment when he said, “Every Porsche manages to drive similarly, from the 718 on up to the Cayenne Coupe, and it’s a remarkable achievement. This, as silly as it sounds, feels like a 911.”

It’s not as if Porsche uses exclusive hardware to build the brilliant Cayenne Turbo Coupe. Its twin-turbo V-8, ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission, and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system aren’t unique. Neither are its multilink suspension with air and coil springs, multi-mode dampers, active anti-roll bars, or rear-axle steering. So, what is it about the Cayenne Turbo Coupe that sets it apart from its “super SUV” peers?

It’s a Porsche

Not that the other automakers don’t have teams of development drivers and engineers, but those at Porsche appear to have more influence, or more effective impact, on the company’s final products. Either that or its process is different. I was privileged to tag along and drive with one such lead group who were putting the final miles and touches on the yet-to-be-released 2020 Porsche 911 (992). What I learned was that (at least at Porsche) a vehicle’s development is a global effort with a centralized hub. I wrote, “After each day of development driving (12 cars and 20 engineers), there was a three- to four-hour debrief, and multiple terabytes of information were shared between the development team and the factory. The latest updates were then applied to the cars we would drive. There are isolated PS2s [elsewhere] in the hands of brake engineers, with powertrain, transmission, etc., ‘but those won’t have all the systems updates from the other teams. Only these do. ‘” The result was the lead team was the tip of the otherwise long spear of the car’s development.

Cayenne Turbo Coupe Track Notes

The things Porsche consistently gets right across its product line show up in the Cayenne Turbo, as well. Things such as effective and repeatable launch control, tremendous braking power and heat capacity, and steering feel. From the dragstrip I wrote, “It does have launch control, and it is very effective. I found the best technique was to allow the revs to climb to 3,000 but not stay there. Best to release the brakes as the tach needle is still swinging toward 3,000. On one launch, it felt like the front tires might have been tiptoeing on the pavement. A 1.1-second 0-to-30 time is astounding. Upshifts are extremely fast and a little harsh.”

Regarding the Cayenne Turbo’s braking: “Firm pedal, good initial bite, but a bit grabby, meaning a bit on-off, hunting for traction that causes some porpoising. Super strong brakes, nonetheless, hauling 5,000 pounds to a halt from 60 mph in 100 feet. In order: 103, 102, 101, 101, 100, 102 feet.” As senior features editor Jonny Lieberman noted, “The brakes are fuhgeddaboudit good. That’s what happens when you bolt the largest brakes in the automotive world [front: 17.3-inch vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc; rear: 16.1-inch vented, drilled, carbon-ceramic disc] to your SUV. Real, repeatable stopping power. Kinda incredible.”

Cayenne Turbo Coupe Road Notes

The first thing we noticed was how tight-as-a-drum this Cayenne is. Not a squeak, rattle, or buzz, even on abrupt impacts. Additionally, the ride is incongruously good all the way up to Sport+ mode where it retains compliance and composure. Porsche knows how to tune dampers and springs. Even in midcorner dips/hops, the Cayenne Turbo Coupe never lost its line. “One and done,” as they say.

The steering is perfectly weighted and amazingly precise—so much so that there is no need for midcorner corrections; hands were always still and calm. It’s as if the Porsche is anchored to the apex with a chain, and you’re just along for the amusement park ride. Yet there’s enough grip wiggle room in the system (e.g., dodging a rock in a corner) to allow near-limit course correction if you need it. Superb tuning.

Nobody does carbon-ceramic brakes as well as Porsche. These have progressive/intuitive bite with a medium-firm pedal and intuitive release characteristics. In the quick switchbacks, I was happy that Porsche allows left-foot braking, making the transition from brake to accelerator instantaneous. In other words, keep the throttle in a “maintenance” position through the corner, just brush the brake and then release, and the throttle is already there. We’re certain capability is baked into the Cayenne Turbo by its development teams and engineers.

Mostly we’re impressed with the automatic transmission, but even in Sport+, it’s not as good at mind-reading as the dual-clutch automatic transmission (PDK) in a 911. On occasion, it would slide an errant up or downshift in where we wouldn’t have imagined it should. Luckily, the paddle shifters are at your fingertips to manually shift to your preferences.

The Cayenne Turbo Coupe’s Dominance

Did anybody seriously doubt this Cayenne Turbo Coupe would drive like a Porsche? No, not really. Yet each staffer who drove it was surprised at how true to the Porsche ethos it is. That crest on its hood means something. Fast, fluid, unflappable, and fun, the Cayenne Turbo Coupe rose to the top of a recent five-way comparison among its closest peers. It set the new SUV lap record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during our annual Best Driver’s Car competition. You can watch the lap here. The new 2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe manages to be a top performer as well as an everyday-livable five-passenger SUV. Sure, it’s expensive, but then again, you get what you pay for with this, and any other Porsche.

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