Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Range Rover Velar: A tale of two rad road trips

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Range Rover Velar: A tale of two rad road trips
Porsche's Cayenne, in the Turbo S configuration, is a super-sporty SUV whose 4.8-liter V-8 twin-turbocharged engine makes 570 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. (Porsche Cars North America)

I had to do some traveling over the winter holiday break. So I arranged two test vehicles, for two stretches of road, to complete two journeys.

Guess what? They were both terrific.


For a quick four-day turnaround to the San Francisco Bay Area and back, I chose the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

The Cayenne is a grand traveling vehicle that combines sports car specifications with sport utility vehicle looks.

Undeniably a Porsche, it's powered by a 4.8-liter twin turbocharged gasoline engine that makes a burly 570 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.

That power is delivered to the ground via an 8-speed automatic transmission, which can be manipulated with Porsche's superb paddle shift gear selectors, and stays anchored to the asphalt with Porsche's "active all-wheel drive."

The engine gurgles happily in Normal mode, and really clears its throat in Sport and Sport Plus. The driver may notice heads turning on the street. The Cayenne Turbo S, when in Sport Plus and fitted with the $3,200 sport exhaust system upgrade, rumbles like a race car.

But it's an SUV.

Despite the all-wheel drive, the variable suspension settings and the very responsive engine, the Cayenne sits high and wide and drives more like a small truck than a large car.

Around town the car never felt nimble. It never drove or handled lighter than its weight. As a short-term operator, I was a little baffled by the ample array of buttons, dials and switches on the center console, which looked lifted from an F-14 Tomcat.

And despite a full week with the car, and 20 minutes in the owner's manual, I never did figure out how to get the backup camera image to appear on the infotainment screen.

Luckily, most of my time in this Cayenne was time on the road. At highway speeds, I found it extremely effective. Solid and authoritative, it delivered substantial long-distance luxury.

The sports seats were still comfortable at the end of a six-hour drive, though a full-figured operator might find them too snug. The combination of good sound-deadening materials and a great sound system made the Cayenne quiet even at higher speeds.

And there were some higher speeds. The Cayenne is so stately on the open road that excess was unavoidable. I found myself in violation of the law, by accident, several times.

At one point I asked my traveling companion to guess how fast we were going without looking at the dashboard. She guessed 60 miles per hour. The speedometer said 85.

Also assisting in the long-haul department is the massive 26.4-gallon tank. This made it possible for me to do something I've never once done in any automobile. Refilling the Cayenne after several hundred miles of driving, I spent exactly $100 for a single tank of gas.


Perhaps folks who can afford the suggested retail price on this vehicle don't worry about such matters, but it certainly caught my attention.

2017 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Times' take: Big performance in a big SUV

Highs: Excellent engine and ergonomics

Lows: Bulky around town and poor fuel economy

Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger SUV

Base price: $160,650

Price as tested: $168,505

Powertrain: 4.8-liter, V-8, twin-turbocharged, gasoline engine

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 570

Torque: 590 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 14 miles per gallon city / 21 highway / 17 combined

Range Rover's Velar is a sporty city slicker with some off-road aspirations.
Range Rover's Velar is a sporty city slicker with some off-road aspirations. (Jaguar Land Rover)

When Jaguar Land Rover unveiled the Range Rover Velar a year ago, some auto aficionados asked, "Why?" and "What is it for?"

By year's end, though, the Velar was a winner. Jaguar Land Rover reported it was the top-selling model in the entire family for the October-December sales period.

The Velar's design is sleeker and sportier than the boxy Range Rovers with which it shares its badge.

It drives and handles that way, too. Around town and on country roads, the SUV feels light and nimble. Easy to drive, the Velar benefits from pretty good visibility, despite the sloping rear of the vehicle, and a very good back-up camera.

The switch in drive modes from Eco to Comfort to Dynamic cranks up the sporty sensations, and helps make the most of the supercharged 3-liter engine that drives the Velar.

It's a little tippy in the corners, reminding the driver with every curve that, despite the responsive engine and the paddle shifters, this is not a sports car.

But on the long run between Los Angeles and Prescott, Ariz., the Velar proved a very comfortable traveler. The front seats are capacious, highly adjustable and very comfortable, and come standard with heating, ventilating and massage functions. These got high marks from my co-pilot.

The rear seating area was equally comfortable, but more of a mixed bag. Because the Velar maximizes on cargo area — there's enough space with the seats folded down to load two mountain bikes — it doesn't provide a lot of rear passenger legroom. But the rear seats do offer an adjustable lean angle, a relative rarity even in luxury SUVs.

The adaptive cruise control system was among the best I've tried, maintaining speed and following distance with aplomb — though it did seem to brake and accelerate too abruptly in certain situations.

I found much to admire in the spare, stripped-down dash design, which may be second only to the new Tesla Model 3 in its crisp, clear lines. The dash and the enormous sunroof increased the Velar's airy, attractive environment.

But as with the Model 3, I found my eyes traveling to the infotainment screen too often, and staying there too long, when I wanted to adjust things like the temperature, or the fan speed, or the seat heater.

There was also more tire and wind noise than the sleek design of the Velar seemed to promise. At times it seemed to overwhelm the otherwise very good Meridian sound system — a $3,060 upgrade.

Because it is a Range Rover, and belongs to the venerable Land Rover family, the Velar comes prepared for off-road rambling.

Equipped in standard format with driving options for Grass Gravel Snow, Mud Ruts and Sand, this model also featured a lockable rear differential and an On/Off Road Package that included a variety of driver assists.

Despite these, and settings that can raise and lower the ground clearance, after a 30-minute off-road experiment with deep sand and rocks the Velar did not inspire much all-terrain confidence. This would not be the Range Rover to buy for an assault on the Darien Gap.

But for a stylish, comfortable assault on the urban anthill, the Velar is a sociable climber.

2018 Range Rover Velar


Times' take: Jaguar Land Rover's sleek top seller

Highs: Sporty, stylish and fun to drive

Lows: Noisy at high speeds, distracting infotainment screen

Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger SUV

Base price: $77,100

Price as tested: $90,170

Powertrain: 3-liter, six-cylinder, supercharged gasoline engine

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Horsepower: 380

Torque: 332 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 18 miles per gallon city / 24 highway / 20 combined