Porsche’s revised Cayenne Turbo pushes the vehicle further toward track-car territory and away from the soccer mom scene.
The all-new 2019 model, featuring a new engine, chassis, suspension, brakes and more, will now turn any Walmart parking lot into a lap at Willow Springs.
This is an essential vehicle for the German car company. Once derided by car snobs as a people pleaser and a cheap bid for popularity, the Cayenne is now Porsche’s top-selling vehicle. As of March, it is far outselling the popular, less sporty Macan SUV and, for 2019 so far, has sold more units than all of Porsche’s other vehicles combined.
The new version, in its Turbo iteration, is powered by a twin-turbocharged four-liter V-8 engine that makes 541 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque. (The Cayenne also can be had in other trims — the standard Cayenne with a mono-turbo three-liter V-6 engine, the Cayenne S with a twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6, and the E Hybrid with a combination of the V-6 and an electric motor.)
That beefy power plant, new for 2019, is capable of pushing this 5,000-pound grocery hauler from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, and to a top track speed of 177 mph.
There’s even a “sport response” button that will maximize power for a short 20-second burst of acceleration for passing or, presumably, showing off.
Porsche has mated that new engine to an undated version of its eight-speed automatic transmission, fitted with paddle shifters, that the company boasts will offer quicker shifting and better throttle response. The first gear has been made shorter to assist in towing and allow a towing capacity of 7,700 pounds, while the seventh and eighth gears are taller and have a coast function to improve high-speed highway driving and increase fuel economy.
The transmission is an all-wheel-drive setup that offers a variety of on-road and off-road settings to ensure the Cayenne does its job on all terrains. On the Turbo, the “normal” and “sport” options are joined by “sport plus” and “individual” settings for spicier Cayenne cruising. In the sportier settings, the suspension drops, the shift points quicken and the rooftop spoiler angles in to help keep the car steady on the ground at high speeds.
On all the Cayennes, there is also the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control system, which adds rear-axle steering — a first for the Cayenne, where the rear wheels turn slightly to improve cornering precision — and anti-roll bars. Upping the sports car side of this SUV’s personality, Porsche has also given the Cayenne staggered tires for the first time. That means the front tires and rear tires are no longer all the same size — bigger ones on the back for maximum traction and smaller ones in front to maximize handling.
Off-road choices prepare the vehicle for gravel, mud, sand and rocks, while offering three chassis heights to maximize ground clearance — 9.4 inches in its tallest setting.
It did not appear to me that the sportier adjustments diminished comfort or luxury. The Cayenne interior is elegant and snug, with the feel of a very high-end cockpit, clothed in leather — now standard on all trim lines — and dripping with chrome. It felt a little like Berlin in the 1930s, or something from the set of the first “Batman” movie.
The spacious front seats are 14-way adjustable. The rear seats, also spacious, get their own climate control, reading lamps, coat hooks and USB and 12-volt outlets. They can be folded down to increase cargo space to 59 cubic feet — plenty of room to store golf bags, camping gear or more than you really needed to buy from Costco.
Sadly, that enormous sun roof, which extends from windshield to past the back seats, cracks open only an inch.
I’ve always enjoyed the Cayennes, and I liked this one better than the previous iterations. Around town, it’s easy to operate — the state-of-the-art sensors and cameras help, and add to the already excellent visibility — and on the highway it’s a delight. The safety and driver-assist features, predictably, were a paragon of German engineering.
I didn’t have time to thrash it properly outdoors, and the spring weather didn’t give me a chance to dance it over any local snow or ice. I was very sorry to see it go when my allotted time was up.
What didn’t I like? Not much, except some of the bottom-line numbers. I do wish a vehicle of this power and grace could get better fuel economy. And then there’s the real bottom line. Though the entry-level Cayenne starts at $66,950, the Turbo model can’t be had for under about twice that — base price, $125,850 — and gets more expensive quickly with the addition of luxury or performance enhancements.
But as the Cayenne’s success demonstrates, apparently there are plenty of people — soccer moms and otherwise — willing to pony up.
Correction: An earlier version switched the estimated fuel economy rating numbers for highway and combined.
2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Times’ take: Best-in-class SUV got better
Highs: Sports-car quick, SUV solid
Lows: Um, the MSRP?
Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger SUV
Base price: $125,850
Price as tested: $146,590
Powertrain: Four-liter, turbocharged V-8 gasoline engine
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Torque: 568 pound-feet
Estimated fuel economy rating: 15 miles per gallon city / 19 highway / 17 combined