New 2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT review

Nick Francis

09 Sep 2021

1/8
Porsche has cranked the Cayenne to near physics-defying levels of performance with the Turbo GT, making a family SUV that can lap the Nürburgring faster than a Bugatti Veyron. We ask: was that really necessary?

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PROS:

+ Phenomenal power and agility 

+ Luxe interior 

+ You’ll be Supreme Lord on High of the school run


CONS:

- You need a racetrack to use its power

- Only two seats in the back

- Why…just why?


Verdict: If having the most track-honed SUV is important to you then this is your ride. But the Cayenne Turbo GT’s engineering brilliance is impossible to exploit meaningfully on the roads, so think hard whether bragging rights alone are enough to justify dropping £144,000 on a four-seat family car. 



2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT: the five-minute read


Need and want are very different things. If we only paid for the things we need then we would all grow our own veg and still watch four TV channels. Nandos and Netflix wouldn’t exist, and we would probably salute a portrait of Lenin above our dreary fireplaces each morning. 


Here’s a car you definitely don’t need but almost certainly want: the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT. It’s the ultimate version of Porsche’s big boy SUV and can lap The Nürburgring faster than a Bugatti Veyron. It is the most supercar-like SUV ever made - track tool first, family wagon second. 


Customers who wouldn’t dream of spending a weekend at a racetrack will buy this car, just as wine dunces with long pockets will buy the most expensive bottle on the menu, even though they can’t pronounce its name. Bragging rights can be a powerful lure. 


They have other options. The Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga and Aston Martin DBX all have the same willy-waving, wallet-denting effect. But despite their massive power outputs and price tags, none of them are as intensely focussed on performance as the Turbo GT. For now, it sits in a class of its own. 


Unsurprisingly the Turbo GT comes only in coupe-form, but it has a bespoke rear spoiler that creates 40kg of downforce, apparently, as well as a redesigned front bumper to house bigger cooling ducts. Blobs of carbon fibre pepper the exterior and the 22-inch wheels, which come in either gold or black, are shod in specially developed Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres. 



As with all Cayennes, the interior is a treat. Ergonomically spot-on with responsive touch-sensitive switchgear laid out on a flight deck-style centre console. Turbo GT-specific trinkets include a sports steering wheel hosting Porsche’s red and menacing Sports Response Button, which when pressed gives a 20-second boost of everything on full chat. Sports seats and some funky stitching on the Alcantara finish the job.


The Turbo GT is the first Cayenne to be loaded with the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) 6.0 system, which offers intelligent sat nav, natural voice control and, for the first time from Porsche, Android Auto. The screen is gloriously high definition and lightning quick to respond. 


The Cayenne Coupe is less practical than the traditional SUV version, and as a result the Turbo GT only has two back seats and a smaller boot. But at 549-litres it’s still roomy enough for just about any normal tasks, including a week away for a family of four. 


The Turbo GT’s 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces 640hp and 850Nm of torque, making it resoundingly more powerful than the standard Cayenne Turbo, but shy of the 700-odd hp of the Turbo S e-Hybrid. Porsche says it will do 0-62mph in 3.3-seconds, but we’re pretty sure it’s even quicker. 


But this is much more than just a more powerful Cayenne Turbo. It’s got a new torque converter eight-speed ‘box to handle the masses of force going through it, a new anti-roll system and the suspension has been dropped 17mm. And even though it’s a VW Group engine deployed in cars like the Audi RS Q8, Porsche has stripped it apart and rebuilt it using its own recipe. 



As a result it drives like no other performance SUV. When it comes to its rivals you have to drive them in a very staccato manner: point and squirt on the straight, anchor hard well ahead of a bend, wrestle the car’s weight around the apex, then get back on the gas only when everything has settled down. 


With the Turbo GT you can drive it like 911, there’s a fluidity to it. Its carbon-ceramic brakes can be feathered mid-corner to trail brake the car, and a rear-wheel steering system means it turns with mind-scrambling speed. It remains completely flat in corners, which is crazy considering it weighs 2,200kg. 


If having the most track-honed SUV is important to you then this is your ride, it’s a masterpiece of engineering and easy to see why it’s the fastest SUV around The ‘Ring.


But the Cayenne Turbo GT’s attributes are impossible to exploit on the roads, it’s a bizarre concept being an SUV made for a racetrack, and we struggle to see how bragging rights alone are enough to justify dropping £144,000 on a four-seat family car.


Great job Porsche, but what was the point exactly? 


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Extended read…



2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT interior and infotainment 


Porsche doesn’t make bad interiors, which is just as well because you’ll be paying £144,000 without options to own this car. The flight deck-style centre console looks great in black gloss, and the bank of touch-sensitive buttons are responsive, although prone to getting a bit greasy if touched with grubby fingers.


Alcantara wraps the dashboard and door cards, as well as the sports steering wheel, and the Turbo GT’s sports seats are highly adjustable and feel supportive without being so firm they could make long journeys a bit stiff. 


If we could find one criticism it would be the fact it all looks quite sensible and German. If you want a bit more flair and drama the Lamborghini delivers it in spades, while the Aston Martin DBX and Bentley Bentayga are much more old-school opulent, with the whole perforated leather and wood finish thing going on.


A 12-inch infotainment screen is integrated within the sweeping dashboard, and it is the first time a Cayenne has featured the new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) 6.0 system, which offers intelligent sat nav, natural voice control and, the first time for any Porsche, Android Auto. The screen is gloriously high definition and lightning quick to respond, and the menus are accessed by large icons which are easy to hit on the move. 


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2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT practicality and boot space 


Being a hulking 2,200kg SUV the Turbo GT’s cabin is open and spacious, and the driver commands an excellent view of the road from the elevated seating position, even though this model sits 17mm closer to the road than the Cayenne Turbo. 


You might look at that sloping coupe-style rear roofline and be concerned about headroom in the back, but it really isn’t a problem, even for taller passengers. Those in the back also have a lot of shoulder room because the middle seat isn’t a seat at all, it’s an armrest and storage tray.


That also means anyone with three kids who wants a Cayenne will have to look at the SUV-style models, and rules out the Turbo GT. Similarly, the coupe-style body impedes on boot space, although the Turbo GT’s 549-litres is still more than enough for most demands a family of four could throw at it.


The door bins are long and deep, as is the glove box, and the storage cubby beneath the armrest in the front can swallow plenty of stuff. 


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2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT engine  


The 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine found in the Turbo GT is derived from the same VW Group engine found in the Lamborghini Urus, Audi RS8 and Bentley Bentayga, but Porsche has spent a lot of time and money making it unique for its powerhouse SUV.

Nick Francis, Senior Editor


In the Porsche it produces 640hp and 850Nm of torque, making it resoundingly more powerful than the standard Cayenne Turbo, but shy of the 700-odd hp of the Turbo S e-Hybrid. Porsche says it will do 0-62mph in 3.3-seconds, but we’re pretty sure it’s even quicker. 


Oh, and it is electronically limited to 189mph. Apparently anything more than that would just be silly, so Porsche decided to cap it there. 


In Normal Mode It sounds fairly, er, normal. A low grumble and rumble is all you hear and it’s certainly not antisocial. But flick into Sport or Sport Plus via the steering wheel-mounted dial and it barks into life, delivering a frantic, screaming soundtrack under acceleration from its twin titanium tailpipes - it sounds much more like a supercar than any of its rivals. 


It’s actually quite intimidating, but in a good way. 


Porsche has abandoned its traditional PDK dual clutch automatic gearbox in favour of an eight-speed torque converter auto’ ‘box, which has been done to cope with the extra load it takes. It’s also a better setup for towing a caravan, although we feel the Turbo GT is the kinda car made for a long weekend at a five-star hotel in southern France, rather than a rainy fortnight on a Camber Sands clifftop.



2021 Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT driving   


What surprised us most was how well this car does the job of being a normal SUV. When not in one of the crazy drive modes it’s a quiet and polite companion. The damping is a little on the firm side, but no more so than any of the other SUVs with heavy six-figure price tags. 


The rear wheel steering system not only improves high speed changes of direction but endows the Turbo GT with a phenomenal turning circle, manoeuvring this beautiful monster at slow speeds is far less nerve-wracking than it is in something like the DBX.


Out on the open road though, the Turbo GT is a very different prospect. Chopping up and down the ‘box via the paddles adds that final dollop of track finesse and by hanging onto the gears a bit you will reach license-shredding speeds before even getting into third. We can’t believe we’re saying this, but it’s too fast for the road.


Okay, cars like the 911 Turbo S are a sniff faster from 0-62mph, but they don’t weigh 2,200kg and take up as much room as a small bus on the A41. For all the work of the anti-roll bars and phenomenally well-judged damping keeping things flat as a pancake in bends, it’s still a huge piece of kit to be sashaying from one direction to another on narrow roads in.


On a racetrack it would be a dream. Other performance SUVs are propelled in a straight line impressively by a powerful engine, but you always feel the weight is too much to carry full-tilt into a corner without the car washing out into understeer.


The Turbo GT is different, you can build a rhythm and fluidity through corners, confident that a feather-touch on those carbon ceramics will trim the line, and the rear-wheel steering adding an accuracy to the turn-in that physics surely shouldn’t allow. 


But therein lies the problem: it’s too big, fast and frenetic to exploit even 15% of its abilities on the road. It’s a track car dressed as an SUV. Cars like the Aston Martin DBX and Bentley Bentayga are rapid-as-hell, but they behave much more like a grand tourer than a screaming supercar. 


Considering 99% of Cayenne Turbo GT buyers will never take it to a track day means 99% of Cayenne Turbo GT buyers will be purchasing it for the bragging rights. Still, owning an SUV which can peel a strip off the Bugatti Veyron around The Nürburgring is some brag. 


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Nick Francis

09 Sep 2021