The 2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo boasts a suite of upgrades to keep pace with the competition.

Ironic to think that the Cayenne Turbo is now the “elder statesman” of the ultra high performance SUV class, but it has been twelve model years since its debut, and now four-door Porsches outsell the company’s sports cars. A host of imitators have tried to capture the magic that has made this machine so successful, but until recently, no one had its number.

THE COMPETITION

With vehicles like the BMW X5/X6M, Mercedes AMG GLE63 S and even Range Rover Sport SVR closing in, Porsche gave the Cayenne a suite of upgrades for the 2015 model year. Included are new front and rear fascias; the nose in particular now appears more aggressively masculine, with squared off, larger intakes to feed the oil and water coolers and brakes, and “floating” LED lights. Inside changes are minimal, but then again, the Porsche already had about the best cockpit in the class— albeit one that is smaller than some of the others.

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Material quality is higher than the BMW, and a sense of solidity that none of the others can match. However, the Porsche’s touch-screen infotainment interface isn’t as intuitively fast as BMW iDrive, and some of the latest tech that buyers expect at this price point is either lacking entirely or only available as expensive options. The Cayenne’s front seats do provide the best combination of adjustments, support and long haul comfort of any rival, and the new multifunction steering wheel is pleasing to hold.

THE DRIVE

Dynamically, only very modest changes are apparent in the Cayenne Turbo; slight chassis revisions mean it still rides very well for its mass, center of gravity and performance, while body control is improved. There are very few 5200-pound vehicles that can be hustled like the Porsche, especially without the driver feeling completely disconnected. The Cayenne Turbo is still better than anything bar perhaps the latest BMW, and it has the more precise steering and stouter-feeling brakes of the two.

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Where the Porsche falls behind is in performance (despite 520hp and 553lb-ft of torque), the bar having been set so high. While no one would have been in anything less than complete awe five years ago at a 4x4 that could hit 60mph in the low four-second range, you would now need to step up to the Turbo S to get close to an X5M’s mid-threes sprint. Of greater real world importance, the Porsche’s 4.8-liter suffers more lag before boost kicks in than either turbocharged German competitors or Range Rover’s supercharged V8. It still sounds better, with real mechanical music bellowing from nose and tail, as opposed to the synthesized sounds the BMW’s produce. The Cayenne Turbo’s eight-speed automatic also has the better basic programming; BMW tuned theirs to feel like a twin-clutch, compromising low speed refinement.

END GAME

There is also a slight amount more cohesion in the Porsche, almost certainly a result of having crafted these machines longer and having a deeper “bench” of road racing talent from which to pull. Realistically, the BMWs are the better “value,” though there is still the intangible of the Porsche name, which is certainly worth something to many of the folk who buy such vehicles. And in this class, at this end of the market, esoteric qualities like character and breeding count for a lot.

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EPA ratings:  15mpg city/22mpg highway

0-60mph: 4.2 seconds (est)

Price as tested: $132,185

Here is what Porsche has to say about it.

4.5 stars


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