Review: 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Test Drive

Review: 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Test Drive

Porsche has added even more power to its Cayenne Turbo, just the thing for SUV-lovers who crave supercar performance.

by Don Sherman

Porsche has updated its Cayenne SUV with new technology, minor appearance changes and a hefty power upgrade for the 2008 model year. While the Cayenne is still offered with three engines “” including a 290-hp 3.6-liter V6 and a 385-hp 4.8-liter V8 “”anyone aspiring to master-of-the-universe status will skip the lower two and step right up to the Cayenne Turbo with its twin turbocharged and intercooled V8.

Packing 500 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque, this engine is a Teutonic tour de force with ample power to accelerate the 5,191-pound Cayenne to 60 mph in about five seconds and on to a factory-rated 171-mph top speed. Bragging rights to the world”s fastest SUV are part of the Cayenne Turbo”s portfolio of driving delights (although the Spyker D12 Peking to Paris could challenge that).

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Review: 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Exterior


The second-generation Cayenne won”t seem strikingly different to the casual observer, but Porsche has moved the headlamps farther outboard in the fenders and canted their clear covers at a more rakish angle to emulate the immortal 911″s appearance.

Wheel openings have been resculpted. Overall, the front-end design is more aggressive looking with three large sewer grates serving as grilles on the Cayenne Turbo (the lesser models look slightly different up front), and there are minor tweaks to the mirrors and roof spoiler.

At least the wind tunnel is happy with the results; according to Porsche, the drag coefficient for V8 models has dropped appreciably “” from 0.39 to 0.35.

The new-for-“08 10-spoke aluminum wheels do a commendable job of showing off the Cayenne Turbo”s chili-pepper-red brake calipers. The view of this vehicle that others see from the rear is quite intimidating thanks to the Cayenne Turbo”s muscle-bound haunches.

Review: 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Interior


You know you”re in a Porsche when you”re expected to key the engine to life with your left hand “” a throwback to the 1950s at the 24 Hours of LeMans, where the racing driver”s right hand was occupied nudging the shifter into first at the start of the race.

Five silver-edged dials in an attractive overlapping motif succinctly convey critical information on the dash. The tach runs to 8,000 rpm, the speedometer has a maximum reading of 180 mph, and there”s a handy turbo boost gauge at the far right position.

A three-spoke steering wheel offers shift buttons for the 6-speed automatic transmission, plus another eight keys to handle lesser functions. The 3×5-inch navigation screen in the center dash area is ringed by no less than three dozen small buttons: Porsche does not subscribe to the iDrive (BMW), Comand (Mercedes-Benz) or MMI (Audi) school of knob controllers, nor does it use touch-screen technology.

Drivers can choose from three suspension damping modes and two shift modes. There”s also a Sport mode which alters transmission shifting, damper firmness, ride height, the active roll stabilization system, and how quickly the stability management system intervenes.

Leather trim on seats, dash and door-panel surfaces is standard in this top model. The French seams are laser straight. Matte-finished silver accents are another elegant touch.

The pedals are trimmed in polished metal. One odd touch is a pair of grab handles adjacent to the console-mounted shift lever, which serve no real function.

Thanks to very long rear doors, access to the roomy rear seat is ample. Front seats are comfortable, very supportive in the bends, and highly adjustable. Carpet, headliner and pillar trim materials are all top-shelf. One hassle is that the rear-seat headrests must be removed to fold that seat forward and expand cargo capacity.

Review: 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Performance


The horsepower windfall “” up 50 hp from last year “” comes from more displacement (up from 4.5 to 4.8 liters), new direct fuel injection, and variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing used here for the first time. The four pipes out back sound off with a happy, healthy salute when the throttle is down. Shifts at 6,400 rpm, or sometimes a few hundred rpm beyond that redline, are crisp enough to adjust your upper vertebrae.

Unfortunately, throttle response at the low end, before the turbos spool up, is sluggish, and the six-speed automatic tends to start in second gear unless manually levered or fingered (by pressing a steering wheel shift button) into first.

The Cayenne Turbo”s heft is burdensome even for an engine this mighty. But once it”s energized, there”s more than enough torque to rock this SUV back on its rear wheels while hurtling out of tight turns.

A second annoyance is steering that”s touchy when off center. Some drivers will require a week or two to adjust their reflexes. The Cayenne Turbo feels as if it”s tuned more for race track and mountain road use than ordinary suburban driving and commuting. The key is to steer with tidy wrist action instead of major elbow motion. Fast drivers will love it, patient cruisers probably won”t.

Porsche condones towing up to 7,716 pounds with the Cayenne, which seems excessive for the 290-hp V6 model, but not for the mighty Turbo. Ride quality, even with the chariot-sized wheels and short sidewall tires, is quite tolerable.

Ultimately, one question looms: Who needs this much power in combination with a two-speed transfer case for off-road excursions but 21-inch high-performance tires suitable only for warm climates? The answer: The same individual who wears a $15,000 Rolex Submariner wristwatch with no inclination to check its waterproof-to-1,000-feet capability.


Is the Porsche Cayenne Turbo for You?

Buy the Cayenne Turbo if
The Porsche 911 in your garage is lonely and craves companionship. Or you feel insecure entering your local watering hole without legitimate 500-hp bragging rights.

Keep Looking if
You believe in global warming and consider 170-mph vehicles that consume a gallon of gasoline every 15 miles socially irresponsible.

Who Fits?
Roomy for four with center rear seat belts for a fifth passenger in a pinch. No third-row seating offered.

Options Worth Splurging on
21-inch wheels and tires, $4,145; Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (active front and rear anti-roll bars), $3,510; Moonroof, $1,190; tow hitch, $630.

Closest Competitors
Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG; Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged


2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Gallery:

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