Almost six years have elapsed since the slimmed-down second-generation Porsche Cayenne rolled onto the scene. Meanwhile the competition had been busy— Range Rover Sport and BMW X5 both took claim aesthetic excellence du jour, in all its fleeting glory, leaving it high time for Cayenne to rethink its look. But remember, this is Porsche we’re talking about— the 911 is an icon in part because it’s never had full on identity crisis. The boffins in Stuttgart are all about consistency, which is why the Cayenne Turbo is our pick for tooling around the UAE in celebration of National Day— itself a festival of consistency.
Where better to kick this off than Abu Dhabi, our nation’s, er, bustling capital. We took in the Corniche with its incomparable Skyline view, the gilded halls of Emirates palace, and the crags of nearby Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain— all stunning places to compliment the car’s proud visage. About the cars looks though— the bonnet has a Rodin-lite re-sculpting, there are more slats in the bumper to force air intake, and the new headlights help highlight the family resemblance with the 918 hypercar and mid-sized Macan. Out back the car has a little bit more heft, with redesigned exhaust tips and a flush boot handle (despite the now standard inclusion of a fully motorized boot lid.
Next, we ventured a little deeper inside the UAE’s roots— the Ajman Museum and fish market. Here we spent a little time just sitting inside the Cayenne, with its luxurious and accommodating interior. The driving position is excellent, the leather is supple and the seats do not lack for padding. Everything is top quality in the cabin, and the controls are intuitive and well laid out. There’s still something slightly practical about Porsche’s luxurious interiors (look at the guts of the next ten-year-old Porsche you see for an idea how far they’ve come. The backseats seem more comfortable than ever, especially with the optional ventilation option, a must for Middle East summers.
Dubai, with its dazzling lights is a powerful place to behold. The Cayenne Turbo is much the same, only different— the turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 in the (you guessed it) Turbo model boasts to 512bhp and 553lb ft. of torque. We powered from DIFC to sheikh Rashed road, catching the sunset at Pearl Jumeirah, This SUV does 0-100kph in 4.5secs, and to be fair that’s fast even on paper, but the driving experience is something else, something entirely more intense. The sheer acceleration of the Cayenne Turbo, combined with its high riding point of view, and the amount of mass the car slings through the air, make for a sprint that feels even faster than it is. This is an aggressive SUV, that want to run wherever it goes— we found ourselves flicking on Comfort suspension and deactivating Sport mode more often than not, it’s nice knowing the Cayenne has the chops for a race day, but SUVs are for sipping latte’s and making the mall run too. It’s not quite as Jekyll and Hide as the X5 M, for example, but it’s also not meant to be.
Out on the road in near Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah we found the Cayenne to be particularly adept at wafting its way through the lines. The 8-speed auto box is fast and responsive, and one never wishes for torque (nor should you in anything badged Porsche). You can get all the way up to 120 kph in second gear, and meanwhile fuel efficiency is pretty good since you can cruise Sheikh Zayed at 2000rpm and never worry about rear flashers trying to get around, just open the throttle a tad and watch them melt away.
In Sharjah, we toured wide and far‚ checking out Al Faya Desert at the fossil rock, the Khorfakkan Corniche, Al Mamzar beach, and the Sharjah museum of Islamic civilization. The SUV performed great in the dunes outside Sharjah and when we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, the Porsche Road Assist Centre sent a team which arrived in an hour to change the tire for us— great service. At more than 2,200kg the Cayenne Turbo can feel touch stiff for regular driving in Sport mode and when the dampers do intervene it can be slightly unsettling, with a tendency towards vertical travel as it steps in. Normal mode is a nice compromise (which is probably why it’s more or less billed as the default setting). Add Sport to it, tightening up the throttle response and shift points, and the Cayenne will gobble up more technical roads without having any of the children sick up on that nice leather (probably, this is at least partly up to driver behavior). This is a Porsche, so it has massive amounts of grip, thanks in part to the Michelin Latitude sport 3 tires, which help the car carry speed through the corners, setting up nicely to apply its massive straight-line push. With great power comes great responsibility, and the Cayenne S is equipped with six-piston aluminum monobloc brake calipers and internally ventilated brake discs up front. These ceramic monsters are 350 mm in diameter and 34 mm thick. In back its the same, but a tad smaller (logically) instead rocking four-pistons and 330 mm by 28 mm pads.
You need that kind of stopping power in vehicle that tops two tons, especially one as game as the Cayenne which frequently allows you to forget what a big hulking beast it really is, as it handle its girth like a big-boned ballerina. At one point, we stopped for a break in Umm Al Quwain under the famous the abandoned plane to contemplate the mighty Cayenne Turbo, a ride that feels a bit like piloting a jet in all the right ways. The Cayenne S is Cayenne Turbo is incredibly capable, fast, and well appointed— a fitting SUV in which to celebrate this great nation.