The $136,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is a staggeringly good luxury sport SUV. We tested it to see if the 2019 Car of the Year runner-up is still the best on the market

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

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The Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
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Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • The Porsche Cayenne has been the undisputed king of high-performance SUVs since 2002.
  • Nobody thought Porsche could pull off an SUV that was also a Porsche. They were so, so wrong. And the Cayenne remains brilliant. It’s also filled Porsche’s coffers with money.
  • The Cayenne Turbo was easily among most impressive vehicles we drove in 2019, and that’s why it’s a Car of the Year runner-up
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Editor’s note: Business Insider will name its 2019 Car of the Year on November 23. Each day this week, we’re taking another look at the five vehicles that were runners-up selected from a pool of 16 finalists. Thus far, we’ve named the Lamborghini Urus, Nissan Leaf SL Plus, Cadillac XT4, and Mercedes-Benz A220. Our fifth and final runner-up is the Porsche Cayenne. You can read our full 2019 Car of the Year coverage here.

They laughed back in the early aughts when Porsche said it was going to make an SUV.

Then the Cayenne arrived in 2002, and the laughs stopped. Everybody knew Porsche made a great sports car in the 911. Nothing could have prepared us for the level of performance the automaker could bring to an SUV.

The Cayenne was transcendentally brilliant out of the box, and in the ensuing decade and a half, it’s been updated twice, most recently for the 2019 model year. The new Cayenne comes in four flavors – base, hybrid, S, and Turbo – and has dropped about 300 pounds.

Porsche flipped us the keys to a Cayenne Turbo and we drove it around the New Jersey suburbs for a week. We knew it would be good. But were we prepared for how good?

Read on to find out why it was so good that we named it a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up:


The 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo arrived wearing a “Biscay Blue Metallic” paint job. The Cayenne started at $125,000, but a batch of performance options added just over $10,000 to the already impressive sticker price.

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Porsche has added character lines and a higher overall level of surface flash to the Cayenne, now in its third-generation. The latest Cayenne is about as sleek as is possible to make the vehicle without sloping the roof so much that the second row becomes uninhabitable.

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When the Cayenne first arrived, a big question was whether the traditional bug-eye Porsche design cues would translate to an SUV.

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They didn’t, really, and they haven’t — but now it doesn’t matter because we’ve gotten used to it.

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And that lovely Porsche badge never gets old.

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As with its stablemate, the Panamera, the Cayenne’s rear end has always been … problematic. Or hideously bulbous, depending on your point of view.

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The best thing I can say about this part of the 2019 Cayenne Turbo is that the slashing, wraparound tail light configuration and quad pipes jazz up what’s the SUV’s worst angle.

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When the gaping rear maw opens, you have about 27 cubic feet of cargo space to work with and roughly double that when the second row of seats is folded down. That’s really quite good.

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The 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 makes 541 horsepower with 568 pound-feet of torque. This Porsche can tow nearly 8,000 pounds, which is staggering. Fuel economy isn’t: 15 mpg city/19 highway/17 combined, and that’s on premium gas.

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The eight-speed automatic pipes the power to the Cayenne Turbo’s all-wheel-drive system. There isn’t a whiff of turbo lag with this machine, and the transmission can switch to manual if you want to shift gears yourself.

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The Sport and Sport Plus drive modes are quite fun, and punching the center button of the mode selector supplies a 20-second burst of oomph from the engine. The Cayenne Turbo’s 0-60 time is around 4 seconds (a few tenths quicker, according to Porsche), and the top speed is 177 mph.


Time to visit the all-black leather interior. It’s lovely, but also purposeful, in the way Porsche interiors often are.

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The Cayenne is a good-sized SUV, so rear legroom is pretty capacious.

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And a dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with abundant natural light.

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It’s always a bit weird to climb into a Cayenne and find a steering wheel that wouldn’t be out of place on a 911, right down to the drive-mode selector. The tachometer, of course, is front and center in the instrument cluster …

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… And if you cast your eye to the right, you see the familiar Porsche dashboard clock.

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Porsche’s PCM infotainment system runs on a 12.3-inch touchscreen.

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The usual features are present, from easy Bluetooth-paring to USB connectivity and GPS navigation. But the system is also where the driver can configure the Cayenne’s drive modes.

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So what’s the verdict on our 2019 Car of the Year runner-up?

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

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Crystal Cox/Business Insider

I had been driving the 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo for all of five minutes when I was already making appreciative noises and trying to hold back the whoops in the interest of critical objectivity.

The Cayenne was mind-blowing at 25 mph. It all came rushing back. They laughed at the idea of a Porsche SUV. Then they quit laughing. But still there are openings for jeers. After all, isn’t this just a rebadged Volkswagen?

HAHAHAHA! Silence, ye doubters. No, the Cayenne isn’t a 911. But is it a Porsche? Sure. Beyond that, however, is so much more. It remains the greatest SUV on the road, and in my view, the greatest SUV ever built by human hands. Perhaps on some undiscovered exoplanet light years from our Big Blue Marble they could sell you a better SUV, but have to pay for it with space money or trade something of value, such as your spare flux capacitor, a 1958 Gibson Les Paul, and free pass for the Kessel Run.

True, the Land Rover Defender is impressive – more so now that a new Defender has been unveiled, updated for the modern age. But the Cayenne does its thing in Porsche fashion on the road while also offering staggering offroad capability – rock-crawling, yes, sort of, but really the kind of high-speed rallying that you would logically subject this machine to.

The Cayenne is simply good, good, and more good, and the top-level Turbo trim is especially delightful, capable of orchestrating a brutal symphony of horsepower from that magnificent 541-horsepower, twin-turbo V8. But that’s just one dimension of performance bliss.

You also have the bracing handling, delivered through an intricate orchestration of mega-tech features, ranging from a rooftop spoiler than can adapt to increased speed to rear-axle steering and electro-hydraulic roll stabilization.

It’s my policy to avoid getting too deep in this gearheady stuff (my driving is 90% emotion and 10% engineering). But with the Cayenne Turbo, it definitely adds up to an SUV that drives, as it always has, like a Porsche – but with the vehicle’s upgrades, now more like a Porsche than ever.

As with most modern luxury cars, the Cayenne has a suite of driver-assist features, including adaptive cruise control and a nice, low-speed, stop-and-go system. These work well, as advertised, but c’mon – this is a Porsche! The urge to take control and do the driving yourself is ever-present. And that’s ultimately what separates the Cayenne from some (not all) of the competition.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Cayenne has been absolutely, shockingly brilliant since it first arrived in the early 2000s. A decade and a half later, same story. The vehicle’s magnificence simply increases with time. Our Business Insider road-test crew was basically speechless after a week with the Cayenne Turbo. True, I’m not nuts about the design. Never have been. So what? Design isn’t everything.

Is the Cayenne still the finest SUV made by human hands on planet Earth?

Nod quietly, nod respectfully, and accept that unquestionable genius does sometimes happen.

That’s why it’s a 2019 Car of the Year runner-up.