Setting Nürburgring lap records in utility vehicles used to be the province of the well-funded but perpetually silly—on shows like Top Gear, for instance. Instead of strapping the late, great Sabine Schmitz into a Ford Transit, Porsche has gone even further this time by strapping the brand's most powerful V-8 into the 2022 Cayenne Turbo GT, and the new "SUV, off-road vehicle, van, or pickup" record holder arrives in the United States early next year.
While a 7:38.9-second Nordschleife lap time is a lofty achievement for any vehicle, it's pushing the limits of our current understanding of physics for a street-legal, 5000-pound SUV. Powering the Cayenne Turbo GT's exploration of the theoretical envelope is a 631-hp, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 626 pound-feet of torque with a maximum engine speed of 6800 rpm, backed by Porsche's familiar ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission.
In fact, transparency is the theme with the Cayenne Turbo GT. All of the things that are happening are being orchestrated by a great many systems working in concert behind the scenes, but in such a way that it seems as if it's happening instantaneously and at the sole behest of your fingertips and toes. It's not that any one of the systems in this bonkers Cayenne is so mind-blowing that it resets the benchmark. It's the way they all work together in concert that does.
Front and center in the dynamic show is the very distinctly rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. The Turbo GT-specific setup is capable of sending the same maximum torque to the front axle as the Cayenne Turbo Coupe, but it can do so more quickly and more often, thanks in part to a liquid-cooled transfer case, which was added specifically for track-use robustness, Porsche says.
Track use? Well, yes, and not just for marketing-stunt record laps either. With its XXL pizza-sized brake rotors (17.3 inches in front, 16.1 inches in the rear) in the grip of 10-piston front and four-piston rear calipers, the Cayenne Turbo GT stops as hard as you dare and considerably more quickly than you'd think. But it's not all brute force and sheer brawn. This is a Porsche, after all. There must be some sophistication.
There is, and it lies in the very last place one might look for it in any SUV, performance or otherwise: the steering wheel. Or perhaps it's the interrelation of the steering wheel and the staggered bespoke Pirelli P Zero Corsa gumballs size 285/35R-22 front and 315/30R-22 rear wrapped around immense 22-inch wheels measuring 10.5 inches wide in the front and 11.5 inches at the rear. Whatever the origin, the fact is that the Cayenne Turbo GT's steering is revelatory for an SUV. It's light, almost like Porsche's mid- and rear-engine cars, despite the great honking V-8 hung out front; it's tactile to the point that you can actually sense the subtle changes of surface texture in the road; and yet it's not so full of vibration that it shakes your hands numb in 10 minutes.
Once you've fired up the engine and taken a few rips, tested the brakes, and felt your way through your first few apexes, the next thing you're likely to notice is just how good four-wheel-steering has become, delivering a nimbleness that belies the Turbo GT's 113.9-inch wheelbase and 194.6-inch overall length. With multilink suspension at all four corners and a ride height 0.7 inch lower than in a Cayenne Turbo Coupe, the Turbo GT manages body roll extremely well, aided by the active anti-roll bars of Porsche's Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) system.
Porsche being Porsche, the damping profile has also been modified for the Turbo GT. Surprisingly, however, no additional body reinforcements or structural enhancements were necessary to reach the Cayenne Turbo GT's performance targets. The weight-saving carbon-fiber roof is the only difference from a standard Cayenne Turbo Coupe's body in white.
Speaking of weight savings, there's a titanium exhaust running from just behind the catalytic converters down the center of the Turbo GT's underside to a pair of center-exit tips that turn a gorgeous shade of blue after they've gotten good and hot once or twice. Porsche claims this saves approximately 40 pounds compared to the already high-performance exhaust of the Cayenne Turbo Coupe. Not only does it save weight and look great, it sounds great, too—but only when you want it to. No need to fuss with buttons or settings; just drive like a sane person would and it'll be the strong but quiet type. Dip the throttle into slightly aggro territory, and the sound rises from a low growl to a roar.
There's a great deal more sophistication to the Turbo GT too. Left in its base startup mode, this 'Ring-storming record setter is no more likely to spill your coffee or upset the neighbors than a standard Cayenne, which is to say not likely at all. The base price of $182,150 can grow quickly. With its leather-lined interior, the European-market example we drove would sticker around $215,000. But that's nothing new for Porsche buyers, and after all, what's a few dozen grand among friends?
We expect there's even more depth to the daily-driver capabilities of this SUV, like the fact that it gets the new Porsche Communication Management 6.0 software, which brings wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto among other upgrades, but we'd need to spend a lot more time with one to find out. If you're listening, Porsche, we're ready.
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