From £89,3248
The quickest and grippiest super-SUV in the world – and still somehow not the most entertaining or likeable on UK roads

What is it?

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is the German sports car specialist’s ultimate SUV: the car for the customer who looks at a £95,000 Range Rover Sport SVR or a standard Cayenne Turbo and sees something moderate, understated, frugal – and very slightly underpowered.

If you’re such a customer, prepared to stump up the full £120,000 for your rolling monument to excess, the good news is that you actually get plenty extra for your money here. A turbocharger upgrade for the Cayenne’s 4.8-litre V8 increases peak power to 562bhp and peak torque to 590lb ft. You also get 21in alloy wheels, active roll cancellation for the air suspension, ‘PTV-Plus’ torque vectoring for the four-wheel-drive system, carbon-ceramic brake discs clamped by enormous 10-piston calipers, adaptive LED headlights, an embossed leather interior with carbonfibre accents and a BOSE surround-sound premium stereo. The pick of the Cayenne options list fitted to your car as standard, in other words. Well, it saves wasting the ink in your special-edition Mont Blanc on that lengthy order form.

The resulting car weighs just over 2.3 tonnes and yet it’ll lap the Nordschleife in less than eight minutes, says Porsche. The company also says it’s good for 0-62mph in 4.1sec; according to the Autocar road test timing gear you can expect a return of 4.0sec to 60mph when the absurdly easy-to-use launch control system does its thing on a dry surface.

If that seems utterly bonkers when you read it out loud and stop to think about it for a moment, it’s nothing compared with how it feels from the driver’s seat. Nor is it any more unhinged than what this equally obscene and obscenely capable SUV can do on a wide, empty circuit, by the way - which, as everyone knows, is where any 2.3-tonne SUV naturally belongs.

What's it like?

The Cayenne’s particular take on SUV type is unusual enough in itself, before you strap down a near-600bhp engine under the bonnet. You sit up high in the car, but with legs outstretched, shoulders snuggled down to the level of the shoulder line and both transmission tunnel and steering wheel quite highly sprouting. Visibility is good in all directions, but the driving position is hardly conventional. It’s as if you’re ensconced in a sports car on stilts. Space for second-row occupants is more than adequate, but it’s no better than you’d find in some big saloons. Try to squeeze a large dog box in the boot, meanwhile, and you’ll realise that it, too, could be bigger.

Fire the ignition and the engine throbs away distantly at first; more vociferously and quite loudly when extended, although it never develops the baleful soul or charm of an SVR’s V8. The motor certainly feels powerful, mind you. Throttle response is slightly soft in the lower half of the rev range, the 590lb ft swell of torque saturating the middle of the rev range. What seems to matter, as in so much else of this car’s dynamic repertoire, is how fast the car goes - rather than how it goes fast. And it’s fast. You’ll need a very talented super saloon or a first-order super-sportscar to cover ground more quickly.

Porsche clearly wasn’t going to stop at huge grip and vice-like body control for this car, either. The S's on-road ride becomes uncompromisingly firm when you select ‘Sport’ or 'Sport+' mode on that air suspension – firmer than plenty of luxury SUV owners will be prepared to tolerate – but the trade-off is remarkable cornering balance when the surface is smooth. Limit handling is more adjustable than any car this size could ever be expected to produce, the Cayenne vectoring torque between its rear wheels to keep a neutral attitude dialed in as you corner, and marshalling its active anti-roll bars to resist body roll and promote directional response. Meanwhile, even accounting for the toll of all that brake-based torque-shuffling, the Cayenne’s carbon-ceramic anchors will haul up the car’s Titanic bulk, on circuit or on road, time after time after time.

Back to top

The majority of Cayenne owners will, of course, never drive the car quickly enough to discover the considerable talents of their purchase. As other manufacturers are beginning to understand, it’s perhaps more important that these cars work their magic at normal road speeds; that they are capable of exciting you without being driven to the sort of extremes that, frankly, seem all the more extreme in something so big and heavy.

And it’s in the hinterland between ‘unhurried clip’ and ‘full tilt’ that the Cayenne Turbo S’s dynamic talent goes missing. Its steering has incisiveness and directness, but it’s inconsistent of weight and short on feel. The chassis keeps the car’s mass well in check in outright terms on track, but lacks the delicacy and fluency to suck the topography off a truly testing B-road at speed. Its powertrain is remorselessly effective, but lacks crispness and expressive character. There's just a woolly initial shortage of definition about much that the car does, and an untidiness about the close ride control, both of which you have to push through before the chassis’ quality begins to shine though.

Should I buy one?

Of course not. This is the kind of car that gets you punched at traffic lights. No one ought to buy a Cayenne Turbo S. North Korea ought not to have nuclear weapons, but apparently they want some - and 'I want' almost always wins out in our 21st-century world. And so, if you can justify the expense and preserve your self-respect, and if only the very quickest luxury 4x4 in the world will do, fair enough.

But understand first that the quickest SUV isn’t necessarily the most enjoyable to drive. There is undoubtedly a slightly crazed novelty in finding out that a car of this size and heft can be driven around with as much verve and commitment as a very fast hot hatch, and can also be typically swish and comfortable in its calmer moments.

But we can think of plenty of fast, desirable, practical and luxurious family cars that would conjure a more lasting affection from their owners, not to mention considerably less righteous indignation from everyone else.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Back to top

Location Feltham, Middlesex; On sale now; Price £119,720; Engine V8, 4806cc, twin- turbocharged petrol; Power 562bhp; Torque 590lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2310kg; 0-62mph 4.1sec; Top speed 176mph; Economy 24.6mpg; CO2/tax band 267g/km, 37%

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
DBtechnician 15 April 2016


Matt don't believe all you read about N. Korea, it's mostly propaganda spewed out by the western media to demonise one of the few remaining countries not yet under the control of the central banks. Remember too there has only been one country insane enough to use an atomic bomb on another Nation.
josen100x 15 April 2016

DBtechnician... on, and my thoughts exactly. Also, would love to be in a position to buy this car.
bowsersheepdog 17 April 2016

josen100x wrote: on,

josen100x wrote: on, and my thoughts exactly. Also, would love to be in a position to buy this car.

I'd love to be in a position to buy one of these too. Obviously I wouldn't, jeeps are dumb, I'd have a Cayman and a Golf R estate or similar combination, but having the cash would be handy.

xxxx 15 April 2016


That's getting towards 2500 kg, and people go on about the weight of EV batteries.
Hardythorne 14 April 2016

Review for the reader?

This isn't a competition in verbosity! I'd like to know what the car is like, if that's not too much to ask? I'm yet to read a review (and I've read many) that states whether or not the Cayenne Turbo S rides well in normal/comfort mode on the biggest wheels. You've just taken over 1000 words to tell me that the Cayenne Turbo S is exciting to drive at speed but not so exciting to drive slowly. That's not what I would call in depth.