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.