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.
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.