There was a time, not too long ago, when I’d laugh at the mere sight of a Cayenne. And I wasn’t the only one. It seemed the entire motoring world found it to be a bit of a joke, apart from Porsche, when it launched the new SUV in 2002. There were cries of, “sacrilege”. It appeared the Stuttgart carmaker had gone against all that it believed in with the behemoth.
Having been fed a steady diet of slick, two-door coupés since the Forties, the lardy Cayenne raised a few eyebrows, and murmurs of discontent were aplenty. But the initial shock subsided when people realised it was actually pretty good. It drove great both on and off road, handled very well and could accommodate five adults, too. The Turbo and S trims were soon introduced, but things got serious in 2006 when the flagship 520bhp Turbo S was added to the growing line-up.
With its output on the rise ever since, I bagged the 2013 model with 550bhp. Something told me I wouldn’t be laughing at this any more. The fully galvanised lightweight all-steel body doesn’t look much different from the Turbo from afar, but a closer inspection reveals some changes. The Sport Chrono Package adds huge 21” 911 Turbo II wheels, with the inner area painted black. They are a full two inches bigger than those on the Turbo.
It also features gloss-black-painted air inlet grilles, revised headlight housings and bi-xenon eyes, which include the Porsche Dynamic Lighting System. The darkened rear LED lights look good and I like the roof-mounted spoiler and two tailpipes in polished aluminium, but on the whole the differences are minor.
One way to confirm it is the Turbo S is by checking the badge on the tailgate. An even better way is by hopping in and burying the throttle into the plush carpet. Yep, there is no doubt this is the wildest version of the bunch. That blown 4.8-litre V8 simply blows you away.
Top speed is an obscene 283kph and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the Cayenne Turbo S feels almost as agile as the 911 Carrera 4S. It begs to be thrashed and obliterates the corners, with all four wheels digging in to provide superb traction and the determined motor revving at a peak of 6,000rpm. You can carve up the road in this big SUV all day.
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that even though it is way more powerful than the Turbo, it still drinks the same amount of fuel – a claimed average of 11.5 litres-per-100km. But it isn’t just about superb performance; the Turbo S has sheer quality in abundance, too. The sumptuous black and red leather interior with decorative stitching and carbon-fibre trim is class personified.
Elegant needlework adorns the dashboard, door panels and even the floor mats, while the headrests wear embossed Porsche logos. Further distinguished Turbo S lettering makes its way on to the front door sill plates and the instrument cluster – there is no denying this Cayenne was lovingly built. The PCM (Porsche Communication Management) includes a 7” high-resolution screen, which controls the satnav, telephone and other goodies, while the 14-speaker Bose surround-sound system makes a heck of a noise.
There are many SUVs out there that can match luxury with performance, but the fact that the Cayenne is built by a real sportscar maker and as a result drives like one, makes it the daddy. It’s so good, it defies physics. You’ll love being behind the wheel of the Turbo S – it’s one of the few cars out there that make you smile. And that’s no laughing matter.