When Porsche unleashed the first generation Cayenne just over a decade ago the plan was to fill an enormous gap in the company’s model lineup and provide its loyal customer base with a sporty utility vehicle. Porsche was losing sales to rivals such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi who already had luxury SUVs on the road, and a long list of entries from both America and Japan were attracting their share of Porsche customers as well.
When the Cayenne emerged no one could have predicted how it would be received. The vehicle offered five-passenger seating in a conveniently sized package that was engineered to be exceptionally capable off-road, while maintaining its ability to drive like a Porsche on the pavement.
Unfortunately, with the arrival of the brand’s first SUV, some traditionalists felt that the company had lost its way in an effort to keep up with Joneses. Initial demand was unquenchable, and the Cayenne would prove such a success that it would spawn a number of variants, and would soon become Porsche’s top selling vehicle. In fact, the Cayenne should be credited with saving the Porsche from obscurity as its phenomenal sales provided the company with the resources it needed to regain its footing and re-establish itself as an automotive powerhouse.
The Cayenne now comes in no less than seven distinct flavours. The subject of this review is the most potent of the bunch, that being the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.
A mild face-lift and a tummy tuck
The second generation Cayenne debuted in 2011, but model year 2014 brings a mild facelift and a number equipment changes to the popular SUV. The Cayenne now has a more aggressive appearance, and the subtle cues that are distinctive to the Cayenne Turbo S are most apparent at the front of the vehicle. The revised front fascia is dominated by a wide-mouthed central air intake which helps direct generous amounts of air to the twin turbochargers that give this model its lively legs. A wide plateau or ‘power-dome’ dominates the hood, providing a visual hint as to what is lurking beneath it.
Muscular wheel arches extend outwards to help shroud the lightweight, five-spoke (split to ten), 21-inch 911 Turbo II wheels that help provide the Cayenne Turbo S with its incredible road feel and handling. My test unit’s wheels were wrapped in ultra-performance Michelin tires that adhered to the pavement like super glue and proved very quiet at speed. These sexy wheels are finished in a high-gloss black and feature a full-colour Porsche Crest. Careful attention to the details is what sets Porsche apart from its many rivals, so the high-gloss black finish has also been carried to the grille (including slats) as well as the exterior mirror lower trim and mirror base.
At the back of the vehicle a subtle ‘Cayenne turbo S’ script badge graces the tailgate to further impress (or intimidate) those following behind. And if that doesn’t do it, the twin dual-tube tailpipes surely will when this beast is fired up or burbling away in anticipation of a pending play date with its lucky owner.
While styling enhancements are always worth noting, the big news is that this latest and greatest Cayenne has lost some weight. In the speed game light is might so this will be prove a blessing for Porschephiles already enamoured by the Cayenne’s impressive capabilities.
The evolution of Porsche interiors has been rapid since the release of the stunning Panamera, and the second generation Cayenne Turbo S shares many of its interior design features with that slinky sedan. High on style and luxury the standard leather interior now comes in a choice of two new two-tone combinations: Black/Luxor Beige or Black/ Carrera Red. My test rig featured the latter and it was eye-popping, but in a good way. A silver exterior and a red leather interior is about as old-school German as you can get, but it works. Black seat backs, carpets and floor mats (with decorative edging and ‘Porsche’ logo) complete the exclusive two-tone concept. Carbon-fibre trim pieces and Alcantara leather elements abound, resulting in a near perfect blend of sport and luxury in the commodious cabin.
The adaptive sports seats proved comfortable enough that I after spending 1550 kilometres behind the wheel I was no less for wear, and when the roads got interesting the 18-way adjustable driver’s seat provided exceptional support.
As this is a driver’s car the three-spoke SportDesign steering wheel is all business and features a thick-rim and quick action gearshift paddles. Notably absent is the wide array of auxiliary buttons you often find cluttering the steering-wheel in a luxury offering. A compact instrument cluster is front and centre, leaving all the accessory, climate and entertainment controls thoughtfully organized on the centre waterfall console seemingly borrowed from the Panamera.
Long list of standard equipment
The list of standard equipment for the Cayenne Turbo S is extensive and includes all of the luxury and comfort equipment you would expect in a vehicle that starts at $166,600. However, it also comes fitted with the company’s full suite of performance and handling upgrades including Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) , Power Steering Plus, Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) and Porsche’s Sport Chrono package as standard equipment.
Under the shapely hood of this flagship Cayenne resides the latest variant of Porsche’s proven twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 engine which produces 550-hp and a stump-pulling 553 lb-ft of torque. These figures represent a bump of a healthy 50 ponies and 37 lb-ft of torque over the potent Cayenne Turbo. Porsche press materials list the 0-100 km/h time for the Turbo S at 4.5-seconds and a terminal speed of 283 km/h. These numbers are just a hair better than those for the $123,800 Turbo (4.7s / 278 km/h) which leads to the question: Who would feel the need to spend that much extra money for such little gain? The answer is simple. An affluent individual that has to have the best, the fastest. and the rarest of Porsche’s Cayenne models. Exclusivity always has a price. I should also point out that Porsche is known to post rather conservative performance numbers which means it is likely both the Turbo and Turbo S have even more zip on tap.
While the Cayenne Turbo S has been the performance benchmark since 2006, this latest variant has been engineered using the company’s Intelligent Performance Concept- the concept of offering increased power and efficiency with comparatively low fuel consumption. If there ever was a case study for having your cake and eating it too, the Cayenne Turbo S may be it.
All that power is transmitted to the road by the standard eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission. This marvel of engineering has been designed to adapt the gearshift points to your individual driving style and the prevailing road conditions. During aggressive driving the driver is free to flick up and down the robust gearbox using the slender paddles, but when left to work on its own the system will act to reduce fuel consumption by slipping into the upper gears quickly and quietly. Should you need to get access to a few more ponies the system will drop to second or third gear almost instantaneously when it senses a heavy foot on the throttle pedal.
With Cayenne sales stronger than ever due to an expanding catalog of models and features, you can be certain that the Porsche design team will continue to improve on the platform as they move ever closer to creating the ultimate expression of what a high-performance luxury SUV can be.
Technical Specifications: 2014 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Base Price (MSRP): $166,600
Price as tested: $173,265
Type: 5-passenger, 5 door SUV
Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: Turbocharged, 4.8-litre, 8-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection.
Horsepower: 550 @ 5,500 – 6,400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 553 @ 1,400 – 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic S auto-manual
Brakes: Ventilated discs front and rear
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.5 s
Fuel economy [L/100 km]: Automatic- City 15.6 L (18 mpg); Hwy 10.0 L (28 mpg)