It was meant to be a joke, right? Proof that the Germans did have a sense of humour? Because when the Cayenne was unveiled to the world in 2002, it sure made everyone laugh. The 911 on stilts, many felt, would be killed off and forgotten like the 914. But it hasn’t just survived the past 14 years — it’s thrived.
The Porsche name is synonymous with exceptional sportscars like the 911, Boxster and Cayman, but it is the Cayenne that is its bestseller, and by some distance. How can that be when it landed furthest from the tree in terms of brand identity?
There are two reasons for this; SUVs are the only mode of transport (if you believe the marketing rhetoric) and people can’t buy them fast enough, and also because the Cayenne is ruddy good. Typically, Porsche offers several variants for its SUV to keep interest high. And the curiosity for this new Turbo S should be very high indeed because it’s big, brutal, boisterous and brilliant. Carmakers tend to boast about things like interior room in their latest 4x4s but Porsche does things a little differently; it highlights the fact that the Turbo S lapped the Nürburgring in 7 minutes and 59 seconds. Priorities.
In a straight line, it’s menacing. You have to hold on to the steering extra hard when you bury the throttle with Sport Plus engaged. It rushes to 100kph from rest with sheer violence. The guttural tones of the V8 fill the luxurious cabin and everything’s a blur as it hits the tonne in just 4.1 seconds. It leaves you a little giddy but you’ll be on the lookout for the next bit of open road to prod it into action again. With the sports exhaust system activated, by pushing one of the many buttons on the cluttered centre console, the 4.8-litre twin-turbo makes all the right noises and delivers its 570 horses with explosive urgency, while ensuring incredible levels of grip thanks to the clever four-wheel-drive system.
Even in Comfort and the suspension set to its softest setting, the Turbo S feels like it just wants to go. I spent most of my time in its meanest mode, and with the ride height as low as possible there were times when it felt like I was driving a sports saloon. All of this power means you need a serious set of anchors to rein it all in, so it has a pair of 10-piston monobloc aluminium callipers at the front and four-piston units at the rear, and they clamp down on vented and cross-drilled carbon ceramic composite discs, which bring proceedings to a rapid halt.
In spite of its mass, it handles with aplomb, corners tight, and doesn’t even know what body roll means. How did they make it feel so agile and precise? It hides the chub ever so well and is nothing short of an engineering marvel. The eight-speed automatic directed by wheel-mounted paddles shifts with lightning speed and aggressive blips. The sensation this SUV provides is so extreme that although a shoot-out against the X5 M and Range Rover Sport SVR would be fun, it’d be a waste of time. It’s excessive in every way. It even has a 100-litre tank. To help save fuel, it has a stop-start system and air vents that open and shut automatically to optimise aerodynamics.
It’s clear that this is a fire-breathing monster of an SUV, and you might be just as happy with the base model or at the very least the Turbo. But how does it handle the daily grind? Very competently. Although it prefers being driven as if it’s being chased by hungry wolves and would rather be on a track than in town, it never feels cumbersome. That’s thanks to the plush cabin that’s awash with top-notch leather, carbon fibre and Alcantara, not to mention heated and ventilated seats and a climate-controlled glove compartment.
Our tester also packed a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, keyless ignition, the Sport Chrono package and aforementioned sport exhaust, along with a surround sound audio system. In fact, this Turbo S has been fitted with Dh68,910 worth of extras, or roughly one Kia Sportage, which brings the grand total to Dh761,710. That’s a lot of dosh, but this is a lot of car. If you’ve got the money and you don’t fancy the gymnastics of climbing in and out of a 911, it makes sense. It’ll even go off-road, not that anyone in their right mind would given the likely cost of replacing damaged wheels or what not.
However, despite all this, it is beginning to show signs of age. Above the cluster of buttons sits a touchscreen media system that doesn’t look much bigger than your smartphone and is a little tedious to use, while the navigation display looks a tad pixelated. An update here is in order as other brands fit screens the size of small TVs in their cars.
It has plenty of leg- and headroom, and even has a 670-litre boot that grows to a whopping 1,780 with the back seats folded. On the safety front, it has airbags aplenty along with Isofix outboard child-seat anchor points. Parking is a breeze with the reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
It’s everything that the coupé is (well, sort of…) but offers practicality and comfort, too. This Cayenne Turbo S gives you tarmac-tearing power that the whole family can enjoy, and though it costs a lot, in essence you’re buying two cars for the price of one; a sports saloon and one of the world’s fastest SUVs. With the Bentayga and Urus joining the craze soon, this segment has a lot of legs left in it.
Though we laughed at it back in 2002, today it’s the Cayenne Turbo S that wears a rather large grin. I guess nobody understands German humour…