Gravity is a powerful -- very powerful -- natural phenomenon. It’s what keeps the universe together, and is also the reason my gut is slowly working its way past my belt buckle (at least it once was).
The Cayenne is Porsche’s gravity. Being the bestselling product in the German automaker’s line since its introduction (fun fact: there were as many new Cayennes delivered in the US in 2014 as there were new Mitsubishi Mirages), it is credited with having kept the company together. The Cayenne can also defy gravity, as it is one of the best handling, fastest and most powerful big SUVs in the world today.
In no other version of the vehicle is it truer than in the tested Turbo S, all-new for the 2016 model year. This muscle-truck is gargantuan and legendary. It’s no surprise when one reads off the spec sheet as the numbers read more like those of an American supercar. The reality is greater than the numbers suggest. The Turbo S is an immensely refined super shuttle with Bentley-like luxury amenities and Lamborghini-like performance. Its major flaw? It looks like any other Cayenne.
Can being mistaken for a “regular” $67,400 Cayenne truly be a bad thing? No, perhaps not; but when a base Turbo S retails for just under $180,000, it can be a tough pill to digest. It’s especially true when the optional $6,750 Turbo Design wheels with flared arches can also be added to the 300-horsepower V6 iteration.
Obviously, the T-S has a few distinguishing features including the “Cayenne Turbo S” badge, the standard 21” 911 Turbo Design wheels and rear dual twintube polished tailpipes. Porsche’s SUV commands respect and is properly handsome. Then, we slide into the opulent saddle-brown (in my tester) leather and alcantara-lined cabin and we’re taken away into a world of mega-luxury. The black and brown colour combination is breathtaking and majestic all at once.
Porsche’s cabins are designed and engineered to be as functional as they are luxurious. Familiarity with the location of all the important controls grows quickly especially where the Sport Exhaust and the Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) buttons are concerned. Fit, finish and materials are impeccable. The same goes for the front 18-way adaptive sport seats. Long-distance cruising has rarely been so regal, even if you leave the beaten path for a rockier road.
Said long-distance road trips could turn out to be very short indeed if speed limits resembled those of the Autobahn. The Cayenne Turbo S is powered by a 4.8L twin-turbocharged V8 that generates 570 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Via the standard 8-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission, the S reaches 100 km/h in 4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 282 km/h or 176 mph.
Two turbos on a V8
The performance generated by this engine is mind bending. The King Kong sized push comes on as of 2,500 rpm, but is not violent in any way. All that torque wrestles and wins against the Cayenne’s 2,300 kg (5,000+ lbs) girth with serious resolve. I equate it to a gentle yet firm push on a child from a parent leaving the scene of a total spaz attack. Once well underway, the V8’s horsepower mounts a further attack all the way to 6,000 rpm and by then, best hope the Jet Black exterior of the car flies under the radar ‘cause the speed limit is nothing more than a memory.
Even with the Sport Exhaust activated, the Turbo S grunts but sufficiently. At lower rpm, it’ll pop slightly but it never forgets that it is, first and foremost, a gentleman and not a brute like some other so-called luxury ‘utes. You could almost say that the Cayenne is a werewolf in Merino sheep’s clothing.
Transmitting and stopping power
The 8-speed Tiptronic S transmission behaves more like a dual-clutch unit than most other slushboxes. What characterizes a DCT are the dry seamless “slush-less” gear changes blended with an immediate drop (or rise) in engine speed. This ‘box has an unequivocal command over the V8 and is always at your beck and call, whether cruising is desired or fracturing the space-time continuum is the order of the moment. Tacked on to Porsche’s Active AWD, getting up to speed in any condition is a simple matter of mashing the throttle then the system works out the details.
All this power requires brakes, freakin’ big brakes. The Cayenne Turbo S is blessed with Porsche’s PCCB (ceramic brakes) as a standard feature. The 10-piston front callipers are a thing of wonderment and I propose they be added to the list of Wonders of the World. Their biting power is undeniable, however, the pedal suffers some deadness that is common with most ceramic braking systems. Don’t be mislead; they are monstrously powerful.
Cruiser and bruiser
On the road, the big Porsche is nothing less than a master at covering ground thanks to Porsche’s self-levelling and ride-height adjustable Active Suspension Management (PASM). From Comfort to Sport Plus, the Cayenne can tackle the cottage road and the racetrack at the touch of a toggle switch. Rolled into chassis control, the ‘ute includes Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) and Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus), as well.
Having had the opportunity to drive a Cayenne hard on a track in the past, engineers working for Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG have discovered ways to defy the laws of gravity. Torque vectoring induces the vehicle into a corner, aiding in stability as well as grip. The Cayenne’s steering, which features Power Steering Plus, modifies the level of assistance depending on driving conditions. The front wheels do what they are told and communication is decent.
Because it’s a Porsche
As a daily status symbol, the 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S stands tall (as long as a base V6 isn’t too close by). There are many luxury SUVs to chose from out there, including the Range Rovers and the Mercedes. Although both brands make impressive products, I’d always opt for the Porsche over a GLE-Class or a Sport.