The 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is the world's fastest SUV. But is it any good?
The 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is all about power.
Under the bonnet is a 4.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine producing a mammoth 419kW of power and 800Nm of torque.
Those figures are, quite simply, ridiculous. Who on Earth needs that amount of grunt from a family SUV?
Apparently some people do, because this updated Porsche Cayenne Turbo S has 14kW and 50Nm more than its predecessor. And it also costs a sizeable amount more, too.
The 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S kicks off at $284,300 plus on-road costs – that’s a staggering $24,700 more than the original version of the Turbo S that was introduced in this generation of the Cayenne back in 2013.
CarAdvice questioned Porsche’s ambitious pricing back then, and the fact remains that this is a hugely expensive vehicle.
Admittedly, the Porsche has some go-fast goodies over those models. Indeed, the Cayenne Turbo S has the right to claim the title of “world’s fastest SUV”, with a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.1 seconds (0.2sec faster than the pre-facelift model) and a top speed of 284km/h.
If you’re all about the numbers, that puts the Porsche quicker than the Benz and the Bimmer for its 0-100km/h sprint by 0.1sec, and its top speed (not that you’ll likely ever use it in Australia!) is superior by 34km/h.
It’s frustrating, then, that the Cayenne Turbo S is so hard to live with.
The engine, which is teamed to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, exhibits some annoying low-speed hesitation. You really need to measure the precise amount of throttle input to get a smooth take-off: too much throttle and it roars away violently; too little and it lags as the turbos spool up.
If you’re not in traffic, the throttle response issue isn’t as pronounced. Indeed, this engine loves to rev, and the sweet spot is where all the torque kicks in – from 2500 to 4000rpm.
Hit the Sport button – or better yet, Sport Plus – and the engine response becomes notably sharper. Plant the right foot and the Cayenne pushes you back in your seat, and there’s a great – if somewhat muted – exhaust roar that accompanies the revs. If you’re after a pop-and-rumble “listen to this/look at me” exhaust note, the GTS is a better pick.
Go beyond that peak torque range and you’re rewarded with a more visceral experience and more of a burly engine note as the V8 pelts you away from whatever was behind you. In Sport Plus mode it gathers pace with such tenacity, and pounds through the gears with such ferocity, that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with what’s happening around you (let alone keep an eye on the speedometer).
That thumping between cogs is quite sharp at times, jolting the body of the car, and we even noticed a few poor shifts under light throttle.
It’s interesting to note that the Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S have the biggest fuel tanks of their model range, with an additional 15 litres of capacity bringing the total to 100L.
If our test is anything to go by, you’ll need that much room for juice, too, as it churns through it. The official claimed fuel consumption is 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle test, but we saw well above that – 17.5L/100km – over a mix of highway, country and city driving.
Stopping all that force – this is a 2235-kilogram SUV, after all – would be a challenge, you might expect. But the Cayenne Turbo S has a pair of 10-piston monobloc aluminium calipers at the front and four-piston units at the rear, and they clamp down on vented and cross-drilled carbon/ceramic composite discs.
As a result, treading on the brake pedal results in a tremendous outcome, killing off collected speed rapidly, and the brake pedal offers good feel, too.
The great thing about this big SUV is that despite its size and weight, it still has Porsche dynamics. Well, to an extent.
You can’t really hide that much weight, but the German sports car brand has done a brilliant job in trying.
It sucks down on corners like a kid with a mango seed, offering immense amounts of traction through tight and twisty sections of road. The Cayenne Turbo S’s default all-wheel-drive setting is to drive the rear wheels at all times and send power to the fronts only when it’s needed. The result is that you can feel the drive shuffle between rear and both axles at times, but at all times there are immense levels of traction on offer.
Further, Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control works to stabilise the body of the car through bends, and the torque vectoring – which applies slight braking pressure to the inside rear wheel – helps tug the car around with tremendous grip.
The electric-assisted hydraulic steering is true and honest through bends, too, and in Sport Plus mode it is incredibly quick to react to incremental adjustments.
Because the Cayenne Turbo S has adjustable air suspension it isn’t quite as taut as some hard-core Porsche enthusiasts may be used to. But that’s a good thing, really, because you’re unlikely to be spending all your time at top speed through corners.
Indeed, the ride is very good at isolating the cabin from bumps. Even in Sport Plus mode – where the air suspension system lowers the body of the car down by 22 millimetres to help it hunker down – the suspension deals with inconsistencies with general ease.
“How does it go off-road?” asked no one, ever, about a Porsche. And when I saw the Off-Road Mode toggle I thought: “Who are they kidding?! Surely no-one who has spent about $300,000 on an SUV isn’t going to take it bush-bashing.”
We certainly didn’t dare set even an inch of tread off the tarmac.
For those with more dollars than sense, though, the Cayenne features some impressive tricks.
The height-adjustable air suspension allows the Turbo S (and standard Turbo) ground clearance of up to 273mm – almost as much as a Toyota HiLux, at 279mm – and the greatest wading ability of any of the Cayenne range: 555mm. Further to that, the approach angle of 29.8 degrees and the departure angle of 26.7deg are entirely respectable.
That’s all well and good, but in Comfort mode on the highway and over badly-surfaced Sydney back streets the suspension proved excellent, offering a luxury car-like ride. The downside is a lot of road noise, particularly over coarse road surfaces.
Indeed, that’s a question the team here at CA kept coming back to – is there really a need for it to be so excessive?
That may sound ludicrous, but when you consider that the Cayenne Diesel – which is arguably the pick of the range in terms of value, practicality and economy – has almost all the same interior trinketry and very similar levels of comfort and convenience, the step up in price feels a bit unjustified, at least based on luxuriousness.
In fact, the interior of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is plush, pampering and probably not as sporty as you might expect it to be.
Of course there are lashings of carbonfibre on the dash, console and doors, but it isn’t overstated, and nor is it poxy.
Our Cayenne Turbo S test car had a lovely cream-coloured interior with black highlights, which offered the impression that the SUV was more focused on a prestige vibe than that of a pace-setting performance model. If you want lairy, get the Cayenne GTS, then.
The finishes are of a very high standard for the most part, with the suede head-lining extending to the sun visors (and Porsche – like VW – has those brilliant twin visors that allow you to block out side and forward sunlight).
There are some weird ergonomic and technological elements to this Porsche.
Instead of a mainstream push-button start system there’s an odd-ball integrated ignition key that means you’ve got hands-free access to the car but you still need to twist a toggle to start it.
The vast array of switches and buttons on the centre console remain a bugbear for some testers at CarAdvice, and there’s no doubt that the game has moved on and minimalism is in.
That said, once you figure out where everything is located it’s mainly very logical, and the fact you can individually control the fan speeds on either side of the car (in addition to the temperature settings) is great.
Above the cluster of buttons sits a small (by class standards) touchscreen media system, which is a little tedious to use thanks to the bank of buttons below that you use to switch between menus. The navigation displays – on the media screen and in the digital area of the instrument cluster – is dated looking and pixelated, and not fit for a car of this price.
And while there are airbags aplenty - dual front, front side, rear side and full-length curtains - as well as ISOFIX outboard child seat anchor points and a standard reverse-view camera and front and rear parking sensors, there are none of the active safety helpers that you can find on vehicles like the Audi Q7 (which has radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and more).
Because this is a family-sized SUV, those in the back are treated to plenty of space, including decent leg and headroom, and very supportive seats, too. There’s good storage for loose items and drinks, too.
The boot – at 670 litres – is commodious, and that stretches to an Ikea-friendly 1780L with the back seats folded down.
But there’s every chance that a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S buyer won’t be heading to that store anytime soon, because – and we’re back to that point we made earlier – this is a hideously expensive SUV.
Yes it is fast, yes it is quite good at doing the performance SUV thing, and yes it is a Porsche. But the fact remains that it is a good $100,000 more than the equivalent BMW or Mercedes, and after a week with the car it’s hard to say whether it really does anything better than either of those vehicles to justify the extra expenditure.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.