About a decade or so ago, I traveled to BMW's Munich HQ to pick-up a press fleet K100RS. I arrived with a hard shell suitcase, intending to transfer its contents to the motorcycle’s panniers. When a press flack asked about the case, I joked that I was going to bungee it onto the back of the bike. When we returned from lunch, German engineers had attached my suitcase to the butt of Beemer’s “flying brick,” complete with homemade aerodynamic addenda. They’d found an elegant way to accomplish a completely ludicrous task. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S? Same deal.
C’mon, why build a 5500 pound truck that can accelerate like a sports car, ford streams, plug mud, climb and descend precipitous inclines AND provide upmarket MILF’s with a leather-lined suburban schlepper? Yes, yes; Porker’s porker is a hit. The Cayenne has dumped enough cash into the German automaker's corporate coffers to finance family plans to re-conquer VW and, thus, the world. But even if you set aside the SUV’s corrosive effect on the Porsche brand, you still have to wonder if this whole Cayenne thing is nothing more than porcine lipstick application.
The answer depends on two questions. First, would you drive a $112k SUV off-road? If you’re ready, willing and able to throw Porsche’s mad bad beast into streams and mud, over stones and sand, through forests and Wadis; to scratch your precious paint and dent your fantastic fenders, then I’ve got no beef with this truck. The Cayenne Turbo S can triple digit down a gravel road as easily as a Honda Fit can squeeze into an urban parking space. It can raise itself up, detach its front and rear anti-roll bars and overcome a medium sized boulder. Even without the Advanced Offroad Technology Package, the Cayenne Turbo S rocks. Literally.
Second, if I tell you that a German vehicle can blast from zero to sixty in 4.8 seconds and top out at 168mph; is that just about everything you need to hear? The Ford Mustang GT500 proves there are plenty of wealthy pistonheads for whom cornering ability plays second fiddle to the thunderous timpani of massive straight line thrust. If you’re a well-heeled truck-loving fool who lives for foot-stomping, neck-snapping yee-haws, the Cayenne Turbo S is good to go like Hell. And while the Turbo S doesn’t relish corners any more than a K100RS with a suitcase strapped to its ass, it is without doubt the least likely of its ilk to fall off the road should you be
brave stupid enough to carry even a small portion of its considerable speed into a tight corner.
In case you hadn’t guessed, neither of these talents is enough to endear the Cayenne Turbo S to your humble reviewer. When I go off-road, I want a relatively simple and inexpensive machine that I can thrash and stash without paying the body shop cash. When I want to have my vision blurred by acceleration-squeeshed eyeballs, I want a small, light, low-slung machine that can corner like a Boxster S. And if I want a fast SUV, I want a beast that beams me from A to B in seamless, mindless luxury. This the Cayenne Turbo does not do.
Mind you, the Turbo S’ cabin is as far from a torture chamber as the Waihua spa at the Maui Ritz. There are Saville Row tailors who couldn't match the fit and finish of the truck’s fragrant Alcantara headlining and leather-wrapped dash. The toys are all present and accounted for, save a rear seat DVD system but including a BOSE blaster fully capable of drowning out your passengers’ screams (as they learn that a Boeing 747 isn’t the only behemoth that can fly). On the down low, the Cayenne Turbo S’ switchgear is a bit small, cheap and not so cheerful; a reflection of both parts bin cost saving and Bauhaus chic.
But the real trouble lies with the model’s engine – gearbox combo. As you might expect from a 2.5 ton vehicle with a turbo-charged V8, turbo lag is something of an issue. Even with 530 foot pounds of torque underfoot, it’s entirely possible to catch the Cayenne Turbo S’ six-speed slushbox off-guard and bog down. Much of the blame rests with the ECU’s struggle to reconcile bonkers speed, personal driving habits and the need to eke out more than ten real world mpg (e.g. it always starts off in second gear). Sometimes she’ll kick down two gears, sometimes one, sometimes none. Bottom line: wafters need not apply.
The Turbo S meets or beats any other luxury SUV in terms of off-road prowess and on-road élan. But it lacks that one ingredient that would make it an unimpeachable daily driver and a better vehicle than the magisterial Range Rover or the hot-to-trot ML63 AMG: mechanical harmony. Come the March refresh, we’ll learn whether or not Porsche's boffins have somehow fixed the Cayenne Turbo S' powerplant's inherent limitations.