If luxury, high-performance sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were a girl band, then the Porsche Cayenne Turbo would undoubtedly be Mel B, or ‘Scary Spice’, the one that pretty much everyone remembers out of that parade of talented performers.
Without going into the inevitable mechanics of which cars end up as Posh or Baby Spice, what makes Scary, scary and exciting?
We’re now into the third-iteration of the Porsche Cayenne, the Turbo is currently the most fearsome petrol Cayenne you can get your paws on. The range-topping Turbo S hasn’t yet been announced, and it could very likely be a Turbo S E-Hybrid plug-in just like the Panamera.
The Turbo puts the ‘Sport’ in Sport Utility Vehicle, especially since Porsche arguably kicked the ‘real’ off-road segment in the gonads with the debut of the Cayenne in 2002.
The current Cayenne Turbo can be distinguished from its regular counterparts by its exhaust tailpipes that amplify the V8’s mighty swell, as well as integrated roof-spoiler that is deployed for additional downforce and acts as an air-brake – just like the Sport Turismo Turbo variants in case you’re wondering. It’s worth adding though, that the Cayenne is the first in its segment to offer such a feature, since the Sport Turismo is technically a ‘shooting brake’.
Above 160km/h, the roof spoiler tilts by six degrees to increase rear axle downforce up to the car’s 286km/h top speed. With the Sport Chrono Package now available for the Cayenne, the Turbo has access to the full complement of driving programmes via the steering wheel mounted selector, including Launch Control and more aggressive engine settings for ‘red-mist’ driving in Sport Plus mode, which also sees the spoiler adopting a 12.6-degree position for better stability in high-speed corners.
However, the most dramatic ‘party-trick’ is the Airbrake feature, which deploys to a maximum attack angle of 28.2-degrees for added stability when the Turbo hard-brakes at speeds between 170km/h and 270km/h. If the idea sounds familiar, McLaren commonly employs this technology in its cars to achieve its impressive braking distances from high speeds.
You’d think a car like the Cayenne Turbo would feature Porsche’s trick PDK transmission, but it uses an eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic, just like the last generation. With automatic transmission technology progressing by leaps and bounds, shifts are sharp and authoritative. However, the more pressing reason was to ensure the transmission was well-slurred enough to smoothly accommodate the Cayenne’s 3.5-tonne towing ability – a PDK could inadvertently result in too quick and abrupt shifts.
We certainly didn’t miss the PDK when we were exploiting the Turbo’s performance. Besides, the gearbox logic coped well even when left to its own devices, shifting up and down the gears with aplomb as we tackled the serpentine roads. A McLaren 720S-equalling 770Nm is available from just under 2,000rpm, so there’s monumental shove from barely over tickover.
Unlike sportscars, the Turbo’s torque is available in the useful low to mid-range rev-band (as opposed to high revs for sportscars), which makes it ideal for canyon carving as you surf the wave of torque from corner to straight, and then corner to straight again. The tighter corners are a doddle for the Cayenne, especially now that it can be optioned with the rear-axle steer system, which happily enough is standard on the Turbo to offer agile, incisive responses.
Surprisingly, there’s ample feel through seat-of-pants and the Turbo is a lot more agile than its size suggests. Given its two-over-tonne kerbweight, this is a car you want to have strong anchors on, and instead of the familiar yellow flash of the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) calipers, we’re introduced to the impressive PSCB, or Porsche Surface Coated Brake, with its flash white calipers. The rotors of the PSCB system are coated in tungsten-carbide coating that work with special pads, which Porsche promises to wear slower, and also generate less brake dust.
If you happen to live in one of the rare locales that still practices ‘safe speeding’, or is lucky enough to enjoy derestricted highways, the Turbo is an instrument of epic performance. Of course, you could just be the sort who always needs to buy the top-shelf goods, but in any case, the Cayenne Turbo should add a huge dollop of spice to your life.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Engine 3,996cc, 32V, V8 biturbo
Power 550hp at 5750-6000rpm
Torque 770Nm at 1960-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 286km/h
0-100km/h 3.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 11.9-11.7L/100km