The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S ($157,300) is the baddest, fastest and most unnerving of the Cayenne family, as well as the most expensive. You’ll need roughly $100,000 extra to go from base to this trim. But if money doesn’t matter, you are rewarded with a 4.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that pours those 550 horses onto the pavement, trail or raceway. The standard all-wheel-drive, Torque-Vectoring Plus, Dynamic Chassis Control and self-leveling air-ride suspension work in harmony to keep the Cayenne impossibly flat in sharp turns and do their best to harness that power, but containing this beast is nearly impossible.
The interior is classically Cayenne — i.e. German luxe that’s firm and loaded with buttons — the center stack, notably, looks like the vertebral column of a dinosaur. I found plenty of room in the trunk for camera gear, suitcases and a jogging stroller (essentially a sample of my updated EDC) as well as seating three adults comfortably for our L.A.-to-Palm Springs weekend getaway.
Engine: 4.8-Liter Twin-Turbo V8
Torque: 553 lb-ft
Drive System: AWD
0-60 mph: 4.3 seconds
Top Speed: 176 mph
MPG: 14/20 city/highway
Despite its wild pedigree, the 2015 Cayenne Turbo S is surprisingly tame and composed when needed. Around town, only the gurgle of the engine echoing through the quad exhaust hints at this machine’s capabilities. But drop the pedal and an echo of gorilla howls greets you. My only knock on what is otherwise a sterling bespoke choice for adrenaline-bent drivers is how slow the transmission responds. Porsche’s dual-clutch, termed PDK, is brilliant but sadly absent from the Cayenne. Granted you still get to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, but the lag between gears that I felt didn’t feel right.
The big changes for the 2016 Cayenne are in the engine. Porsche squeezes another 20 horsepower out of the same 4.8-liter twin-turbo and drops the 0-60 to 3.8 seconds. That also leads one to believe the have addressed the laggy, squishy shift-box — though it’s still not the PDK. The base price climbs to $158,000, but the formerly $8,840 carbon ceramic brakes (yes, close to $10K for brakes) is now standard, making that price, arguably, a good deal.
The truth is, even the base Cayenne is a talented SUV, and when you push it to its engineered limits, as in the Turbo S, it stands even taller. Though $150,000-ish is a lot for car, this is one of those rare autos that truly is a three-in-one experience, offering track-able stats with daily driver comfort and true off-road capabilities. That is why this is the best-selling Porsche ever.