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Friday 12th May 2006


PORSCHE CAYENNE TURBO S

Tom Stewart samples the baddest 521bhp Porsche SUV and asks: why?

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Porsche Cayenne Turbo S

Until very recently Porsche's Cayenne range consisted of three models: a relatively affordable 3.2 litre V6 with an adequate 250bhp, a more powerful 'S' model with a 340bhp 4.5 litre V8 and, for those for whom a lot just isn't quite enough, a turbocharged 4.5 litre V8. With an awesome 450bhp and a faintly ridiculous 165 mph speed potential, the top-of-the-range Cayenne Turbo can show a clean (or muddy) set of tailpipes to any other SUV, new Audi Q7 V8, BMW X5s, Merc MLs and the supercharged V8 Range Rover Sport all included.

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With that in mind you might assume that when Porsche management decided to add a fourth variant to the Cayenne line-up it would perhaps be powered by a diesel. Although American buyers have yet to twig that diesels go further on a tankful and offer thumping, useable torque, we Europeans are slowly realising that the bigger the car, the more a diesel can offer. Also, considering that the Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg share platforms, and that Porsche now holds a substantial stake in VW, a Cayenne with a big VW TDI lump – maybe even a Porsche-massaged five-litre V10 TDI – might have been a logical and intriguing next step.

But no.

Boosted turbo

Porsche, as PistonHeaders already know, is a maker of fine-handling sports cars and so rather than add weight to the front axle with a diesel, or risk sullying the marque's sporting image with a noisy oil-burner, the company has decided to put more distance between itself and potential rivals by launching the £81,565 Cayenne Turbo S.

Featuring increased turbo boost pressure (by up to 0.2 bar), upgraded intercoolers and tweaked engine management, the Turbo S's 4.5-litre, 32-valve V8 puts out 71 horsepower more than the existing Turbo model. With a full 521bhp and 531lb-ft of torque spread from 2,750 to 3,750rpm, the new Cayenne is, after the Carrera GT supercar, “the second most powerful road car ever built by Porsche”. So says the car's press kit, but that's ignoring the late nineties, 544bhp 911 GT1, 'though in truth that wasn't a 'series production' road car.

Needless to say, this extra oomph yields a little extra mph. Top speed of the permanent four-wheel-drive Turbo S is quoted at a dizzy 167mph. Okay, that's only 2mph higher than for the 'cooking' Cayenne Turbo, but 0-62mph acceleration is down from 5.6 to 5.2 seconds. To put that time into perspective, it's identical to that quoted for the current 911 Carrera Cabrio and a tenth quicker than the all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 Cabrio. So, it's fast by any standards, but yielding 18mpg (combined) it should use no more fuel than the Cayenne Turbo.

Hoofing it

On the road considerable care is required when hoofing the throttle. In fact, hoofing is far too strong a word because even the gentlest caress of the pedal can prompt the Turbo S into surging forward with neck-bending gusto. Accompanied by an aggressive V8 growl, this storming acceleration doesn't seem to diminish until there's about 150mph showing on both the digital and analogue speedometers.

Needless to say, this kind of über-power will rarely be exploited on road, whether by a yummy mummy on the school run or by a those in a big hurry on a derestricted autobahn. But if you happen to live near a desert -- the press launch was held in the United Arab Emirates -- then full throttle can come in useful while climbing a tall dune composed of soft, deep sand. Even when running on the standard low-profile 20-inch high-speed tyres (with normal pressure reduced by half), the Turbo S is capable of very impressive acts of off-road tomfoolery. Although 4x4 desert raiding may not be a priority for potential UK buyers, it's always nice to know you could if you really needed to.

Additional Turbo S upgrades include self-levelling air suspension (with PASM – Porsche Active Suspension Management) as standard, with larger brake discs and calipers. Apart from the larger wheels and badging, the Turbo S also wears a subtly redesigned front air grille and oval, rather than rectangular section tailpipes.

Lashings of luxury

A good chunk of the Cayenne's option list also comes as standard on the Turbo S, but for £10,695 over the price of the existing Turbo, you might expect that. But perhaps more importantly, Turbo S owners get everything and more that current Cayenne's have to offer, such as class leading handling and dynamics, superb build quality, lashings of luxury and, though still a slightly contentious issue, distinctive looks.

That said, and despite Porsche's current status as the world's most profitable car manufacturer (due at least in part to its marketing expertise), from a UK perspective it is hard to see the point of the new Turbo S sitting alongside the Turbo in the Cayenne line-up.