Porsche gives the red-hot Cayenne Turbo S even more fire
By NATALIE NEFF
AutoWeek | Published 03/13/06, 7:56 am et
2006 PORSCHE CAYENNE TURBO S
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $112,415
POWERTRAIN: 4.5-liter, 521-hp, 531-lb-ft twin-turbocharged V8; 4wd, six-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT: 5192 lbs
0 TO 60 MPH: 4.8 seconds (mfr.)
FUEL MILEAGE (EPA COMBINED): 14.9 mpg
Just a few short years ago the notion of a Porsche-engineered and -branded sport/ute challenged the sensibilities of even the most cynical car enthusiasts. The vaunted sports car maker—sire of such gloriously pure driving machines as the 911—building a... truck? It was a notion not to be entertained, theoretical mumbo jumbo promulgated by poppy-smoking auto-industry analysts, a bad joke unfurled like a cyber-hanta- virus on the Internet. Except that it wasn’t.
Today the idea of a Porsche-badged truck hardly raises an eyebrow, its reality made all the more palatable by its impeccable execution. The Cayenne has proven itself more than worthy of donning the Stuttgart shield. Fears that the ute would look, feel or drive like a reskinned Volkswagen Touareg—with which enthusiasts knew it shared a platform and development—quickly fizzled once the automotive press logged any time behind its big, grippy three-spoke steering wheel.
The Cayenne S exceeded expectations, from power, handling, build and appointment perspectives, while the Turbo blew them away. And if the V6-driven base Cayenne—with its decidedly non-boxer, VW-sourced engine—lured closeted hecklers out into the open when it rolled onto the scene awhile ago, the jeers were of a more muted variety than those voiced at the Cayenne’s genesis.
Sales prove the formula successful, with more than 125,000 Cayennes sold worldwide since production began near the end of 2002. In fact, after initially projecting an annual output of 20,000 units, Porsche quickly had to revise those estimates in response to demand. Production reached 40,000 at its peak. Porsche says the Cayenne makes up almost half of all its production and is the best-selling model ever. And Americans particularly love it: The factory in Leipzig, Germany, cranks out upward of 150 units per day, a full 40 percent of which make their way stateside.
If any doubt yet lingers in the minds of the motoring public that the SUV and sports car are mutually exclusive constructs, the quiet launch of the Cayenne Turbo S this past January should quash it once and for all.
From appearances, only the most detail-oriented car geeks will notice the subtle differentiations between the Turbo S and lesser Cayennes. Its 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 275/40 performance rubber are the biggest telltales, while out back two pairs of oval exhaust tips and chrome tailgate badging give away the vehicle’s identity, as might the sole paint color unique to the Turbo S, Marine Blue Metallic.
Similarly, few major alterations take place under the skin. The Turbo S sports wider-diameter vented brake discs than the Turbo model, 1.2 inches larger in front and 1.1 inches in back (at 15.0 inches and 14 inches, respectively), while the track control arms in the front suspension use rubber bushings in place of the hydraulically dampened ones found in other Cayennes. A six-position air suspension comes standard, as do Porsche’s Active Suspension Management System, four-wheel drive that splits torque 38/62 fore and aft, and tire-pressure monitoring. At this point Porsche says it will not offer its patented ceramic brakes.
We might have expected a few more significant alterations from other Cayennes to warrant the steep $112,415 sticker slapped on the Turbo S. We didn’t expect, however, to learn the Turbo S is the second-most powerful road vehicle in Porsche’s fleet, behind only the 605-hp Carrera GT (which, appropriately, shares its production facility). With 521 hp at 5500 rpm and 531 lb-ft of peak torque available between 2750 and 3750 rpm, the 4.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 in the Turbo S cranks out 71 more horsepower than in the non-S Cayenne Turbo (and 21 more than the 500-horse Turbo equipped with a newly available power kit), through the same six-speed automatic gearbox.
The extra power results from increasing the turbos’ boost and improving the geometry, volume and efficiency of the intercoolers. Porsche says it also increased the V8’s throttle response compared to the Turbo model.
It doesn’t take long to find those extra horses, even less to unleash them. A hard stomp with the right foot sends the Turbo S flying down the asphalt, with a virtually never-ending amount of torque keeping you pinned deep within the ute’s supportive leather seats.
Still, the acceleration can be a bit deceptive and easy to lose track of. You experience the rush differently than in, say, a 911 Turbo—it’s less a visceral sensation than one of sheer brute strength—most likely because in the Cayenne your butt sits much higher off the ground and your head much closer to the clouds. At one point on our test drive, we saw 180 km/h before realizing we had exceeded the posted speed limit—by 100.
Porsche claims the super-ute will fly to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 167 mph, and in our short on-road stint behind the wheel we have no reason to doubt those figures. More impressive than off-the-line performance, perhaps, is the fact the Turbo S eats up just 5.4 seconds screaming from 50 to 75 mph in fifth gear. To compare, Porsche says the Cayenne Turbo needs 5.2 seconds to reach 60 mph and 6.1 seconds to travel from 50 to 75 mph.
We also found the Cayenne Turbo S performed well where most luxury SUVs fear to tread: off-road. More specifically, while plowing across a vast desert nature preserve, the Turbo S powered its way over, through and around the endless dunes with little effort. A single footstep in these dunes—swirling waves of almost dust-like sand—could find you sinking as in quicksand to your knees. Yet the Turbo S managed beautifully in four-wheel drive, with the Porsche Traction Management system ensuring torque was shuttled away from slipping wheels to those with grip, and with the only modification made to the ute’s setup consisting of lowering tire pressures to 28 psi all around.
Porsche says it will build 1500 units per year, with 40 percent slated for U.S. delivery. And what of the plans for the nameplate? According to Porsche, “It is not yet the end of the Cayenne series... There is more to come.”
How does Cayenne Hybrid sound? Porsche says we should expect exactly that by decade’s end.
We can hear the jeers already.