Well, if this isn’t a refugee from the “What-me-worry?” days of the bubble economy, I don’t know what is. At $124,800, before options, it’s an extra $26,100 over a Cayenne Turbo. Clearly, we’re talking funny money here, but if you’re wondering, you do get 550 hp rather than 500 and 553 lb-ft instead of 516. Tasked with moving 5192 pounds (before options), we’re not talking about a significant – or even discernable – increase in performance; Porsche advertises a 3-mph increase in top speed (to 174 mph) and a 0.3-second-shorter 0-to-60-mph time (4.8 seconds) and a half-second-quicker sprint to 100 mph (10.9 seconds). All of which basically means that here, just as in the Cayenne Turbo, stomping on the gas pedal will have you going scary fast almost before your passenger can get out the words, “Hey, is that a cop car up there?” What’s weird, though, is that around town, the Turbo S feels slow, a result of its ultralong throttle pedal travel and syrupy throttle response (this is an off-roader, after all), as well as the transmission’s EPA-cheating trick of starting off in second gear. Hitting the sport button gives you first-gear starts and quickens the throttle response – it also lowers the air suspension (good) and firms up the dampers (not so good, particularly given the brittle ride quality of the high-fashion 21-inch wheels) – but you have to remember to do it every time you start the car. You might think that Porsche could give the Cayenne Turbo S the kind of beautifully weighted and tactile steering one finds in the 911 or the Boxster/Cayman, but no such luck, despite the special, speed-sensitive assist in this model. The cabin is decked out in fabulously finished two-tone leather upholstery, but while the ultrafirm sport seats may be just the thing for a high-speed lap of the Nurburgring, they’re not terribly comfortable when you’re just cruising around.
As a means of extracting 25 percent more cash from the mindless, superrich dude who just automatically buys the top-of-the-line model, the Cayenne Turbo S is a fine thing for Porsche. But in the wake of the great crash (coincidentally, itself the work of a bunch of mindless, superrich dudes), the Turbo S suddenly seems very much like a historical oddity.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
I honestly can’t fathom the need for a 550-hp truck. Were Cayenne owners clamoring desperately for something that could fend off a Saab 9-7x Aero? (On an unrelated note, has anyone seen a 9-7x Aero? Ever?)
As Joe noted, the Turbo S doesn’t feel like a 550-hp vehicle around town, even with the sport mode engaged. It’s just too heavy to explode from a stoplight. The ceramic-composite brakes sure are competent, and they look terrific, but I somehow doubt many Cayennes will be driven hard enough and long enough to justify their $8840 price.
Speaking of price, how much does one have to spend to get real aluminum trim? Apparently, more than $139,070, because this Cayenne has cheap gray plastic around the shifter. I’m not offended, as some are, by the very notion that Porsche would build an SUV. I am, however, amazed and a bit insulted by what the automaker expects people to pay for a competent but certainly not extraordinary truck.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Hop inside the Turbo S, and at least you can see that you get a beautiful interior for all the cash you’ll need to cough up to own one. Sumptuous leather lines the interior, and a clean, five-gauge dash display gives you all the information you need at a glance. Around town, throttle response, as Joe Lorio says, feels heavy and a little slow, but hammer it on the freeway, and acceleration is almost instantaneous.
Clearly, the Cayenne Turbo S is one of those “one-up” vehicles that Automobile Magazine contributing writer Ezra Dyer wrote about in his July 2009 column. Apparently, some manufacturers feel that there will always be a segment of the car-buying public that wants their vehicles to be the fastest, most expensive of the breed – hence cars like the Bentley Continental GTC Speed, the Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG, and, yes, the Cayenne Turbo S. To us mere mortals, it seems absolutely over the top – who in their right mind really needs to drive a $140,000, 550-hp truck? The point, I suppose, is that no one really needs to drive such a vehicle, but there are apparently people who want to own one anyway.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2009 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S
Base price (with destination): $125,775
Price as tested: $139,070
PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes) – $8840
Light Comfort Package / Memory – $610
XM Satellite Radio – $750
Universal Audio Interface – $440
Front and Rear Floor Mats Interior Color – $140
Trailer Hitch without Hitch Ball – $630
Moonroof – $1190
Bluetooth Phone Interface – $695
12 / 19 / 14 mpg
Size: 4.8L V-8
Horsepower: 550 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft
6-Speed Tiptronic S
Weight: 5192 lb
21 x 10-in Alloy Wheels
295/35 R 21 Tires