IT’s easy to get caught up in the notion that the fastest variant is always the best. Generally we desire the most performance, which usually comes at a cost. In terms of the Porsche Cayenne, that’s a $239,000 price tag to get into the ballistic Turbo. So is there benefit in perusing further down the food chain?
Skipping the $135,600 E-Hybrid and the social climber base model ($115,900) lands you at the Cayenne S, a $154,700 SUV with a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 stuffed behind its boldly styled snout. Its numbers are suitably sufficient for a Porsche SUV with 324kW/550Nm, enough to shift this 2020kg family hauler to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds – or 4.9sec with the Sport Chrono Package optioned.
If you’re thinking the muscular bent six sounds familiar, you’d be right. The impressive powertrain is found in Audi’s booted RS4 – just with a bit more oomph. Sadly, the Cayenne doesn’t share the uber wagon’s guttural soundtrack either, with only muted blurts and burbles on gear changes.
There’s ample acceleration on tap here, with loads of torque to relax into. The eight-speed ZF auto ’box works brilliantly – either when you take control or if it’s left to its own devices.
Dynamically it doesn’t feel as playful as the big-boy Turbo, the extra whack of grunt helping excite the V8 out of bends with more verve. But there’s still an underlying driver focus at play here despite yaw movements being less frequent. The MLBevo platform (shared with the likes of the Lamborghini Urus) offers genuine physics-defying talent.
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With three-chamber air suspension and the 48v self-leveling system at play, the S stays remarkably flat with exemplary composure and body control. It just removes you from the experience a little. You admire its talents rather be inspired by them.
The brakes are impressive (390mm up front and 330mm rear), doing a good job off arresting the heft – which is reassuring given the 265km/h top speed. The electronic power steering is also one of the best systems in an SUV.
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On the inside the cabin has received a Panamera-esque overhaul with touch-sensitive screens replacing most of the conventional dials and controls. It looks plush and has an upmarket feel.
There’s a lot to like about the ‘lesser’ Cayenne. It has all the straight-line grunt you’d ever need and genuine dynamic ability – it’s a pseudo two-tonne ballerina. Of course, if your budget allows and continent-shifting grunt is your style, the range-topping Turbo will be your Porsche SUV of choice. However, the S is proof that the most expensive option isn’t always the only one to have.
Tested and rated on MOTOR car reviews
2019 PORSCHE CAYENNE S SPECS
Engine: 2894cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo
Power: 324kW @ 5700-6600rpm
Torque: 550Nm @ 1800-5500rpm
0-100km/h: 5.2sec (claimed)
Price: $172,340 (tested)
Like: Impressive dynamic ability for an SUV; punchy turbo V6; luxurious cabin; ride quality
Dislike: Can’t always mask its heft; needs meatier accoutics; just buy a wagon?
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars