Right, power on here,” instructs the instructor, so I comply. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo, all 2,335kg of it, slews through the first corner at Brands Hatch and down the steep Paddock Hill Bend at frightening speed. At the bottom, the Cayenne’s suspension compresses just as we hit a puddle, causing the steering wheel to snap violently in my hands.
I nearly create another puddle to match the one we’ve just hit. But the big Porsche is unfazed, skipping over the standing water as it was nothing before unleashing every bit of its 500bhp and 700Nm to power us up the hill towards Druid’s hairpin. “Right, hard on the brakes, early apex,” he continues. I obey, but I completely underestimate the power of the Cayenne’s six-piston callipers and enormous discs, so we end up pootling around Druid Bend’s at walking pace. Once the exit becomes visible, I dial in a bootful of throttle in the hope I might encourage the Cayenne’s surprisingly economy-minded automatic transmission back into life. Oops, too much juice and understeer sets in and... What’s this? I can feel the lack of grip up through the steering wheel? Remarkable! A lift of the throttle tucks in the nose just as the wheels hit the painted kerbing at the edge of the circuit. “Oh, Christ, you don’t want to do that, mate,” blasphemes the instructor and I wince in shame. I know that. Wet kerbing plus two tons of flying Porsche equals big bills. Still, the Cayenne isn’t bothered.
Despite it having a little slither there was no intervention from the stability control system, which means we’re still well within the limits of what the Cayenne Turbo can do. In ‘Sport’ mode, with the active anti-roll bars working to keep the car flat (up to .65g), with sharper throttle and (supposedly) more aggressive gearbox settings, the stability control is remarkably hands-off. In the slippery mud it allowed me to pitch the Cayenne ridiculously sideways and hold it there for as long as available space allowed, only cutting in when it detected an imminent spin.
Out on the track, even in the bucketing rain, it hasn’t felt the need to stick its beak in yet. Either the Cayenne is the very best sorted SUV ever made or I’m one hell of a driver. “Christ, didn’t I just tell ye not to do that,” barks the instructor, followed by a token chuckle to make me feel better. We’ve just hit the paint on the left-hand Graham Hill Bend as well, but again the Porsche gets loose but quickly regains composure and gets back to the job of going very, very quickly. I guess it’s the Cayenne that’s doing all the work. Crap. I decide to concentrate harder, focus on the lines and try to predict what the transmission is likely to do. I’ve given up using the thumb-operated steering wheel buttons –they’re just a distraction.
It’s important I don’t stick the Cayenne’s new nose in the Armco here, especially since it’s a lot better looking than the one it replaces. I know it’s still not exactly what you might call ‘beautiful’, and the rest of the car is as underwhelming as it always was, but that’s still no reason to mangle it. After all, it’s such a good car to drive. And it’s also €165,000’s worth. We’re now through the double right-hander and back on the uphill start-finish ‘Brabham Straight’, hard on the throttle again. Feeling it surge toward the horizon, I’m in no doubt as to the validity of the performance figures: 0-100 km/h, Porsche tells me, takes only 5.1 seconds, just one tenth behind a 911 Carrera and half a second faster than the old Turbo, while top speed is an astonishing 272 km/h. I believe it.
The fuel consumption figure of 14.9 litres/100 km is also tragically feasible, even when pootling through the English countryside. Not a car for the budget-minded, this Cayenne Turbo, nor for the environmentalists, either. At this point, I should mention that there were also V6 and V8 Cayennes for us to test, but I didn’t bother with those too much. It’s not that I’m too self-important to test the basic models in the range, it’s just that they all had the optional air suspension with active ride (electronically controlled anti-roll bars which decouple in low range for improved wheel articulation), six speed automatic transmissions, optional wheels (varying from 18 to 21 inches) and a whole host of other costly add-ons, which means they all drove just like the Turbo, only slower.
From my brief spurt in the base Cayenne I gleaned that the VW-sourced, 3.6-litre V6 is noticeably nippier than the old model, which isn’t surprising given that the capacity has jumped by 400cc while output has climbed 40bhp and 75Nm to 290bhp and 385Nm, respectively. Its 100 km/h time of 8.1 seconds is a whole second shorter than before and top speed climbs 14 km/h to 227km/h. The V8 in the Cayenne S gains 300cc, 45bhp and 80Nm over the old model, bringing it to 4.8 litres, 385bhp and 500Nm. The 0-100km/h sprint dips 0.3 seconds to 6.6 and top speed increases by 10 km/h to 252 km/h. It sounds fantastic, too, and would be the one I’d buy, to be honest. The Turbo is faster and more fun but it’s just not worth an extra 50 grand over a nicely specified S. At the top of the main straight, just past the finishing line, I glance at the speedometer (185km/h –not HUGE speed, but it’s not a very long straight, either) before feeding in the brakes.
Such poise under braking, such incredible retardation. The turn-in point is a small patch of painted kerbing, which I’m absolutely determined to avoid this time. Once in the turn, I gradually feed in the throttle and as the downhill apex approaches, I hear my instructor once more: “Right, power on here.” Oh, crap. Here comes that puddle again.
Porsche Cayenne Range Engines: (BaseV6) 3.6 litre V6, 290bhp, 385Nm torque; (V8 S) 4.8-litre V8, 385bhp, 500Nm torque; (V8 Turbo) 4.8-litre V8 bi-turbo, 500bhp, 700Nm torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual (6-speed Tiptronic optional, standard with Turbo)
Acceleration (V6) 0-100km/h 8.1/8.5 seconds (man/auto): (V8 S) 0-100km/h 6.6/6.8 seconds (V8 Turbo) 0-100km/h 5.1 seconds
Economy (V6) 12.9/12.9 L/100km (man/auto): (V8 S) 14.9/13.7 L/100km (V8 Turbo) 14.9 L/100km
CO2 Emissions (V6) 310/310 g/km (man/auto): (V8 S) 358/329 g/km (V8 Turbo) 358 g/km
Boot Capacity 540 litres
Weight (V6) 2,160/2,170kg (man/auto): (V8 S) 2,225/2,245 kg (V8 Turbo) 2,355 kg
Acceleration: 0-100km/h 16.5 seconds
Price: (V6) €81,250 (V6 Auto) €85,200 (V8 S) €102,700 (V8 S Auto) €106,650 (V8 Turbo) €165,400