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Click for pictures“Of course the
  Cayenne S is fast.
  That’s its job —
  it’s a Porsche!”

JUDGING BY THE NUMBER of "Wow! What is that?" queries we fielded during a week testing Porsche's imposing new Sports Utility, the Cayenne S, not a lot of people — except perhaps Porsche enthusiasts — appear to know that it even exists…

But exist is most certainly does, and for something apparently so elusive it possesses real and palpable presence. First impressions — Porsche's must-have red-and-gold coat of arms aside — of what, in Turbo form, is undoubtedly the fastest SUV you can buy are of clean, refreshingly unfussy lines that cleverly mask its long (almost 5 metres) body and blend Porsche DNA with a chunky off-road appearance.

Come face-to-face with a Cayenne and you will be in no doubt that it is a Porsche, thanks almost single-handedly to the Cayenne's V-shaped 911-style bonnet and headlamps, albeit set far higher than on any road-going 911 ever built. But, unlike any other Porsche, the Cayenne boasts five adult-size seats plus ample room for all the family's luggage.

Six-feet three inches wide, with a roof that's level with most people's eyes, the Cayenne looks dramatically distinctive. Riding on spoked
19-inch alloy wheels shod with 275 cross-section Pirellis, it has the ability to empty the outside lane of the motorway quicker than almost anything else on four wheels.

Cayenne ownership starts at an unexpectedly affordable £35,000 for the 3.2-litre 250bhp six-cylinder 'entry-level' model. Most drivers would be more than content with its 133mph maximum and 9.1 second
0-62mph time but another £10,000 will get you into the Cayenne S, whose lusty all-new V8 engine displaces 4.5 litres and pumps out 340bhp. The S will hit 150mph and knock-off the 0-62mph sprint in 6.8 seconds (Tiptronic auto takes 7.2). By any standards, that's pretty good going for a large 4x4 — even more so for one with a kerb weight of well over two tonnes.

Should you really, really want your Sports Utility to go as fast as a high-performance sports car, Porsche have just the Cayenne for you — the top-of-the-range £70,000 Turbo. As its name suggests, its 4.5-litre power unit uses intercooled twin turbos to produce a whopping 450bhp and a massive 457lb ft of torque to get it from zero to 62mph in just 5.6 seconds en route to 165mph!

For most people, the Cayenne S tested here will be all the car they could wish for. The big V8 provides 'big' entertainment courtesy of 310lb ft maintained consistently between 2,500 and 5,500rpm. And it's worth mentioning that the Cayenne's practical side is certain to endear it to genuine family buyers as much as its performance abilities will appeal to keen drivers.

Despite its 'high-stepping' stance, the Cayenne is an easy car to get
in and out of: the seats are the perfect height from the road for 'sit and swivel' entry. Wide front and rear doors help enormously, and the driver benefits from a powered a facility that automatically moves the steering-wheel out of the way on both entry and exit. Another nice touch is the puddle lights underneath each door mirror.

Inside, the Cayenne looks, feels and smells just like a regular Porsche sports car. Beautifully finished, with contoured soft leather seats complemented by high quality cabin trim and headlining, there is a three-spoke leather-clad steering-wheel reinforcing the promise that driving this Sport Utility is going to be a satisfying experience.
Tiptronic finger pads at the apex of both the left and right steering-wheel spokes further hint that this Porsche is no less a driving machine than its ground-hugging brethren.

The twelve-way electrically-adjustable seats are standard. Both front seats provide three memory settings and, in addition to seat and belt positions, the driver's memory also includes steering-wheel and door mirror settings. Both seats are heated and get 4-way electric lumbar support. The generic leather-clad Porsche steering-wheel also adjusts electrically for height and reach and there is a superb driving position. Heat-insulating glass is standard, as are electric windows all-round. The CD player shares the SatNav's CD slot. This sounds fiddly but it isn't a problem as once a destination has been selected the map CD is no longer required.

Ergonomically there's a welcome 'neatness' to the conservatively laid out cabin, lifted by minimal aluminium trim, that's best defined by
the uncluttered central tunnel with a substantial grab handle on either side. A foot-operated parking brake replaces the handbrake. Controls — apart from the Tiptronic gear selector — are for the off-road transmission settings. The rest of the switchgear is exactly where it should be, and there's a central locking master switch in the door, along with the window switches. There are one-shot up/down front windows and the Cayenne also locks its doors automatically as it moves off. The tilt/slide electric sunroof has a roof mounted 'dial and forget' switch.

The driver gets a smart cluster of trademark Porsche dials covering speed, revs, oil and water temperature, fuel, volts and fuel, siamesed, silver-ringed and with simple graphics. Between the larger speedo-meter and rev-counter is a 3-inch multifunction display that shows key vehicle information — including the gear engaged and the current speed as an easy-to-read digital figure. Very helpful on today's speed-camera infested roads! There's a useful drawer under the driver's seat and ample cubbies provide storage for all those essential everyday items, even a pair of (Porsche-branded) sunglasses!

Sited dead-centre of the leather-clad fascia is a 6.5-inch colour screen for the optional infotainment/navigation system. Buttons beneath
the display provide access to individual menus, including Set and Return functions that avoid the need to jump around from one sub-menu to another. Better still, it's intuitively easy to use with some nice features, such as the ability to zoom in on tricky road junctions and provide vital orientation off-road. Probably the most useful facility is the back-tracking function which memorises the route covered then guides the driver back to the starting point over the identical route.

Dual zone automatic air conditioning is standard, pampers both front and rear passengers and will also chill the lockable glovebox. Rear seat passengers will find themselves sitting as comfortably as those up
front in individually-shaped and supportive seats. Head, shoulder, knee and leg room are all commendably good for adults travelling in the back who also have an exceptional view out.

The S comes with regular springs and dampers as standard but can
be ordered with the Turbo's sophisticated air suspension. Other testers say the air set-up provides a far suppler ride that's closer in comfort
to that of a big saloon along with providing superior off-road abilities. All models, however, share the same rack-and-pinion steering with variable power assistance. With 2.7 turns lock-to-lock it is precise, provides tidy turn-in and offers a tight turning circle.

When it comes to getting people and possessions from A to B in a very short time, the Cayenne is quicker than almost all its genre. But that doesn't mean it's not practical: it will happily tow loads up to 3.5 tonnes, such as a glider or sports boat. Not only that, but its regular-shaped, intrusion-free boot will also take a mass of holiday luggage. Seats up, it will accommodate 540 litres, but fold the 60/40 rear-seat backrests — individually or together — and this goes up to a maximum of 1,770 litres. There's also a ski-bag, partition net and a roller-blind luggage cover that doesn't ping open at the first speed hump. There's also a separately opening rear window for quick access to the boot.

The view over the bonnet is very much like that of a 911, albeit far more commanding. Turn the key and the compact, all-alloy V8 fires up instantaneously. Select Drive and release the parking brake ahead of your right knee with a quick flick of your fingers and you're ready. Press hard on the accelerator and you won't need telling twice that the Cayenne S is startlingly quick — a real licence-teaser.

At tickover you don't hear the engine as the refinement is Lexus-like, but if you squeeze the throttle the engine responds instantly. Even before the smooth V8 is fully into its stride at 2,500rpm, the power on tap is impressive. From outside, Porsche's new V8 emits a hard-edged burble that bursts out of squared-off tailpipes, one at each corner
and each big enough to put your fist into. All that you'll hear inside is
a muted growl: even at speed, the noise from the road, the wind and the chunky Pirellis is low, making the Cayenne a serious long-distance express.

In addition to the five-speed Tiptronic S available on the 911 and Boxster, Porsche now offers the Cayenne with a new six-speed Tiptronic S transmission. Apart from the additional ratio, maximum flexibility is provided by the option to shift gears manually either by 'thumb-tipping' the buttons on the steering-wheel or traditionally using the selector lever. To avoid possible errors when driving off-road, the steering-wheel buttons are deactivated when the low ratio trans-mission is in use and manual changes are made by the central lever only. A further feature of the Cayenne's Tiptronic S is the hill-holder function which prevents the car from rolling back when setting off — even on a near vertical gradient — and also holds onto a low gear on long uphill and downhill gradients.

While many owners will be content to leave the Tiptronic in Drive, press-on drivers will appreciate the ability to override the transmission while in the automatic mode. By 'tipping' the toggle switches on the steering-wheel, gears can be shifted manually even though the selector lever remains in automatic. Mechanical response to this manual override is immediate, with the gear engaged being displayed with a 'M' alongside the numeral. At the same time, the transmission retains its kickdown function enabling downshifts whenever required. Road and engine speed permitting, the automatic transmission will shift down a maximum of three gears the instant a driver steps hard on the throttle.

In automatic mode, Tiptronic S offers various programs with different control maps activated automatically as they adapt to the driving
style and route taken. The range of shift points extends from the economical — activated whenever the driver prefers a calmer and more reserved style of motoring, with the gears shifting up at an earlier
point and engine speeds being reduced accordingly — all the way to a dynamic, active mode, with the gears being held for as long as possible during acceleration to exploit the V8's free-revving nature.

Most of the time the permanently-engaged electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive system opts for a front-to-rear torque split of 38:62, giving the Cayenne a natural rear-biased balance. Depending on conditions, however, up to 100 per cent of engine power may be fed
to the front or rear wheels for optimum stability and performance.
A sophisticated array of electronics, including ABS, ASR and ABD, ensure that the Cayenne is always kept on track — be it metalled or mud. For serious off-road work there's a low-ratio mode activated by the toggle switch on the centre console, which also allows the differentials to be locked.

In addition to the active safety provided by the permanent four-wheel drive, all Cayennes come with full-size, two-stage front and side airbags for the driver and passenger. A side impact system comprises
a thorax airbag integrated into the front seat backrests, and a curtain airbag fitted into the roof frame.

So effortlessly stable at speed does the Cayenne feel that it's easy to take it completely for granted and forget to mention it — as I almost did. This, of course, is Porsche's fault, because they have, in spite of its size, made the Cayenne feel so damned manoeuvrable, with strong grip and really tangible poise. Thanks to Porsche's traction manage-ment system, which maintains grip no matter what the terrain, direction changes are accomplished with the body remaining flat and predictable on all but the most evil of corners. However, nobody cheats the laws of physics — push your luck in the bends and the Cayenne's blunt nose will run wide, albeit progressively. And while it's no 911, it does do a pretty convincing impression of a sports car — enough that you can really hustle in it and have some fun.

Which brings us to the brakes. Porsche has a reputation for superb brakes — some of their 62mph-0 figures are as interesting as their
0-62mph ones! Stamp on the Cayenne's large brake pedal and 2.3 tonnes of metal are arrested as if by a giant hand. Actually, that's four giant hands: 17-inch brakes front and rear with internally vented
13-inch discs, six-piston callipers at the front and four-piston callipers at the rear all ensure fade-free stopping time after time.

As usual, and purely in the interests of research, we drove the Cayenne S pretty hard. At first we didn't seem to be using that much petrol — an illusion courtesy of the 22-gallon tank. When we checked the actual mpg figures we were pleasantly surprised: 18.7mpg overall, with a best of 24.6mpg extra-urban. Officially the touring figure is 25.2mpg and we feel that it will be easily attainable, giving a not-to-be-sniffed-at 500-mile range. For the record, the V6 entry-level Cayenne returns 21.4mpg overall and 26.6mpg touring.

If you're seriously in the market for a premium sports utility vehicle that's also fast and enjoyable to drive, then you'd be extremely short-sighted not to have a Cayenne S on your list. Factor in the Porsche's practicality and premium image, pay the extra for the Turbo's air suspension — and for most people it will then be down to an agonising choice between the V8 Cayenne and a Range Rover. At MotorBar we have a saying: 'May you have the car you deserve'. And Porsche, you have to agree, has certainly done everything in its power to make sure that you do!

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Porsche Cayenne S Tiptronic S | £43,540
Maximum speed: 150mph | 0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 18.7mpg | Power: 340bhp | Torque: 310lb ft
Visit Porsche's website Click to go there now

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------------------------------------------------------------- Porsche Cayenne S