Experience the Driver’s Seat: Cayenne Turbo

A versatile vehicle that enjoys the short sprint as much as the long distance.

Few would deny that the 911 is Porsche’s brand. We’re hard-pressed to think of a vehicle on the planet that’s more instantly recognizable than the iconic German 2+2. Over the course of its 50-year run, the 911 has been pumped up, prettied up and kept up to date. An old 911 can still bring top-dollar and this past August one very special 911—Steve McQueen’s gray 1976 930 Turbo Carrera—fetched $1.95 million at the Monterey auctions.

But could the late King of Cool keep his cool upon learning that the runaway, best-selling Porsche in North America doesn’t have an air-cooled flat-six engine hung out back, has four doors and doesn’t even offer a manual gearbox? The Cayenne Turbo may be lagging in cachet, but the 911’s practical stable mate has a strong fan base. In October, the premium SUV outsold all 911s, Caymans, Boxsters and Panameras, combined.

The Cayenne Turbo’s major mechanicals sound like the recipe for a modern American muscle car. Stuffed under its widened, aluminum hood is a twin- turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic transmission. But from the cockpit, the Cayenne is all Porsche, even if it does tip the scales at two-and-a half tons. Still, 520 horsepower overcomes that baggage handily, as we discovered during a turbocharged getaway trip to Galveston.

The Cayenne Turbo has a split personality that quickly seduces. Just embrace its luxury side, fine-tune the scrumptious 18-way power sport seats and store the settings in the memory, dial in cruise control and settle back. We were impressed that conversation could take place at living-room volume or when the mood struck, fill the cabin with fave tunes, courtesy of the delightfully crisp Bose stereo. The ride is sublime, as you’re literally suspended in air, thanks to the Turbo’s active suspension.

Sweeping transition ramps and open stretches of road like the Bluewater Highway bring out the Turbo’s fiery side. This is a fast, great-handling four place sports car. Though a gang of gauges, switches and buttons in the driver-centric cockpit are top-notch and would look right at home on the flight deck of a Gulfstream executive jet, we’d prefer a consolidation of switchgear and less chrome to reduce reflected glare.

A Cayenne wouldn’t be a Porsche without a mile-long list of options, colors and materials to personalize your beast. A few random upgrades on our tester: adaptive cruise control at $2,300, soft-close doors for $770, key fobs painted to match the vehicle’s color for $365. Grab handles in natural olive for $1,640 caught our attention and passengers will find those handles come in handy when the beast is unleashed.

After all, Porsche says the Cayenne Turbo will rip from zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. If that’s too pokey for you hard chargers, there’s the Turbo S with 570 ponies.

Just don’t go looking for a manual transmission.

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