There's something about a street-legal vehicle with 500 horsepower that raises the hair on the back of your neck. The redesigned 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo blasts from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds. Want more? The Cayenne Turbo has been clocked on the test track at 172 miles per hour. All this performance comes packaged in a completely serviceable SUV that's also at home on a gentle, family trip to the supermarket or dutifully climbing the W Road in an ice storm.
When the folks at Porsche of Chattanooga invited me to test drive the new-for-2011 Cayenne, I assumed it would be the normally aspirated 300-horsepower version. When they wheeled a black-on-black twin-turbo Cayenne off the showroom fl oor, I felt my hands begin to sweat.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Fortunately, the Cayenne's turbo-boosted 4.8 liter V-8 engine is a gentle giant. Despite the massive air intakes and "power dome" hood, the Cayenne took the limitations of afternoon traffic on Apison Pike in stride. A variety of suspension settings can be adjusted on the fly in the Cayenne depending on your driving mood and road conditions, explained Porsche of Chattanooga sales consultant Jerry Hickey. Even ground clearance can be altered by buttons on the center console. Massive, 20-inch RS wheels (optional) add to the solid handling characteristics of this performance machine. Nudge the accelerator and the big V-8 growls to life, the twin turbos spool up and power pours out as if from a bottomless well.
STYLING AND COMFORT: The cabin of the Cayenne is sumptuous, as befi ts a vehicle in this price range. The navigation grid and sound-system controls can magically be set to fl ash onto a circular auxiliary screen just to the right of the tachometer. Ventilated leather seats gently hug your torso, a reminder the Cayenne is always ready to dance. The rear seats slide fore and aft to create more knee room or rear cargo room - depending on your needs. The 2011 redesign includes some exterior design sharpening - a lengthened hood for example - to make the Cayenne look more aggressive.
BOTTOM LINE: Our Porsche Cayenne Turbo tester was equipped with such options as walnut accents, a lane-change assist function, an electric moon roof and 18-way power front seats. The bottom-line sticker price for this top-of-the-line Cayenne Turbo is $110,990. But, hey, think of it as two vehicles in one: a worldclass speed machine and a plush family SUV.
TESTED MODEL: 2011 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
ENGINE: 4.8 liter V-8.
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic.
FUEL ECONOMY: 22 mpg highway, 15 mpg city.
BASE PRICE: $104,800.
PRICE AS TESTED: $110,990.