It’s unusual to take an SUV to the race track – unless it’s wearing a Porsche badge and sporting a range of engines that would embarrass a wide swath of the sport sedan world. It was my good fortune to sample almost every example of the 2013 Porsche Cayenne family at the Porsche World Roadshow, where my opportunity to drive the potent sport-utility vehicle on the tarmac at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park was matched by an equally challenging off-road circuit that cut through the woods and rocks that surrounded the facility.
My day began with the race-oriented portion of Porsche’s driver program, which had me behind the wheel of the Porsche Cayenne GTS, the Cayenne Hybrid S, and the new Cayenne Turbo S. The latter’s 550 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque (made possible by a twin-turbo 4.8-liter V-8 engine) were quite honestly crushing, and it was easy to see on the track how the Cayenne Turbo S’ 4.1 second sprint to 60-mph was well within the realm of possibility for almost any driver. The Cayenne GTS delighted with the sinfully pleasurable soundtrack provided by its sternum-thumping Sport Exhaust option (a feature muffled in its intensity when found in the Turbo S), and it also delivered great acceleration for such a heavy truck.
Despite offering a similar level of handling prowess when compared against its V-8 stable mates – the Cayenne’s body lean was minimal in high speed corners and standard all-wheel drive kept the SUV on track at all times – the Hybrid S model was by far the weakest drivetrain of the group. The electrically-assisted supercharged V-6 under its hood generates 380 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of torque, but even at wide open throttle the crossover was quickly caught by its brethren, and the hybrid never displayed the playfulness embodied by the other two engines. An eight-speed automatic transmission is included with all Cayenne models.
Leaving the beaten path behind, I added a Cayenne S (400 horsepower 4.8-liter V-8) and a Diesel model (3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6) to my SUV experience out on a trail that had been setup to test the limits of the Cayenne’s tough terrain capabilities. With center differentials locked and air suspensions raised to the highest position, our group got the Cayenne up on three wheels, tested its hill descent control on both rocky and sandy surfaces, and generally came away impressed with a luxury SUV that is far more adept at navigating off-road obstacles than it honestly needs to be. The 240 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque afforded by the Diesel edition of the Cayenne was appreciated when it came time to climb up steep grades, but lacking the adjustable ride height of the Cayenne S there were several times when its chassis and trailer hitch came into abrupt contact with terra firma.
As I alluded to earlier, very, very few Cayenne owners will ever subject their family haulers to either of these extreme performance environments. All of that power, suspension development, and investment in electronic driver’s aides has paid off in spades, however, as the 2013 Porsche Cayenne proved itself capable of going above and beyond the call of everyday driving.