When the fastest option isnít necessarily the one to have


ITíS EASY TO get caught up in the notion that the fastest variant is always the best. Generally we desire the most performance, which usually comes at a cost. In terms of the Cayenne, thatís a $239,000 price tag to get into the ballistic Turbo. So is there benefit in perusing further down the food chain?

Skipping the $135,600 E-Hybrid and the social climber base model ($115,900) lands you at the Cayenne S, a $154,700 SUV with a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 stuffed behind its boldly styled snout. Its numbers are suitably sufficient for a Porsche SUV with 324kW/550Nm, enough to shift this 2020kg family hauler to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds - or 4.9sec with the Sport Chrono Package optioned.

If youíre thinking the muscular bent six sounds familiar, youíd be right. The impressive powertrain is found in Audiís booted RS4 - just with a bit more oomph. Sadly, the Cayenne doesnít share the uber wagonís guttural soundtrack either, with only muted blurts and burbles on gear changes.

Thereís ample acceleration on tap here, with loads of torque to relax into. The eight-speed ZF auto íbox works brilliantly - either when you take control or if itís left to its own devices.

Dynamically it doesnít feel as playful as the big-boy Turbo, the extra whack of grunt helping excite the V8 out of bends with more verve. But thereís still an underlying driver focus at play here despite yaw movements being less frequent. The MLBevo platform (shared with the likes of the Lamborghini Urus) offers genuine physics-defying talent.

With three-chamber air suspension and the 48v self-leveling system at play, the S stays remarkably flat with exemplary composure and body control. It just removes you from the experience a little. You admire its talents rather be inspired by them.

The brakes are impressive (390mm up front and 330mm rear), doing a good job off arresting the heft - which is reassuring given the 265km/h top speed. The electronic power steering is also one of the best systems in an SUV.

On the inside the cabin has received a Panamera-esque overhaul with touchsensitive screens replacing most of the conventional dials and controls. It looks plush and has an upmarket feel.

Thereís a lot to like about the Ďlesserí Cayenne. It has all the straight-line grunt youíd ever need and genuine dynamic ability - itís a pseudo twotonne ballerina. Of course, if your budget allows and continent-shifting grunt is your style, the range-topping Turbo will be your Porsche SUV of choice. However, the S is proof that the most expensive option isnít always the only one to have.