It’s hard to remember a time when luxury SUVs didn’t rule the roads, when Pathfinders and Range Rovers were merely thought of as utility vehicles and an upgrade in a 4x4 meant the addition of a CD changer rather than a brace of top-of-the-line massage seats. Then again, the world had not yet met the Porsche Cayenne.

Launched in the years following Mercedes’ M class, which got an initial boost due to its product placement in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the 2002 Cayenne was a complete overhaul for luxury German car manufacturing.

Generally, a brand’s flagship car is the best and most expensive vehicle in its fleet. It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether there’s a difference between a 4 and 4S or between the GTS and Turbo; each model in Porsche’s growing lineup can come in anywhere from two to 16 variations. These model options vary in everything from engine size and technology to luxury trims and fuel source.

The Cayenne range starts with the modest base model at $49,600 and soars to the flagship Turbo S at $146,000. This price tag is without the sometimes-superfluous options available for Porsche’s largest vehicle, which can easily skyrocket the price several tens of thousands higher. The stunning model we test-drove, for example, came in just under $180K.

This one percent price echelon is typically reserved for the occasional one-off 911 models along with the $845K—and extremely limited edition—918 Spyder, so the fact that an SUV has made it into such rarefied company is notable.

The Turbo S tunes the Cayenne Turbo’s mighty 500-hp twin-turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 up a notch, giving it a total output of nearly 550 horses and 553 pound-feet of torque. This athletic engine performance lets drivers accelerate from zero to 60 MPH in just 4.3 seconds—comparable to its sedan and sports brethren, but much more versatile. The eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission allows for rapid-fire gear changes that are so smooth you’ll hardly feel them. If these specs still haven’t won you over, the top track speed of 176 MPH will be sure to convert any naysayers who claim these vehicles should be left to soccer moms.

Most high-end vehicle buyers are typically looking for a customized driving experience. In this vein, Porsche offers a number of exclusive options unique to the Turbo S.

Along with a high-gloss finish on a number of exterior features such as air intake grills, mirrors and headlight casings, the two-tone leather interior combined with carbon elements stood out for us—especially the regal black and Carrera red combination (pictured).

Contemporary Porsches are known to come equipped with some of the most impressive technology on the road today, be it in the form of infotainment, fuel economy, power dynamics or even the Targa’s innovative roof robot. The Turbo S strikes the perfect balance between performance management and driving safety.

The Porsche Traction Management or PTM system oversees the relationship between power distribution and the chassis, ensuring the standard all-wheel drive and suspension (PASM) remains in control despite varying driving conditions. For example, if the rear-wheel drive is compromised, the system will redirect power to the front axle to sustain acceleration until the rear axle has regained control.

But as this is a Porsche, it would be wise to mention the superb Torque Vectoring Plus (PTV Plus) distribution system that handles and enhances vehicle dynamics and overall stability. The system analyses your performance, acceleration, angle and other attributes and strategically modifies the Turbo S’s cornering and driving responsiveness for a wicked driving experience at speeds both legal and not.

Splurge on the sport chrono package to give the Turbo S the brains and brawn to measure and store performance data, including lap times, transverse and longitudinal acceleration values, and even create an illustrated graphic analysis of your badass driving habits to not-so-discreetly leave on display next time the guys are over.

Like any Porsche, the Cayenne Turbo is an unmistakable creature of comfort, class and style combined with dynamic performance, track and off-road prowess and fiery driving ability. But don’t just take our word for it. Give it a spin and see for yourself.

The 2014 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S is available now. Read more at