THE MAKING OF A FAST SUV
Porsche’s new Cayenne has some innovative technology underpinning its spicier new driving dynamics. Lindsey Schutters takes a look under the skin.
The new Cayenne is the fastest phone you can drive in. Seriously. Porsche went to the trouble of developing a voice assistant with help from Nuance and the car can stream Amazon Prime Music. The company developed its own navigation and maps service with market-dependent partners such as Navi and Tomtom and you can specify your Cayenne with an embedded SIM. Of course, there's also online radio streaming on board and compatibility with podcast apps like Stitcher.
But unlike a regular mobile phone, any planned future features won't arrive via over-the-air software updates. You need to choose your features carefully, for that decision dictates which configuration of the modular quad-core processor your vehicle comes with. Oh, and those mid2018 upgrades are hardware-based, so wait until those features are released before buying a new Cayenne. You just won't get them if you don't.
This flies in the face of current industry trends, spearheaded by the likes of Tesla and Volvo, whereby you can gain new fea- tures overnight, assuming of course that your car is connected to your home Wi-fi network. Volvo XC90 owners with all the Pilot Assist hardware installed, for instance, gained semi-autonomous drive up to 135 km/h – up from the original 35 km/h – in one such OTA update. Even Ford customers with SYNC 3 installed gained basic Apple Carplay and Android Auto powers without needing to visit a dealer.
But this is about the new Cayenne. At the heart of the Porsche system is the modular electronic control unit. There are four separate processors: one for each family of electronic services. When you specify your car – in particular, the driver assistance systems and features – it determines which processors get added to the ECU. This model works well for the economics of car assembly and gives Porsche a lot of wiggle room to evolve the product as technology gets better, but leaves the customer exposed to obsolescence. It's a problem that Porsche shares with Tesla, where later models of the same car will gain extra features as the underpinning hardware gets more advanced,
On a damp day and on "summer" tyres, the Cayenne made short work of clambering up an intimidating rock face.