Channeling the sportscar spirit
ROAD TEST/ The third-generation Cayenne is lighter, lustier and gets some new agility-assisting tech, writes Denis Droppa
When Porsche first launched the Cayenne back in 2002 there were twinges of purist discomfort at the brand compromising itself and “giving in to the establishment”.
Since then the prescience of Porsche’s move has proven itself with the Cayenne becoming the brand’s most popular seller, and this has inspired Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini — and soon even Ferrari — to launch vehicles that feed the public’s hunger for luxury sportscars in hiking boots.
Porsche has stuck to its sporting DNA in the first two generations of the vehicle, and so too with the new, third—generation Cayenne which recently went on sale in SA.
It is an iterative upgrade over its predecessor rather than a radical redesign, but many of the changes have been of a performance-enhancing nature, including shedding up to 65kg of weight due to the use of more aluminium in its construction. It’s also fitted with wider tyres at the rear than at the front, and it gets the option of rear-axle steering for the first time.
The standard Cayenne uses a 3l single-turbo V6 engine with 250kW (29kW more than the previous model), while the flagship Cayenne Turbo is fired along by a 4l V8 biturbo with 404kW (a 22kW improvement).
It’s the middle model on test here, the Cayenne S, which is moved along by a petrol biturbo 2.9l V6 with outputs of 324kW (a 15kW increase) and the same 550Nm of torque as its predecessor. Porsche claims a 265km/h top speed for the vehicle and a 0-100km/h sprint in just 5.2 seconds (with Sport Chrono Package: 4.9 seconds), claims I have little problem believing after experiencing its distance-blitzing abilities.
A new eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox delivers shorter response times and sportier ratios in the lower gears, with a long eighth gear for better fuel consumption. I found the transmission somewhat clunky in low-paced urban driving, but it was better on the open road.
The test vehicle rode on standard steel suspension with three selectable firmness settings. I found it somewhat firm in ride quality even in the softest of its three modes, and the optionallyfitted low-profile 20-inch wheels (19-inchers come standard) further ensured this vehicle never felt like a plush-riding VW Touareg. This is the automotive equivalent of a pair of running shoes, not slippers.
At extra cost the Cayenne is available with adaptive air suspension which should offer a more soothing ride.
The stiff suspension does the business in the corners, coupled with active all-wheel drive that apportions torque between the front and rear axles as needed. The all-wheel drive Cayenne has a sharpness of turn-in and pinned-down nature that no vehicle this size should have any right to, along with nicely weighted steering.
Our vehicle had the optional Sport Chrono Package, with a Mode button on the steering wheel offering Normal, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes that adjust the engine and suspension, while the driver can also select an individually configurable mode.
A fairly major redesign sees the Cayenne looking sleeker by means of a length increase of 63mm to 4,918mm, and a reduction of its roof height to give it a more streamlined, hunkered-down silhouette. The tail lights have been slimmed to look more 911-like, and the derriere now holds a useful 700l of luggage — a 100l increase.
In a driving helm that looks more starship than car-like, functions can be controlled by the touchscreen, a smartphonelike touch surface with haptic feedback and real buttons.
The standard bundle of comforts comes with items like electrically adjustable front seats and touchscreen infotainment with navigation, but there’s a deep rabbit hole of extra-cost options Type: V6 biturbo petrol Capacity: 2,894cc Power: 324kW at 5,700-6,600r/min Torque: 550Nm @ 1,800-5,500r/min Type: Eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic Type: Full-time all-wheel drive with variable torque distribution between front and rear axle Top Speed: 265km/h 0-100km/h: 5.2 seconds (with Sport Chrono Package: 4.9 seconds) Fuel Consumption: 9.3l/100km (claimed); 14.1l/100km (as tested) Emissions: 213g/km Steel springs with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) LED main headlights, larger wheels, ParkAssist (front and rear), anticipatory pedestrian protection, stability control, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), ABS brakes, eight airbags, electric mirrors, electric windows, climate control, cruise control, partial leather seats, automatic tailgate, electrically adjustable front seats, Porsche Communication Management (PCM) system including navigation and voice control, 10-speaker audio system with Bluetooth Warranty: Two years/unlimited distance Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km Price: R1,322,000 Lease*: R28,183 per month available, including night vision assist, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and matrix beam headlights to name a few.
With the standard steel springs the Cayenne’s ground clearance is fixed at 190mm but it can be raised to 245mm with the optional air suspension. Even without the air springs the all-wheel drive traction and selectable offroad driving programmes for gravel, mud, sand and rocks, should make the Cayenne a useful trailblazer.
But most owners’ playground will be tar roads, preferably twisty ones, and here the Cayenne fulfills its brand promise by being closer to a sportscar in spirit than before.
Prices for the new-generation Cayenne range from R1,142,000 for the Cayenne to R1,322,000 for the Cayenne S and R2,158,000 for the rangetopping Turbo. A Cayenne petrol-electric E-Hybrid will be available later for R1,690,000, but there won’t be any diesel derivatives.
With an 800 grand saving over the range-topping Cayenne Turbo, the Cayenne S seems the value-for-money choice in the range. Value for money
ENGINE TRANSMISSION DRIVETRAIN PERFORMANCE (claimed) SUSPENSION: STANDARD FEATURES COST OF OWNERSHIP Overall
Jaguar F-Pace 35t AWD S, 280kW/450Nm — R1,208,559 Range Rover Sport SE SCV6, 250kW/450Nm — R1,234,257 Maserati Levante S, 316kW/580Nm — R1,967,105 Mercedes AMG GLE 43, 270kW/520Nm — R1,269,849 Volvo XC90 T8 AWD Momentum, 300kW/640Nm — R1,184,900
Design Economy Redesigned tail lights are inspired by the 911, and connected by a narrow strip of LEDs.
The command-centre controls take some getting used to, but there’s also voice control to simplify things.