While sports car purists may bemoan the Porsche Cayenne, its role in creating an unmitigated success for the brand cannot be understated.
The first generation Cayenne, launched 15 years ago went on to rack up over 270,000 sales worldwide in just six years, and set Porsche on a path to record profitability, all time sales highs and long term financial security.
However, it was nothing compared to the second-generation Cayenne. Launched in 2008, it has garnered over 500,000 sales globally, making it the fastest-selling Porsche model to date.
Now it’s the turn of the third-generation model to attempt to keep Porsche’s sales percolating along. It’s a tough challenge, no doubt particularly when faced against a growing number of fierce competitors spanning everything from related Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga to the BMW X5, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Range Rover Sport to name just the obvious.
Vehicle Style: Large Performance SUV
Price: $240,000 (estimated) plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 404kW/770Nm 8cyl turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 11.7 l/100km
The 2018-model-year Cayenne line-up initially consists of three models including the Cayenne and Cayenne S running newly developed V6 petrol engines, and the range topping Cayenne Turbo, which receives a downsized V8 petrol powerplant.
All three feature a new eight-speed automatic gearbox and a revised four-wheel drive system developed by Porsche boasting fully variable apportioning of power and five different modes to suit a wide variety of terrain: On-Road, Mud, Gravel, Sand and Rocks. In on-road mode, the driver can choose between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus.
The Cayenne runs the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 as the new Panamera. With 250kW and 450Nm, it delivers 30kW and 50Nm more than the previous Cayenne’s naturally-aspirated 3.6-litre V6. The new price-leading model covers the 0-100km/h benchmark in 6.2 seconds (5.9s with an optional Sport Chrono Package) and boasts a top speed of 245km/h. That’s 1.4sec quicker and 15km/h more than the old model.
The Cayenne S receives a smaller but more powerful 2.9-litre turbo V6. With 324kW and 550Nm, it packs 15kW and the same torque loading as the turbocharged 3.6-litre V6 engine it replaces. Porsche claims 0-100km/h in 5.2s (4.9s with Sport Chrono) and a top speed of 265km/h, improvements of 0.3sec and 6km/h over the outgoing Cayenne S.
Topping the initial line-up is the Cayenne Turbo driven here. It runs a new turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 developing 22kW and 20Nm more than the earlier second-generation model’s turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 at a heady 404kW at 5750rpm and 770Nm from 1960 to 4500rpm.
Inside, the new Cayenne shares much with the second-generation Panamera in a cabin featuring a higher level of perceived quality if not a whole lot more accommodation than that of its predecessor.
The dashboard features a combination of traditional analogue and digital instruments as well as classic and more contemporary touch sensitive controls with haptic feedback. There’s also a new range of multi-function steering wheels, including one that mimics the look of that used by the earlier 918 Spyder fitted to the top-of-the-line Turbo.
In keeping with the more sporting slant applied to the new model, the Turbo also receive new sport seats featuring integrated headrests.
In a bid to cut down on the clutter, Porsche grouped many of the dashboard functions within a prominent 12.3-inch high definition touch-sensitive infotainment display.
Backing up Porsche’s claims that the new model is more practical than ever, nominal boot space has also improved by an impressive 100-litres to 770-litres overall when the rear seat back is set in its most upright position.
ON THE ROAD
The body of the new Porsche Cayenne is made up of three separate modules, the front two of which are largely shared with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga. The rear module, however, is unique.
As before, the structure combines a variety of different metals and alloys in varying thicknesses and joining processes, but with aluminium now accounting for 47 per cent of the total body, including the doors, Zuffenhausen engineers say it is 35.5kg lighter than the structure used by its predecessor. It’s also claimed to be 20 per cent more rigid than before.
As with the body, the chassis has been heavily reworked with a new four link set-up replacing the previous double wishbone arrangement up front and a newly developed multi-link system at the rear. Porsche has also fitted the new Cayenne with different size tyres front and rear for the first time; the Turbo wears standard 285/40 and 315/35 profile rubber respectively.
Equipped with a 48-volt electrical system, it also offers a new three-chamber air suspension offering up to six different levels of ground clearance, including a load setting, and an electronically operated anti-roll function in place of the hydraulically operated system of old.
The wheelbase remains the same as before at 2895mm. However, the track widths have been altered; on the Turbo the front track is 26mm wider than before at 1687mm, while the rear track has been reduced by 5mm to 1670mm.
Another development brought to the latest Cayenne is a new brake system called the Porsche Surface Coated Brake. It employs tungsten carbide coated steel discs measuring 415mm by 40mm up front and 365mm by 28mm at the rear in combination with giant ten piston and four piston callipers respectively.
Standard on the Cayenne Turbo, or available as an option on the Cayenne and Cayenne S, the coated discs are claimed to provide greater resistance to fade than the standard steel discs.
They’re also said to deliver a 90 percent reduction in brake dust, prompting Porsche to paint the whopping great front callipers in white to highlight how clean they remain even after continual pounding. Another benefit of the tungsten carbide, according to Porsche, is the discs never rust, even when they are left to the elements for prolonged periods.
Together with the 33.5kg reduction in the weight of the body, Porsche has also succeeded in paring a further 31.5kg from other areas of the new Cayenne, leading to an overall reduction of up to 65kg. Not in the Turbo, though. Its 2175kg kerb weight is just 50kg less than before.
In everyday driving, the Cayenne Turbo proves an effortless cruiser; prodigious low end torque provides it with a wonderfully flexible delivery while the inclusion of rear-wheel steering, a development borrowed from the Panamera, provides a slight counter steering effect on the rear wheels at speeds under 80km/h for impressive manoeuvrability around town.
The new V8 engine delivers an innocuous rumble on part throttle loads. The speed and quality of the gear shifts, via an all-new eight speed automatic gearbox from German specialist ZF, are both rapid and, provided you’re not to judicious with the throttle, smooth, too.
Comfort levels vary according to the driving mode that is chosen, though most of the time it’s best to leave the PSM (Porsche Suspension Management) system in Normal mode and enjoy the added compliance that comes over the more focused Sport and Sport Plus settings with the new three chamber air springs.
It delivers more cosseting qualities with improved control on the rebound than previous generations of the Cayenne, in line with Porsche’s claims that it has broadened the scope of the new SUV’s behaviour.
It is on more lonely roads at higher speed limits with the driving mode switched to Sport where you quickly discover the top-of-the-line Cayenne model continues to set the on-road standard against which all SUVs will be measured.
Its new engine may be down in capacity compared to the unit used by its predecessor, but it is clearly more effective with improved low end response and an added ability to rev higher at the business end of the scale.
On a loaded throttle in lower gears, the resulting acceleration is nothing short of stunning: the Cayenne Turbo hits the scales at 2175kg but is claimed to reach 100km/h faster than the 1470kg 911 Carrera 4S at 3.9s. It also sounds wonderfully effective, too, with a heady cacophony of mechanical thrashing and induction blare at full tilt as it rushes to a claimed top speed of 286km/h.
More than its sheer straight line speed, though, it is the new Porsche’s dynamic qualities that really set it apart from the high riding competition. Its combination of response, accuracy, agility and control is quite something and very much at the root of its appeal.
The Cayenne Turbo may weigh well over two tonnes when loaded with a couple of occupants, but it handles with all the imbibing fluidity and whip crack sharpness of a well sorted performance car.
The dynamic excellence begins with precise and consistent steering. It helps you place the new Porsche on the road and choose your intended lines with great confidence. The inclusion of a rear-wheel steering function heightens the response and already impressive sharpness upon turn-in of its predecessor. The result is a level of nimbleness through corners you’d hardly credit in such a large car.
Backing this up is the combination of PSM (Porsche suspension management) and a reworked PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) – the latter of which is now operated electronically rather than hydraulically for faster reaction times. Together, they endow the Cayenne Turbo with wonderfully progressive actions and superb body control when you’re presented with an empty and challenging back road.
The inclusion of different size wheels and tyres front and rear – a measure usually reserved for sportscars, also enhances overall grip and traction; there’s great purchase and resistance to lateral forces once you’re committed in faster bends and the increased contact patch of rubber at the rear combines with the urgent properties of the engine to deliver tremendous drive out of slower corners.
With permanent four-wheel drive continually varying the apportioning of power front to rear and PTM (Porsche Traction Management) doling out drive to each of the individual rear wheels depending on the level of traction available each side, the top-of-the-line Cayenne can also be coaxed into tail happy slide on the exit to corners in the right conditions, which perhaps is not everyone’s idea of fun in a car, but a sign nonetheless of deftness of balance engineered into the Turbo’s largely aluminium chassis.
It’s also worth mentioning that the brakes deliver spectacular stopping power while providing great resistance to fade. And they’re back up by lots of feel within the pedal, which is not always a given these days.
Porsche confidently refers to the new Cayenne Turbo as a sports car. While that might sound far-fetched given its generous dimensions, weight and the fact that its four-wheel drive system can be configured for a combination of mud, gravel, sand and rocks, it is not as far from the truth as you might think.
Yes, it is stunningly quick when the conditions allow and is without doubt a more exciting prospect to drive than its predecessor, but from an everyday point of view it is the vastly improved interior, greater comfort delivered by its reworked suspension and enhanced refinement that really helps lift it beyond the old model.
It won’t be cheap to buy when it arrives in Australia early next year and will need deep pockets to run despite claimed combined fuel consumption improvements, but for all-round ability it is unmatched in the SUV ranks.
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