Porsche Cayenne: The sports car when size (and space) matters

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By Manny N. de los Reyes

I WASN’T a big fan of the Porsche Cayenne when it made its global debut in 2002. Sure, it had the celebrated Porsche build quality, luxury, exclusivity, and of course, performance. But what I felt it lacked, at least for its first generation, was the vaunted Porsche styling. Sure, it had Porsche styling cues, but it was a distant departure from the timelessly graceful lines of the 911.

Fast-forward 16 years, and the all-new third-generation Cayenne is faster, nimbler, safer, and more luxurious than ever. And finally, it’s visually sportier than ever. This is arguably the first Cayenne that bears the unmistakable cues of Porsche’s design DNA. Porsche’s large yet sleek new flagship SUV is 63mm longer and 48mm wider than its predecessor. The luggage compartment volume is now 770 liters (an increase of 100 liters). And for the first time ever, the new Cayenne features staggered tire sizes (wider in the rear), just like its 911, Boxster and Cayman siblings. The distinctive Porsche logo spans the redesigned rear lights with three-dimensional design and full-width narrow LED strips.

The exterior of the new Cayenne and its interior chassis components and floorplan assembly are made with a high-tech mix of aluminum and steel. One particular technical highlight is the innovative lithium-ion polymer starter battery, which alone accounts for a weight saving of 10kg over the old battery. Overall, the newest Cayenne weighs 65kg less than its predecessor.

The latest Cayenne also offers a significantly heightened performance due to the new eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox. Programmed on-road and off-road modes make it easy for the driver to select the right setup for the drive. The new Cayenne also combines three cool chassis concepts in one new design: sports car, off-roader and touring car. Even on rough terrain, the Cayenne promises a superb driving experience.

Also for the first time, the Cayenne offers optional rear-wheel steering. The system, tried and tested both in the 911 and the Panamera, improves agility on bends at low speeds and stability when changing lanes at high speeds. The reduced turning circle rear-wheel steering makes maneuvering through tight spaces a piece of cake.

Inside, the latest Porsche Advanced Cockpit is fully integrated into the sporty, luxurious cabin of the Cayenne. At the heart of Porsche’s new display and control concept is the 12.3-inch full-HD touchscreen from the latest generation of Porsche Communication Management (PCM).

A range of digital functions can be operated intuitively — including voice control. The analog controls on the new center console are focused on the main functions of the vehicle. Other buttons are harmoniously integrated into the smartphone-like, glass-look touch surface, giving acoustic and haptic feedback when operated. Typical of any Porsche, the instrument panel has a central analog tachometer. This is flanked by two 7-inch full-HD displays, which feature all other relevant driving data and additional information selected using the multi-function steering wheel.

The new Cayenne comes with a choice of three powertrains: a 3-liter turbocharged V6 for the base model; the mid-range Cayenne S with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6; and the range-topping Cayenne Turbo with a 4-liter twin-turbo V8. The midrange Cayenne S delivers 440hp and 550Nm. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds and hits a maximum speed of 265 km/h. The Cayenne Turbo, on the other hand, brings 550hp and torque of 770Nm, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 4.1 seconds.

I got to test the base Cayenne, which delivers 340hp and 450Nm of torque. Porsche claims that it can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 245 km/h — 1.1 second and 16 km/h faster than its predecessor. Flooring the accelerator and feeling more than two tons of metal, glass, and leather hurtle forward with an otherwordly urgency will make you instantly forget that you’re driving the base model — and wonder just how incredible the flagship Turbo would feel. All of a sudden, you’re in a close-coupled sports car aiming for apexes with millimetric precision and enjoying the scintillating push in your back from the breathtaking acceleration — until you look at the rear-view mirror and see your kids at the back. That’s a sight you won’t see in any sports car.

With a lightweight aluminum chassis, powerful drivetrains, sensational driving dynamics, and a full suite of smart driver assistance systems, the latest Cayenne is closer than ever to becoming a Porsche sports car — one that can carry five and even go off road.