Porsche upgrades the Cayenne with new engines, suit, attitude, then in Barcelona shows it to the car planet
THE thing clambered up steep hills, rolled over rocks, slithered across mucky trails, drifted through a “rally stage” and—with only a modicum amount of skill required from its driver, thanks to computerized wizardry like traction and stability and hill-descent controls—reached truly tricky spots. No car this posh and pricey has any right to be as good over nasty terrain.
But this thing is the new and improved second-generation Porsche Cayenne, which, before its major redesign, is no pushover to begin with. Amid Les Comes, an expansive, 500-hectare-plus private off-road playground about 100 kilometers inland from Barcelona, Spain, and which is owned by a Dakar Rally veteran, the latest Cayenne was simply in its element. And to think a fleet of it got a group of Southeast Asian auto journalists (including those from The Manila Times and Philippine Daily Inquirer) from a hotel overlooking Barcelona to Les Comes in utter comfort. The occasional bursts of speed it allowed across spectacular, at times twisty, Catalan landscape—think the Montserrat mountains, for instance—were such delights, too.
There are five versions of the upgraded Cayenne, four of which were launched at the Barcelona gig. Porsche saves the last one—the Cayenne S E-Hybrid—for the Paris auto show in October.
Lined up in Barcelona were the Cayenne Diesel, Cayenne S Diesel, Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo—essentially the same variants offered in the previous range. But Porsche promises more horses, punchier torque and better fuel mileage in the new ones. The cars also get tweaked suspension geometries that, as proven in the Spain road trip, gave the Cayenne (the S Diesel and Turbo, to be specific, in the Filipino duo’s case) almost-911-like levels of road dynamics.
No hyperbole, this. You sit in the S Diesel through kilometers and kilometers of tight village streets and twisty mountain passes, and simply feel like you’re in a proper sports car. It switches directions without rolling from one side to the other. It accelerates past slower traffic effortlessly. It brakes sans drama. It cruises in near-silence on highways. Then you reach your destination, step off the car and get surprised at how high you are off the ground—yes, you were in an SUV, not a hunkered down sports car.
Now factor all this together, then raise the intensity a few notches up. That’s how things are in the Turbo. The turn-ins are crisper, cornering is flatter, acceleration is harder. Porsche officers present at the new car’s international press launch were correct in pointing out the Cayenne does not only look edgier, it performs sharper, too.
It’s not an all-new model but the Cayenne’s redesign is no mere nip/tuck either. Porsche deemed it best to drive a bigger wedge between the Cayenne and its recently launched Macan. Both are, after all, sporting SUVs that—as Porsches—speak the same design language, flaunt similar posh levels and strut identical athletics. But the Cayenne is full-size while the Macan is mid, and Porsche believes each should be more distinct from the other.
So the Cayenne gets a new suit that, unusual these days, is meant to make the car look bulkier. Gone is the V-shape crease on the hood, which makes the front end taper, replaced instead by contours that flow outwards. Along with the reshaped hood, headlamps, fenders, fascia and air inlets, the car now looks wider and muscular in front.
The rear gets new pieces, too, most prominent among which are the redesigned tailgate and taillights, exhaust pipes integrated into the rear panel, and sleeker roof spoiler. Fenders that are slightly re-contoured and side-view mirrors with turn signals flushed into them mark out the latest Cayenne’s flanks. Of course, the car gets new paint and wheel choices, and bespoke Michelin rubbers (for the 21-inch alloys).
In the cabin the highlight is the multifunction steering wheel that mimics that on Porsche’s 918 Spyder supercar, and which also gets paddle shifters. The rear seats are now cushier, too.
Besides these, the Cayenne, significantly, now packs upgraded engines—and even a new one, in the Cayenne S’s case. From the naturally aspirated 4.8-liter V8 mill that the S used to run on, the car now has a smaller yet stronger and more economical 3.0-liter V6 with two turbochargers. With 420hp and 550Nm when mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic S transmission (like all Cayenne engine variants are), the engine can hurl the car from rest to 100kph in 5.5 seconds and to a top speed of 259kph. Porsche rates fuel consumption at around 9.8 kilometers per liter (kpl).
The Cayenne Turbo retains the big dog 4.8-liter, V8, twin turbo engine that spins out 520hp and 750Nm. This lets the Turbo sprint from rest to 100kph in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 279kph. Mileage hovers at 11.5kpl, according to Porsche.
Also fitted with a V8 is the Cayenne S Diesel—a 4.2-liter, turbocharged unit that makes 385hp and a staggering 850Nm of torque. So it’s one fast diesel-burner, able to send the car from a stop to 100kph quicker than the gasoline S at 5.4 seconds and to a max speed of 252kph. All while returning 8kpl on average.
The base Cayenne Diesel has a smaller 3.0-liter V6 that’s boosted by a lone turbo. It dishes out 262hp and 580Nm, dispenses with the naught-to-100kph run in 7.3 seconds and levels off at 221kph. Fuel use is rated best among the present Cayenne variants (not counting in the S E-Hybrid) at around 6.8kpl.
Spicing things up
Porsche delivered around 160,000 cars worldwide last year, more than half of which were made up of the Cayenne. It had sold 276,000 examples of the first Cayenne, and more than 303,000 second-gen models since 2010. This means the carmaker does not enjoy the luxury of tweaking its bestseller all that much, lest the changes mess up the model, drive away buyers and, ultimately, screw the company’s profit-and-loss charts.
But in the updated Cayenne, Porsche shows it isn’t content at letting things be. It took some calculated but still bold risks, infused significant changes to a car that didn’t seem to need any, and kept itself a step or two ahead of the competition.
In short, it made its most popular model that bit spicier.