Once a Porsche, always a Porsche
"You may think it’s a Cayenne refreshed, but not redone extensively. That was precisely Porsche’s objective," said Ershad.
"The whole list of features has improved the vehicle dynamics; Porsche wants to establish the off-road credentials once and for all."
"A model that literally took the company out of a slump at one stage."
"The highlight in the new Cayenne is the infotainment system. It’s the same buttonless, touch controls as the Panamera."
Porsche has come a long way. Today when I write about the third generation Cayenne, a model which literally took the company out of slump at one stage, I remember the notion back in 2002 when the first-generation Cayenne was introduced. For purists, this wasn’t a Porsche; how could it be!
And then the 959 Dakar came out of nowhere. That was just a glimpse of what they can do in the off-road business. In reality, Cayenne turned out to be the best decision and the industry proves it time and again-look around for the latecomers Maserati Levante, Bentley Bentyaga and Lamborghini Urus. Today, Cayenne is among the best three luxury SUVs and the timing 15 years ago undeniably helped them establish the position. Fast forward 15 years, the third generation model is out with way too many tweaks done to the engine, transmission and design; while still being the very same Porsche.
Porsche Middle East recently hosted the international media drive event in the UAE. We started off from Fujairah and followed the straight stretch of roads to the border of Oman. From there, we took the twisty roads of the mountains. Up until here, the agenda felt pretty ordinary but soon after we were guided to some challenging rough terrain full of rocks and gravel. The route was charted on purpose and we were quite excited. By the way, allow me to introduce the two variants I tested: the new Cayenne and the Cayenne S.
A quick glance around the vehicle and you may think it’s a Cayenne refreshed, but not redone extensively. That was precisely Porsche’s objective. They want to keep the shape, the look of it and apply the key advances. For instance, you’ll see the same three air intakes, but enlarged, sleeker LED headlights and a newly shaped hood. The bonnet that usually stays lower than the headlights on either side are in the same line now. Much of the visual update is applied on the rear side and you don’t have to be an ex-Porsche owner to notice them. A three-dimensional ‘PORSCHE’ lettering sits under a glass envelope that connects the taillights on either side with end-to-end red narrow strips of LEDs. In terms of dimensions, the new Cayenne is longer, wider and lower. They all add up to the overall athletic shape and dynamics.
Cayenne uses the same platform seen in the second-generation Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentyaga; yes, the same MLB platform of the VW group, developed by the Audi team. The chassis is lighter, with a front axle featuring a separate link design and a multi-link rear axle. Wheels are upsized by an inch and with mixed tires on it.
There are quite a few debutant features in the new Cayenne. Let’s start with the rear-axle steering system, which is meant to enhance agility and stability while in quirky maneuvers. Then we have adaptive air suspensions with a three-chamber technology for the best of comforts; be it on a sport track or a touring ride. It replaces the old two-chamber technology.
To tackle the unnecessary body roll and for better handling, Cayenne has got Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) to cut the response time. It essentially is a shift from hydraulic to electric through a powerful 48-volt vehicle electrical system.
For high-performance braking, Porsche made the world premiere of Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) with a tungsten-carbide layer. So it’s got a cast iron disc with a tungsten-carbide coating to increase friction and thereby reduce brake dust. PSCB is optional and available only for 20-inch and the 21-inch wheels.
The engine, city ride…and what about off-road credentials?!
Cayenne fits in well in the category of sports SUV and of course a touring car; but hey, they aren’t bragging about it right now. While the whole list of features has improved the vehicle dynamics, they want to establish the off-road credentials once and for all.
You start with the engine. The entry-level Cayenne gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 turbo unit that delivers 340 horsepower and a torque of 450 Nm. That’s an improvement of 40 horsepower and 50 Nm of torque from 2017. Our second test car, the Cayenne S has got a new 2.9-liter turbo V6 twin-turbo engine capable of 440 horsepower and 550 Nm. So there’s no shortage of punch and I give it to them for the engine upgrades.
Porsche utilizes active all-wheel drive in all Cayenne models. The fully variable Porsche Traction Management (PTM) distributes power between the drive axles. The AWD can also do a 100% RWD-yes, just do it. The new eight-speed Tiptronic S gearbox has a new objective to fulfill, apart from sportier ratios and quick responses. It’s got to be capable of towing heavy loads. You see? They are getting close.
For daily rides, Cayenne offers a range of drive modes: Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. No real surprises in the way it behaved when we ran through the modes one after the other. Remember, the base engine offers 340 horsepower, an upping by some real numbers. So the punch was expected and hey, aren’t we used to words like "Turbo lag?" Forget about it here. There was no such thing, really, and the power delivery went up strongly in a linear manner. The twin-turbo variant Cayenne S was more eager with enough power in the bank to excite you. The drive felt quite compact and lighter-thanks to the lightweight metals. Road grip was something (given). Move onto the redeveloped Sport and Sport Plus modes, and the transformation was instant and striking. The chassis, engine, and transmission figures are remapped to go more aggressive. The mode button on steering adds to the excitement. Zero-to-100 km/h is an affair of just about six seconds and five seconds for the base model Cayenne and S respectively. The long eighth gear transmission works out well for good fuel economy and ensures a composed drive.
Now it’s time for the rough patch. Yes, let me talk about Porsche’s 4D Chassis Control system that works in real time. It’s actually an electronic chassis platform that offers new off-road modes for the best chassis setup, depending on the terrain. There are mainly four off-road modes: Gravel, Mud, Sand and Rocks. As soon as we select a mode, the system modifies itself to match the road. It alters the ride height, spring rates and dampers, differential locks, PDCC and powertrain. I must say, the overall vibration has come down big time and that uneasy feel that I experienced on a rough patch can finally take a break. Cayenne for me was a luxury SUV with a touch of softness, so as to impose a rough impact; Porsche knew such an exercise was mandatory. Heavy road impacts were less known and we also like the Hill Descent Control feature. When the feature kicks in, it takes total control and we literally don’t have to interfere.
A Porsche cockpit has always been sporty and luxurious, but the highlight in the new Cayenne is the infotainment system. It’s the same buttonless, touch controls as the Panamera. That’s a big move and believe me, it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. There’s a 12.3-inch full HD touchscreen (from the latest Porsche Communication Management) in the center with haptic switches around. The driver gets an analog tachometer with two seven-inch full HD displays on either side. We can browse through all the infotainment features on the controls in the steering wheel. Night Vision Assist with a thermal imaging camera works well now but we wonder how it works in the summer time in this region. Other features include Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, including traffic sign recognition, traffic jam assist, Park Assist including Surround View and Porsche InnoDrive including adaptive cruise control. There’s more room for rear passengers and the cargo space has increased by 100 liters. Luxurious, modern, techie and smart-that sums up the inside story.
We are yet to drive the 550 horsepower, 770 Nm Cayenne Turbo but you see the complete range of Cayenne. The drive surely enlightened us with Cayenne’s newly found love to off-road. Handling, comfort, daily rider and good on the racetrack. Add the rowdy rough part to it and you see a close to complete project by Porsche. Cayenne looks elegant and decent, but boy o boy, the German is raging!
Pros: Added power, driver-friendly, handling, off-road credentials, more cargo space, more room for rear passengers
Cons: Porsche should think about a third row, price bracket, still looks similar to the 2017 model
Rivals: BMW X5, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes GLE, Maserati Levante
one word: an off-roader
4 / 5 STARS
3.0L V6, 340 hp @ 5,300-6,400 rpm, 450 Nm @ 1,340-5,400 rpm
8-speed Tiptronic S, AWD
0-100 km/h: 6.2 secs (with Sport plus 5.9 secs), top speed: 245 km/h, fuel consumptions: 9.2-9.0 L/100 km,
Weight: 1,985 kg
Specs: Cayenne S
3.0L twin-turbo V6, 440 hp @ 5,700-6,600 rpm, 550 Nm @ 1,800-5,500 rpm
8-speed Tiptronic S, AWD
0-100 km/h: 5.2 secs (with Sport plus 4.9 secs), top speed: 265 km/h, fuel consumption: 9.4-9.2 L/100 km,
Weight: 2,020 kg