HomeFEATUREDPORSCHE CAYENNE – First Drive Impressions

PORSCHE CAYENNE – First Drive Impressions

It could not be done, people said, when Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking first wondered – exactly 20 years ago – whether it would be possible to successfully marry sporty blacktop performance with proper off-road prowess. EGMONT SIPPEL found a definitive answer by driving the latest Cayenne.

In 2001, Porsche invited two South African journalists to attend an official sneak preview of a vehicle that was about to transform – and some would say revolutionise – the Stuttgart based company.

Leipzig hosted the event, for the simple reason that Porsche had picked this nexus of road, rail and air facilities to be the manufacturing spot for the company’s next big move into the future.

CEO at the time, Wendelin Wiedeking, explained with great authority and conviction how the imminent Cayenne SUV would be critical to Porsche, firstly as an instrument of survival and secondly as the key to prosperity.

The sceptics wouldn’t bite, of course.

In the metal, the first pre-production Cayenne inspected in Leipzig earlier that day didn’t look a whole lot better than the ugly, ungainly one in pictures. The car had also been developed in concert with a VW product (the Touareg), which conjured up all the wrong associations.

Above all, the Cayenne represented a massive departure from what Zuffenhausen had been about, for more than half a century. The purists revolted.

“Porsche customers,” concluded Germany’s Commerzbank, “may well perceive the extension of the product portfolio to be a loss of brand identity.”

Yep. And here we are, just more than a decade and a half later, admiring the third generation Cayenne with global sales of the first two having totalled a salubrious 770,000.


Porsche Cayenne

The new Cayenne is just that – new, from top to bottom – but first the model line-up and respective engines:

Cayenne – a 3.0-litre V6 turbo (250 kW, 450 Nm, 0-100 km/h in about 6 seconds, 245 km/h V max, 9.1 litre/100 km consumption), with the turbo situated in the hot V of the engine for faster responses and lower fuel consumption;

Cayenne S – a new 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 (324 kW, 550 Nm, 0-100 in 5 seconds, 265 km/h, 9.3 litre/100 km);

Cayenne Turbo – a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 (404 kW, 770 Nm, 0-100 in 4 seconds, 286 km/h, 11.8 litre/100 km), the turbos being twin-scroll BorgWarners.

Cayenne E-Hybrid – a 3.0-litre V6 engine combined with an electric motor (340 kW, 700 Nm) with a pure electric range of 50 km.
All Cayennes drive all four wheels via an eight-speed Tiptronic auto box with a torque converter, two of the latter’s advantages being linear responses for smooth off-road work plus an ability to tow 3.5 tonnes.

The AWD system favours power to the rear, with a progressively higher ratio in Sport and Sport+ drive modes. Performance is further enhanced by efficient aerodynamics, such as active slats closing the grille at high speeds plus a spoiler at the rear rising, at variable angles, to 40 mm to generate downforce. Emergency stops create an airbrake by extending the spoiler to 80 mm, trimming stopping distances from high speeds by two metres.


Porsche Cayenne

The entirely new chassis utilises the Volkswagen Group’s extra-stiff big-SUV architecture (called MLB, for modular longitudinal build matrix) also underpinning the VW Touareg, Audi Q7/Q8, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus.

Front wishbones and a multilink rear are bookended by mixed tyres (with the rears 20 mm wider than the fronts, as befits a proper sports car) whilst dynamics are enhanced by a slew of impressive chassis-tuning systems, like optional rear-wheel-steering and three-chamber air suspension, the latter yielding great variances in ground clearance (240 mm for off-road work).

PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) has been further improved by switching from electro-hydraulic to electro-mechanical operation, the system using 48-volt technology to change the torsional stiffness of front and rear stabiliser bars in milliseconds, keeping body roll to a minimum.

All electronics systems are furthermore interlinked via 4D chassis control, while the Turbo model gets a new version of PSCB (Porsche Surface Coated Brakes using hard tungsten coating for reduced wear) as well as a smaller sports steering wheel as standard.

A relative weakness in a brilliant overall package is electrically assisted steering. With a ratio of 13.3:1 it is quick and accurate, make no mistake, but the rudder lacks feel and is also slightly too heavy and inert at low speeds.


Porsche Cayenne

The new Cayenne’s body, hunkered down and filled to the brim to create a block rather than a blob, stands in the idiom of modern VW Group design.

It is a well-proportioned unit characterised by strong wheel arches and lots of horizontal lines, especially up front, while the rear sports a red ribbon across the rump, just like the 911 and Panamera.

A lower roofline in combination with sharper sheet metal also creates a muscular tension underneath the car’s sleek outer skin.
This elegance, by the way, is carried over to the cabin, where a massive high-definition touchscreen plus touch-sensitive controls embedded in smart gloss-black surfaces creates an ambience of deep science married to great spiritual calm.

Add voice control, good ergonomics, great sound, wonderful displays, richly illustrated sat-nav maps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, top quality materials, outstanding craftsmanship, perfect fit and finish and lots of space, and here’s a strange thing to say: The Cayenne does not have to be on the move, to be appreciated.

The spacious cabin is complemented by generous luggage space of 770 litres. And to think that all of this comes in at 65 kg less than the previous Cayenne.


It is clear, from the above, that the Cayenne is an outstandingly good blacktop cruiser. Performance stretches from great to ferocious, and dynamics from superior to unbelievable for such a tall and heavy unit.

In between, the brakes provide immense stopping power and the ride, while firm, is never harsh.

With the right tyres, off-road prowess will be almost equally formidable, the Cayenne being able to wade through 500 mm of water and hold oil pressure on remarkably steep inclines.

Mission accomplished, then?

The Cayenne might not be a sports car, but apart from Zuffenhausen’s own smaller and nimbler Macan, it is easily the sportiest SUV out there.

The visionary Wendelin Wiedeking was right then. The big SUV has not diluted Porsche’s brand identity.
If anything, it has given it more meat.





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