You probably already know if you want one of these or not. After all,Porsche’s Cayenne, first introduced in 2002, continues to be the most polarizing SUV since Suzuki’s X-90. Some of us around here have a soft spot for the X-90 and are rather shocked by the high residual values for the things.
Used Cayennes, however, are the cheapest way to get into all-wheel-drive Porsche ownership this side of a 924 mounted on a CHevy S-10 chassis. A new Cayenne S like the one we just drove, however, starts at $75,095.
Like the refreshed Panamera S before it, the Cayenne S gains V-6 power during its midcycle update. Porsche advertises more power undmore efficiency—the new motor is up 20 horsepower to 420.
Torque is a healthy 406 lb-ft, but the turbo-six lacks the personality of the V-8. Which, as V-8s go, was quite nice if rather generically Teutonic. Like, perhaps the iron-fisted Swabian middle manager of V-8s?
On our drive, what we found more problematic than the loss of cylinders was the new model’s carry-over eight-speed automatic transmission. Even in modes that were not Sport Plus (yes, Porsche’s vaunted everybody-to-the-limit Sport Plus button is now available in the Cayenne), the autobox would occasionally deliver an upshift that felt as if it were executed by an old GM Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 with a shift kit. More upsetting was when it would deliver one of these upshifts midcorner.
Porsche’s excellent nanny suite handily takes care of any balance disruption caused by the wonky shifts, but it still seems inexcusable, especially since the shift programming in Porsche’s latest dual-clutch transmissions is barely short of psychic.
The chassis is very much in the mold of modern Porsche automobiles, if a bit softer, rollier, and all-around heavier feeling. On the winding Catalan roads of southeastern Spain, it was simple enough to hurl the Cayenne down a hill, the brakes handling deceleration duties with easily modulated aplomb. In downhill corners, where many an automobile would be inclined to push wide with the snout, the big Porsche takes a ready set and tracks easily ’round the bend.
Through a series of undulating esses that ran for a mile or two, great gobs of throttle and easy steering inputs had the Cayenne leaping from corner to corner like a Calaveras bullfrog.
Off-road, the Cayenne’s capable AWD system and available height-adjustable air suspension means that it’ll easily handle the trek over the curb to your local Red Robin. Or, if you find yourself in a loose, silty, uphill right-hander, all that’s required is to hold the throttle at a steady state, keep the wheel turned, and let the computers figure out how to get the Cayenne up the hill. It’s the same sort of relaxed, reassuring experience that Porsche’s modern sports cars offer.
Gentlemen dedicated to low-range-transfer-case specs and honking Dana axles may scoff at the Porsche’s complexity and price, but for those who want to point and squirt without much thought on any surface, the Cayenne makes it about as simple as it gets.
Porsche claims that it has made interior revisions, but the innards look pretty much the same to us, save for the new steering wheel. Porsche likes to note that it’s derived from the design of the 918 Spyder’s tiller.
We’re just glad that it has honest-to-goodness shift paddles in lieu of the old, awful thumb buttons. Welcome to parity with the rest of the world, Zuffenhausen. Your customers will love it here.
The Cayenne S remains a worthy entry in the luxe-ute segment, offering an interior bested only by Coventry and an essentially unrivaled combination of on-road dynamics and feel, paired with off-road capabilities more than sufficient for those families who use their utes for more than just grabbing groceries.
Source: Car and Driver