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Second-gen Porsche Cayenne – first drive

by Hannes Oosthuizen on 13/05/2010

Comments: 0

The second-generation of Porsche’s Cayenne did not have the easiest of births. First images of the new SUV leaked out before Porsche really wanted them to, and many of the photos portrayed the Cayenne in an unflattering light. Then, at the all-important unveiling in Geneva, Porsche scored an own goal by also taking the covers off the stupendous 918 Spyder… so hardly anyone looked at the Cayenne.

And then, just last month as all the world’s media got ready to jet into Leipzig to drive the Cayenne for the first time, Iceland exploded. The result? Many cancelled tickets and zero media coverage.

So, perhaps it’s no coincidence that the venue for eventual launch last weekend was Dubai and a beautiful hotel located almost exactly in the middle of nowhere. There would be no distractions this time, or at least nothing that could divert attention from the new Cayenne.

Now that the world has grown used to the idea of a SUV Porsche, the Cayenne is no longer the rubberneck-causing machine it once was. It has to be said, though, that the new model is a bit of a looker. There’s none of the awkward 911-nose-grafted-onto-a-station-wagon look there was before. Overall, the new model is sleeker, more refined in its appearance, and the proportions work much better. The new Cayenne is actually 48 mm longer than its predecessor, but yet it looks smaller.

Inside, Cayenne has undergone a similar makeover, with a facia that borrows heavily from the Panamera and an overall feeling of solidity and quality that is probably unequalled in any SUV of this segment.

The extra length has gone mostly into the wheelbase, which is 40 mm longer. Cayenne now not only has more space all-round, but also a rear bench that can slide over a distance of 160 mm, and backrests with thee angles of adjustment. Comfort levels are high.

We only got to drive the two V8 models in Dubai, but the entire line-up, including the diesel and hybrid models, are on the way to South Africa, and prices start at R645 000 for the V6 Tiptronic base model.

First we jumped on board the Turbo for a three-hour drive on the highways and mostly new roads around the Jumeirah Bab Al Shams resort. With 368 kW on tap, a brand new and super-slick eight-speed automatic ‘box doing the shifting and weighing 185 kg less than before, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the Cayenne Turbo is a monster. Porsche claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4,7 seconds and a top speed of 278 km/h for the range’s flagship; its twin-turbocharged V8 is lighter than before, and features, inter alia, an all-new weight-optimised crankshaft.

In fact, one of the major targets of the new model’s development programme was to improve the range’s efficiency. It was not only the focus on weight reduction and the eight-speed gearbox that helped Porsche to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 23 per cent compared with previous models, but also detailed work on each of the engines. All Cayennes, barring the entry-level model, feature automatic start/stop functions. The Turbo, by the way, has a notable claimed combined cycle consumption figure of 11,5 litres/100 km.

Our drive demonstrated the Cayenne’s ferocious acceleration to good effect, what with the roads being so empty (barring some stray camels), and almost perfectly straight.

Standard fitment includes PTM traction management with permanent all-wheel drive. Grip levels, as to be expected, are amazing, and body composure is more impressive than what you’d expect from something as big and high off the ground. Even on Dubai’s smooth roads I could feel an immediate difference between the car’s Sport and Comfort suspension settings, but I’d like to drive it in local conditions before making a final verdict. I’ll also have to comment on engine sound at a later stage, because our UAE-spec cars had 120 km/h speed warnings that couldn’t be switched off. Coupled with rumble strips on every few hundred metres of asphalt, our three-hour drive was accompanied by a continuous “bong bong baddaboef baddaboef” background track.

Then it was the turn of the Cayenne S with its naturally aspirated V8 engine that delivers 294 kW and 500 N.m of torque. For this model Porsche claims a zero to 100 km/h time of 5,9 seconds and a 259 km/h top speed, as well as a 10,5 litres/100 km combined cycle fuel consumption figure.

It is with the Cayenne S that we rumbled into the desert and where I for the first time saw 65,5 Celsius on a car’s exterior temperature gauge. Tyres deflated, but still riding on less than ideal 19-inch wheels and very low-profile rubber, the Cayennes nevertheless made short work of the dunes, as long as their drivers displayed semblances of competence. That was not always the case, as testified by a crew that someone fittingly chose to name “Force India”, who seemed intent on crashing through obstacles, rather than driving around or over them. As a result, plenty plastic trim got left in the desert.

The new Cayenne doesn’t have the low-range transfer box offered before, but instead uses the eight-speed transmission and clever electronic management to ensure impressive off-road ability.

The driver selects Off-road Mode 1 by pressing an off-road toggle switch on the centre console forward. This activates a gearshift programme tailored for off-road driving, which “focusing in particular on extra traction and the precise dosage of engine power,” Porsche says. Essentially, the electronics make the transmission shift up later and shift down earlier, thereby reducing the number of gearshifts.

Of course, Porsche also offers the driver the option to raise the suspension (on models with air-suspension), and hill-descent control, which we tried out on numerous occasions down the dunes.

Push the off-road toggle switch forward another time, and you enter Off-Road Mode 2. Then the longitudinal clutch is closed completely, resulting in better traction. On vehicles fitted with the optional PTV (Plus Torque Vectoring) system, the electronically-controlled rear differential is integrated into the all-wheel drive management system, further improving power application on rough terrain. If one of the rear wheels starts to slip, the diff-lock will smoothly send power to the opposite wheel in order to regain traction, Porsche claims.

If that’s still not enough, there’s also a third mode that fully locks the rear differential.

We only drove the Cayenne on sand and rutted surfaces, so I can’t comment on its mud and rock abilities, but it was nevertheless very impressive. What I also like very much is that the newcomer remains comfortable even when crashing over bumps, unlike other SUVs that tend to launch its passengers towards the roof.

Porsche sold 270 000 units of the new Cayenne’s predecessor and already has 8 500 orders for the new model. I was a convert to its predecessor’s charms after the very first drive, and rated it as one of the segment leaders right to its end. The new model is seemingly better in every respect. The wait, it appears, was worth it.

I’ll report in more depth on my test drive and the details of the rest of the line-up in the July 2010 issue of CAR magazine.

Cayenne Tiptronic R645 000
Cayenne Diesel R680 000
Cayenne S R775 000
Cayenne S Hybrid R830 000
Cayenne Turbo R1 430 000


  • WillieL

    Evolved quite nicely! Thumbs up.

  • Portia Kuhlase

    Perfection! Good Work…

  • Eric Smith

    Will be great as all Porsches are but Why no V8 diesel as in Touareg and Q7?

  • raZR

    damn thats hot… X6 rival ya