Gulf Insider was invited to Crete to test drive the Porsche Cayenne S and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
Fifteen Years on, since the original model was launched to critical acclaim, the third generation of Porsche’s SUV will be released in the New Year. With over 3/4 Million cars in the assembly line, the factory knows that it’s onto a winning formula, so what has changed? Do the new models put the car back at the top of the now highly competitive luxury SUV market?
Gulf Insider was recently given the chance to put two of the variants through their paces on the island of Crete, the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. The range of roads and terrain on the island was no doubt chosen by Porsche to show off some of the car’s new abilities, from fast sweeping ribbons of perfect tarmac to tortuous mountain routes, we were most definitely provided the opportunity to see whether the new models could tackle something more challenging than the urban commute where the cars generally spend much of their time.
At first glance, the exterior does not appear to have changed much from the previous model, though I feel that the makeover has made the car certainly look sharper and more purposeful than its predecessors. Under the covers, a lot more has changed, from the completely new chassis, air suspension, active aerodynamics and, optionally, all wheel steering, coupled with a host of newly developed engines. Porsche is more than happy to state that the new car is closer to the 911 than it has ever been; but is this enough to take the crown?
With its new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 delivering 550 horsepower, the Cayenne Turbo completes the 0-100 km/h dash in 4.1 seconds, rushing on to a top speed of 286 km/h, whilst the Cayenne S, powered by a twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 developing 440 horsepower is a little slower at 4.9 seconds and 264 km/h, these figures form an SUV weighing in at over 2020kg. These figures are extraordinary to say the least. Later variants will deliver a base model using a 3.0 liter V6, a V-6 plug-in-hybrid as well as a range-topping V-8 plug-in hybrid, the Turbo S E-Hybrid developing over 680 horsepower. There is still much more to be seen from this new range. Sport Chrono packages are available for most models which shave a third of a second off the 0-100 times.
More so even than the amazing performance and drivability changes in this third generation rework is the complete revamp of the inside of the car. The Cayenne’s interior joins the recently reviewed Panamera with a stunningly appointed cabin together with a seamless integration of technology and design that finally matches the cars driving capabilities. With design traits taken from the new Panamera the new dash is stunning–for the driver, the central tacho has TFT screens left and right which can be altered to deliver both performance information to replicating almost every display from the cars infotainment system which is focused on the central console’s 12.3-inch touchscreen. The console itself combines physical buttons with touch-sensitive controls, removing the plethora of buttons found in the earlier model.
So, what’s it like to drive you ask? In one word, epic! With the torturous curves of the Cretan hillsides as our playground, the cars performed faultlessly, totally belying their weight and size and definitely underlining the word Sport in SUV. To control over two tonnes of the car hurtling around those roads at speed needs a braking system to match, this being amply delivered by the completely redesigned Porsche Surface Coated Brakes, standard on the Turbo and optional on other models, which use a Tungsten coating to improve performance and increase brake life by over 15%. The plethora of electronics keeps the car perfectly poised even at the most extreme limits of its performance. The combination of incredible electronics and the active anti-roll bars manage to deliver a level of drivability that far belies its weight and size; its grip on the road never seems to end!
The new eight-speed transmission system, common to all models, which also features easily selectable off-road settings for mud, sand, gravel and rocks, coupled with the air suspension which is capable of increasing ground clearance by over 10cm, has also dramatically improved the cars’ off-road capabilities. With a simple push of a button, rocky mountain tracks were handled with ease and comfort. We look forward to testing the car in sand later in the year in which would be its more normal playground here in the Middle East. I am sure it will manage this with equal levels of grace. It has to be said that the driver feel and involvement in this generation of the Cayenne has reduced from its predecessors, as the completely networked range of chassis and performance alterations reduce the driver ‘feel’ one associate with a Porsche. Ultimately, though, this has produced a car that provides a level of precision, performance and predictability; an adequate trade-off in my mind.
Comparing the S and the Turbo, most especially living here in Bahrain, coupled with the very close levels of usable performance, I believe that the S would deliver the ultimate package to handle all that the region has to offer. Of course, the Turbo sounds incredible, but the S is no quiet sibling, so if it’s loud , thunderous noise and blistering performance you need, then the Turbo would be the choice. For the rest of us mere mortals, the S provides a perfect balance of performance and usability which most will never fully utilise. It gets my vote.
Overall, this third evolution has delivered arguably the pinnacle of the genre. The Cayenne Turbo is certainly the most effective and yet understated SUV I have ever driven, though I most definitely look forward to the hybrid V8 later in the year which will most probably surpass even this. Well done Porsche, you nailed it! -HHT
For more information please contact Porsche Center Bahrain on +973 1745 9911.