Porsche introduced their first SUV (tractors don’t count), the Cayenne, way back when in 2003, smartphones were still small and Mixit was the preferred platform for communication. Back then the world scoffed and offered comments along the lines of ‘Porsche builds sport cars not SUVs, if you think it’s going to sell you’re mad,’ and our favourite, ‘who wants a Porsche SUV.’ Well, about that. They were wrong. Very wrong.
The 2018 Cayenne is the third generation, and if sales are anything to go by, it’s going to be doing a roaring trade, too. The latest versions’ visible upgrades are the tell-tale rear light cluster stretched horizontally across the tailgate, enlarged air intakes on the front and styling tweaks in line with modern Porsche Design DNA. Very Tron like. The Cayenne has been lowered by 9mm, grown by 63mm in length, the wheelbase remains unchanged, and yet boasts a 100-litre increase in luggage space, up to 770 litres. For the first time the Cayenne has differing tyres front and back for improved handling, rear-wheel steering and all-wheel drive, like a good sports car should.
Unseen technological improvements include a new 8-speed Tiptronic S gearbox, two new engines for the line up, new chassis systems and you can option the Sports Chrono Package, once again like any good sports car.
Three models will be on offer in South Africa and no, there’s no diesel since Porsche pulled the plug on the oil burner. The opening gambit is the base model Cayenne powered by a new 3.0-litre turbo V6 producing 250 kW and 450 Nm. The base model is not base compromising of just an engine, four-wheels and a steering wheel, it offers plenty bang for buck, including a host of accessories and comforts. The 250 kW on offer is more than enough for a daily driver or the weekend warrior, it has plenty of oomph to get around, in the lap of typical Porsche luxury. The ride errs on the wafty side with accompanied body roll if you start attacking corners like Herr Stuck. Think outside the box by optioning an upgraded suspension system and you’ve created all you’ll ever need from an SUV, unless you want more power.
The Cayenne S is 65 kg lighter than the predecessor even with the extra equipment, rule 101 of enhanced sports car performance: shed weight. Powered by a new 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo, the Cayenne S starts aligning sports car performance with SUV sizing. It offers 324 kW, 15 kW more than its predecessor, and 550 Nm. Standard adaptable suspension and superb response results in a winning combination, it offers dynamic handling over the base model, the extra 74 kW of power over a base model allowing a seasoned driver to get the sportier performance they’re after. Even though on paper the Cayenne S makes sense, the perfect compromise between Cayenne and Cayenne Turbo, the engine left us wanting more, we expected a bit more gruff and a lot more puff for something with an S badge, it felt soulless to drive with no discernible character, one could even say – too clinical.
The Cayenne Turbo is a beast and our pick of the bunch if we had over two million rand to spend on a car. And yes, we use car deliberately here. It physically embodies the proportions of an SUV, though it handles like a sports car. If you extract joy from driving and know your apex from your index, though need to ferry the family around, this is the car. 404 kW / 770 Nm from a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, it gets to grips with the road ahead unlike any SUV around, and it has superb gruff-to-puff ratio. All the ingredients to make it bonafide sports car are present, lightweight chassis, adaptive aerodynamics, self-levelling three-chamber air suspension, wider tyres on the rear and high-performance Porsche Surface Coated Brakes which can be upgraded to Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes.
Before you poo-poo the notion of a million-plus SUV in our market, let’s consider the Cayenne in context of its market segment. All comparable premium SUVs start their opening offers north of the R1-million mark. It’s worth a mention that Porsche prides itself on offering premium quality, from robustness, to materials used, to the quality of the finishes. A large section of the competition has started scrimping on the smaller items: chrome-plated plastic trim pieces, turning the interior into a spare parts bin, sharing bits and bobs from super minis and family hatchbacks for goodness sake. And that’s the difference. The Cayenne looks durable, feels expertly hewn from behind the wheel and the interior finishes cut no corners. In each model you can see and feel premium. And that’s where Porsche is going to win the premium SUV fight. You’re paying for premium and receiving premium.
Porsche Cayenne pricing:
|Cayenne||R1 142 000|
|Cayenne S||R1 296 000|
|Cayenne Turbo||R2 158 000|