Porsche's Third-Generation Cayenne SUV Is A Surprisingly Apt Off-Road Drive
The motoring world was aghast when Porsche first announced that it was launching an SUV in 2002. In retrospect, it was arguably the marque’s smartest move as the model is now one of its bestsellers. So successful was this first SUV, the Cayenne, that Porsche actually attempted to acquire its ally, Volkswagen, with whom it had collaborated with for the car. That didn’t come to pass, but the Cayenne name lives on, and is now into its third generation. It has even led to the birth of a smaller and more successful Porsche SUV, the Macan.
With the latest Cayenne, Porsche didn’t venture too far afield with its styling, so it can be a little difficult to tell the difference from its previous incarnation, particularly if you are looking from the front. The primary difference is the continuous lighting strip that cuts horizontally across the entire back. The Cayenne’s body has also grown slightly, but its designers have managed to shave a significant 65kg—the rough equivalent of one adult passenger—off the weight of its predecessor. It is also not immediately noticeable that the car now uses larger rear wheels than the front, just like a proper sports car, and that it is equipped with an adapted version of the Porsche 911’s rear-wheel steering system for greater agility, stability and steering capabilities.
With a new air suspension, which can raise its body for off-road clearance and lower it during high-speed drives, the new Cayenne is undoubtedly a more refined drive than its earlier on and off-road variants. I found this to be particularly true with the model’s sportier Cayenne S variant, which I took on a test drive on the vast roads and sandy terrains of Dubai in the UAE. To top this off, the Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control allows the car to corner flat like a sports car, but with the comfort of a limousine.
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In fact, Porsche expects this mid-range Cayenne S to be the volume driver. Packed with a newly developed twin-turbocharged 2.9L V6 engine, it churns out 440hp and 550Nm of torque, and completes its century sprint in 5.2sec. Porsche also created a 550hp, 4.0L turbocharged V8 engine, but has reserved it for its top-of-the-line Cayenne Turbo.
So while it is unlikely that Cayenne owners would ever bring their precious car to off‑road terrains such as the desert that Porsche had brought me to, it would be satisfying for them to know that they could if they wanted to without worrying that their car wouldn’t be able to manage. And for this, the Cayenne is more than qualified to reside near, if not at, the pinnacle of the SUV genre.
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This article first appears in the April 2018 issue of Singapore Tatler.