Porsche Cayenne E3 - Big Game Hunter


The third generation Cayenne leaves its competition in the dust

Defying all its detractors, the first generation Cayenne sold 270,000 copies between 2002 and 2010. Its replacement, which did not look significantly different, sold 500,000 copies by the time production ceased earlier this year.

Thus, Porsche sold a total of 770,000 of its first two generations of Cayenne over 15 years, which is seriously impressive for a big, expensive, premium SUV. To put this in perspective, the original VW Beetle, a cheap people’s car, sold 21.5 million units over 65 years!

The third generation Cayenne, internally known as E3, with its predecessors naturally enough being the E1 and E2, once again looks similar to the untrained eye. However, although an engineer told me that the new car hardly has even a single bolt in common with the previous model, it is clear that the strong family resemblance is critical for loyal customers, as Porsche well knows from its iconic 911 range.

While the first two Cayenne models shared their platform with the VW Touareg, the new car is built on the VW Group’s big car MLB platform, which it shares with the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga. The tape measure says it is 63mm longer, 23mm wider and 9mm lower than before, while space utilisation is improved by a moveable rear seatback that can give the boot an extra 100 litres capacity, for a total of 770 litres.

If the familiar exterior causes you to look two or even three times when the latest Cayenne drives past, the radical changes in its fresh new cabin are immediately apparent.

Simpler, more modern, and definitely more elegant than before, the cabin architecture is built around the fully networked Porsche Communication Management system interfaced via the big 12.3-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard, and the two 7.0-inch displays in the instrument cluster. Other state-of-the-art electronic features are online navigation, LTE telephone module, intelligent online voice control, a wi-fi hotspot, Porsche Connect services and four USB ports.

Porsche told us that while diesel and hybrid models will join the range next year, the early cars off the production line will be powered by the V6 and V8 petrol engines. Dispensing their output through a new eight-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission, all the engines benefit from forced aspiration, with their turbocharger units sited in the Vee of the engines.

The entry-level Cayenne is powered by a 2,995cc single turbo V6 producing 340hp between 5,300 and 6,400rpm, along with 450Nm of torque from a low 1,340 rpm until 5,300rpm.

While the new Cayenne is lighter than before, the weight saving varies according to the model. At 1,985kg, the entry-level car is 55kg lighter than its equivalent predecessor, which means it is the first ever Cayenne to tip the scales at under two tonnes. The Cayenne S is 65kg lighter than before, while the new Turbo saves but 10kg.

The reason for this weight saving disparity across the range is as follows. While the new Cayenne structure is significantly lighter thanks to its 40% aluminium content plus lightweight high strength steels, the extra standard equipment that has been added to each variant brings the weight back up to the homologated figures. In this vein, the flagship Turbo model benefits the most from additional comfort and performance systems and is thus the heaviest.

With 0-100km/h coming up in 6.2 sec (5.9 sec Sport Plus), 160km/h in 14.1 sec (13.8 sec with Sport Plus) and a 245km/h top speed, the basic Cayenne is quick rather than rapid. If we were to fast rewind to the 1980s, any sporting car that could reach 160km/h (100mph) under 20 seconds was considered rapid. That shows how much faster the cars of today are in general.

The twin-turbocharged 2.9 litre (2,894cc) V6 that powers the Cayenne S makes a healthy 440hp between 5,700 and 6,600rpm, underpinned by 550Nm of torque from 1,800 to 5,500rpm. It thrusts this 2,020kg SUV to 100km/h in just 5.2 sec (4.9 sec with Sport Plus), and to 160km/h (100mph) in 11.6 sec (11.3 sec with Sport Plus). Top speed is pegged at 265km/h (165mph), which is going some for a full-size SUV.

Fuel economy? Like all manufacturers claimed economy numbers, real world driving with stop lights, random traffic, and occasional full throttle work to reach highway speeds from an on ramp or an overtake simply skews the official figures. Thus, while Porsche claim a combined average of 9.2 L/100km (25 mpg US), my cross-country blast with some highway driving thrown in returned an indicated 11.7 L/100km (20.1 mpg US) average according to the trip computer.

The marketing bods say that Porsche has put more sports car into the Cayenne’s chassis dynamics, but that is a bit of a stretch as there is simply no way that any big SUV can defy the laws of physics in this way. However, a significant change to the latest Cayenne’s footwear comes with the move to wider rear wheels and tyres, putting the flagship Porsche SUV on the same handling and grip ideology page as its sports car sisters.

The narrow, twisty, and occasionally bumpy mountain road part of our test route would be a challenge for any car let alone one of the Cayenne’s bulk, but the rear steering, which can turn the rear wheels up to three degrees, really came into its own here, effectively shortening the wheelbase for greater low speed agility. The counterpoint is that at high speeds, the system turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts making the wheelbase effectively ‘longer’ and thus more stable.

At town speeds that increased agility was really put to the test as we negotiated narrow streets in small villages on the Greek island of Crete, sometimes having to squeeze past parked cars and oncoming traffic.

The Cayenne S has enough power and torque to cover ground rapidly with minimal effort. But this is a Porsche, and power and good chassis dynamics is only part of the story. A convincingly inspirational soundtrack is another significant part, and the here the bi-turbo V6 gives off a lovely howl under hard acceleration.

The counterpoint is restful cruising when you back off to a light throttle, and at a 130km/h cruise the engine is but a whisper in the distance. Also thanks to the supportive seats, which come with the option of heating and fan cooling, front seat comfort over distance is a foregone conclusion. The same goes for rear seat passengers who have ample head and legroom. Meanwhile, the large and well-insulated cabin allows you to best experience the fine detail resolution and sound staging of the flagship Burmester audio system that sits above the Bose system.

Cayenne Turbo. Those two magic words have become a legend in their own time, immediately conjuring up an image of the fastest, most performance orientated production full size SUV money can buy. You can only top it by adding the ‘S’ suffix, and Porsche say that this model will be along in the fullness of time.

By the time I had got half a mile down the road it was clear that the twin-turbo V8 motor gives the Cayenne Turbo a completely different feel from its six-cylinder brethren. Even before you bury the throttle in the carpet for the first time, the Turbo sounds and feels exactly how a flagship Cayenne should - loud, proud and grown up.

As before, even if you are just ambling along at town speeds, the extra weight in the nose gives the car a subjectively greater feeling of heft and purpose. With the V8 burbling away the new Turbo talks the talk, but can it walk the walk like its glorious forbearers?

Having even more grunt than before is a good start, and the 3,996cc bi-turbo V8 develops a rousing 550hp between 5,750 and 6,000rpm, with a stump pulling 770Nm of torque between 1,960 and 4,500rpm.

This puts the Turbo on another plane altogether from the V6-powered models. Its 0-100km/h time of 4.1 sec (3.9 sec with Sport Plus) and 0-160km/h in 9.4 sec (9.2 sec with Sport Plus) make it junior league supercar fast, even if the 286km/h (178mph) top speed falls a bit short, but only by about 14km/h. In a 2,175kg SUV this is downright bombastic performance, and the Turbo can even show its four tailpipes to the latest 991.2 Carrera.

A rapid cross country drive in the Cayenne Turbo quickly makes you realise that those wider rear wheels and tyres are not just there for show. More than once, I felt the back end wiggle when I deployed the full might of the V8 powerhouse in a low gear on a dry road. Despite the clever 4WD system always hunting for optimum traction it was clear that the tidal wave of turbocharged torque at low revs was able to momentarily overcome the mechanical grip of the huge Pirellis.

For the experienced driver that means fun in the bends. On the deserted hill roads where I had a good line of sight, I trail braked into the bends to settle the nose and felt the rear steering help the nose chase the apex into some tight bends. Then, to my initial surprise I found that by using plenty of throttle past the apex, I could encourage power oversteer on the way out.

The Turbo is the drivers’ car of the Cayenne range without a doubt, and the additional mechanical and aerodynamic systems that Porsche has devised to extend the cars dynamic envelope bear this out.

Porsche use three-chamber air suspension on both the latest Cayenne and Panamera to deliver a wider performance envelope in terms of ride comfort on the one hand, and handling and grip on the other. The basic Cayenne still has steel suspension, while the S model has steel springs with PASM as standard. The steel suspension does not have a self-levelling facility, even as an option. The Turbo has air suspension standard with 48-volt motor controlled active anti-roll bars as an option. The V6 cars can have air suspension as a cost option.

However, you cannot change the laws of physics, and there is no getting away from the fact that the Cayenne is a much taller vehicle with a higher centre of gravity that needs to resist roll. This is dealt with by the aforementioned optional active anti-roll bars whose potential 1,200 Nm (885 lb ft) of twist comes from electric motors powered by the partial 48-volt electrical system.

High-speed stability is vital in such a tall vehicle, and the Turbo comes with an active rear rooftop spoiler that stays flush in ECO mode for its optimum drag coefficient of 0.35. Over 160km/h the spoiler automatically rises into its performance position to reduce lift over the rear axle. In Sport Plus mode that angle becomes 12.6 degrees. If you have the Panorama glass roof open, the spoiler automatically rises to an angle of 19.9 degrees to compensate for the airflow disruption and the heterodyning effect of air turbulence reaching the cabin.

When you brake hard over 170km/h the rear spoiler instantly rises to its full extent of 28.2 degrees to act as an air brake that also helps the self levelling air suspension limit forward weight transfer. In braking tests from 250km/h, this function reduces the stopping distance by up to two metres.

The wheel and tyre sizes range from 8.5J and 9.5J x 19-inch with 255/55ZR19 and 275/50ZR19 tyres on the V6 cars, to 9.5J and 11.0J x 21-inch with 285/40ZR21 and 315/35ZR21 tyres on the Turbo. With this big spread in mind I set out to compare the ride quality of the Cayenne S on its basic 19-inch and optional 20-inch wheels, and then the Turbo, with its standard 21-inch footwear.

I was surprised to find that there was a lot less in it than you would think, which shows how well the chassis engineers and their tyre suppliers have done their calibration work. However, the extra mechanical grip of the larger and wider rubber, as well as their better looks is indisputable.

All Porsche cars have good brakes and the Cayenne is no exception. As usual the basic stoppers are steel with the PCCB ceramic brakes at the top end. Now, for the first time in the industry Porsche are offering an intermediate solution in the form of a new technology called PSCB (Porsche Surface Coated Brake).

The combination of a new tungsten carbide coating technology for the grey cast iron vented discs with matching brake pads, the PSCB system is said to significantly improve component longevity and reduce brake dust. However, when I spoke to the engineer in charge I was disappointed to learn that unlike PCCB, PSCB does not actually improve stopping performance.

Given that its cost is halfway to the PCCB system, which does improve braking performance and reduces unsprung weight, I would go for PCCB every time and chalk it up on the leasing contract. The new PSCB brakes are standard on the Turbo, so this is a question that only Cayenne and S buyers will have to consider.

While the Turbo is the drivers’ car of the bunch, the S probably strikes the best overall balance for most people. By raising its game in terms of ride, handling, refinement, and overall efficiency, Porsche’s new Cayenne consolidates and builds on the achievements of its forbearers, and once again leaves its class rivals in the dust.

Copyright 2016 Society Magazine, All Rights Reserved.