First drive: Porsche Cayenne V6 2011 in the UAE
It seems like just yesterday when the world proclaimed the Cayenne as blasphemous to the Porsche cause. And yet, the Cayenne became Porsche’s best-selling model as soon as it was launched in late 2001. The formula continues with the new-generation model, redesigned from the ground up, and much more in tune with the Porsche philosophy.
The styling is still something of an acquired taste. Grafting a 911 front-end to a generic 4×4 body was never going to look good, but after nearly a decade of “getting used to it”, we find it sort of attractive. Our V6 model came with external options such as 20-inch “RS Spyder Design” wheels, steel bumper plates, sports exhaust system and “deleted” Cayenne badges.
And the Porsche options list, as usual, is long enough to make you go bankrupt. Of course, you don’t seem to get certain basic luxuries for the base price of Dhs 249,000, as our test vehicle came with Dhs 59,000 worth of extras, including rear camera with sensors, Bose Surround Sound and a power tailgate, among others. But you’d have to pay more for keyless start, adaptive cruise control, vented seats, turning headlights and all that.
As outfitted, our Cayenne had an amazing brown/orangey-beige interior, with leather on the dashboard, on the doors, on the console and on the window pillars. The design itself is stunning too, if somewhat impractical, with a centre-console that rises up to the dash, but with no storage compartments beyond the glove-box, centre-armrest and door pockets. Further premium touches include metal a/c vents, real wood trim and leathery grab handles. Oddly enough, the door armrests were not padded under the leather, so your elbows may complain on long drives.
Cabin space is excellent, and there are four separate controls for the four-zone a/c, while the touchscreen controls the superb stereo, navigation and Bluetooth phone.
The base Cayenne uses a VW-sourced 3.6-litre V6, producing 300 hp at 6300 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm, very good numbers, especially when mated to an 8-speed automatic. Interestingly, it sounds just like the 911’s gruff 3.8-litre flat-6 at full throttle, thanks to the sports exhaust. During our August test, the best 0-100 kph time we managed was 8.9 seconds, although we had some trouble getting a consistent launch because, as we later realised, our car has an automatic start/stop feature that shuts off the engine on standstill to save petrol. Generally, it feels faster though, almost like a V8, thanks to all those gears, and speaking of petrol, we scored a consumption figure of 13.6 litres/100 km. That’s very respectable for a 2070-kilo midsize SUV.
As for the handling, it is phenomenal. We were throwing the big Cayenne into corners like it was a sports sedan, with hardly any complaint from the tyres. The steering is a bit firm, with limited feedback, but is very sharp in responding to small inputs. The brakes feel a bit vague, but they seem to stop the SUV pretty well. There was hardly any body roll either, surprising considering our tester did not have the optional adaptive air suspension.
Even more surprising was the comfortable ride quality. Without the aid of fancy electronics, the Cayenne’s regular suspension is very smooth on most road surfaces, with only a slight hint of firmness over some rough patches. Wind and road noise are muted, while the engine is quiet at highway speeds, roaring only when the pedal hits the metal.
As for offroading, the new all-wheel-drive Cayenne lacks low-range gearing, but still comes with electronic locking diffs, hill-descent control and defeatable traction control. Porsche claims that a short first gear negates the need for the usual “4LO” setting. Ground clearance and approach angles are decent for a crossover. We drove over soft sand, without deflating the tyres on our 20-inchers, and noticed that the car bogs down a bit but still keeps moving at a decent pace. We’d suggest sticking to the standard 18-inch wheels if you plan to hit the dunes.
So there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about with the Porsche Cayenne. It is truly a superb piece of machinery, even in base form, impeccably built and available with every conceivable option should you choose to open your wallet. It may be expensive, but it is one of the few premium-badged vehicles that is truly worth it.