It's true the ec staff logs more frequent flyer mileage than we care to admit, with three scheduled trips to Europe inNovember alone. This said, we often look forward to a good road trip. While flying is in many cases the only option, nothing quite compares to a nice leisurely drive. Each of the staff has opted to get behind the wheel rather than fly at one time or another.
For the past 15 years, Editor Bidrawn has consistently passed on flying to SEMA, preferring the long, yet comfortably familiar drive to Vegas. Considering the time spent in airport security screening lines and the related hustle, who can blame him? Funke has driven a Murcielago half way across the country. It's an exceptionally long drive in a car built for the track and a marked target going through ball-buster states like Texas, but wouldn't you have jumped at the chance? Damn straight.
Recently, I arranged to photograph a car in Scottsdale, Ariz., and instead of trying to catch a quick flight, I gassed up our long term Cayenne S ($70 to top), loaded my gear and headed east on Interstate 10. And since I decided not to fly, I was able to pick up a hitchhiker, my wife Jen. Another benefit of driving.
The Cayenne is ideally suited for long trips. It's got ample head and leg room (even for me), comfortable seats and plenty of passing power (340 bhp). And unlike most SUVs, save for BMW's X3 and X5 and the Range Rover Sport, the Cayenne handles much like a sports car. Its sporting character is also carried over inside, where Porsche designers incorporated various attractive trims and finishes. It's an ideal balance of sport and luxury styling. Even the lighting is well executed. We especially like the backlit illumination from under the door armrests.There's also a great view of the instrumentation and most controls are easy to reach, perhaps too easy. The steering wheel-mounted shift toggles seem to get in the way and are often mistakenly hit with hand-over-hand turning. When in Tip mode, I tend to use the center-mounted gear selector. It feels much more natural when rowing through the six forward gears. Steering wheel shift buttons or toggles are meant for the backside of the wheel like true F1 paddles.
The Cayenne's audio system is state-of-the-art and an essential component for a long trip. Finally, an opportunity to play through my aging suitcase of '80s CDs. Our rig is also equipped with a handy nav system, which Jen learned to master inside and out. Although navigation is its primary function, it's designed with far more features than to just get you from point A to point B. Roughly five and a half hours later, it literally dropped us off at the main entrance of the James hotel-door to door service with a smile. How anyone got anywhere without this wonderful device is beyond me.
The Cayenne is as stylish as it is functional. And it garners respect with the all-powerful valet. He's sort of the barometer of cool. The last thing you want when you drop 80 large on a vehicle is a back space in the valet lot. The Cayenne may be an SUV, but by no means is it an ordinary one. It carries prestige and a certain panache the others simply don't. Who knew an SUV looked so good sandwiched between a Continental GT and a CLS55? For those who don't care for its styling, the Cayenne will receive a mild facelift scheduled for next year.
Driving around in the desert heat also made us appreciate the Cayenne's wonderful dual zone A/C system. It was cool and comfy, at least until the point we opened the doors and stepped out into a miserable wall of heat. One hundred and twelve degrees is perfectly fine as long as you don't have to work in it. Sweating like a dog, I broke out my gear and began shooting. As for my sidekick, well, she continued to enjoy the air-conditioned climate. Lucky her.
Later that evening, we found a great place to eat, one of those trendy hot spots with great-looking people and equally stunning cars. For that matter, the food was good too. Again, the Cayenne got front row parking. Tipping these blasted valets is going to kill me.
On our return drive the following morning, Jen noticed a sign that read "Retro Redux." It was a small boutique store that specialized in mid-century home furnishings. Before I could utter a single word, she practically grabbed the wheel and directed us into the lot. Within minutes she found a chic boomerang coffee table she swore was perfect and exactly what we needed. After a brief discussion, I agreed to make the purchase on one condition-only if it fits. Considering our baggage and all my photo gear I knew it would be an impossibility. Plus, the thing wasn't small. Tape measure in hand, I went out to the Cayenne and dropped its rear seats, then measured the total length and width of its surprisingly large cargo area (62.5 cubic feet). Long story short, a credit card was on the counter before I could say, "I don't believe it."
As far as service, the Cayenne has only required one extra visit to the dealer. In addition to regularly scheduled maintenance, it's been equipped with a new power steering reservoir, a new fuel regulator and a fresh set of Pirelli Rosso tires (275/45-19). We were a little surprised the tires didn't last longer, but the wear is probably normal given the Cayenne's 4,950-pound heft combined with its highly touted performance capabilities. And in any case, high-performance tires like the Cayenne's O.E. meats aren't known for their durability.
In the end, we made it home safe and sound, and with a rather large souvenir. The Cayenne performed beautifully in every respect. It was a bit pricey at the pumps, averaging 14 mpg, but that's rather decent considering its still an SUV. Perhaps the best.
Total Mileage: 18,245
Fuel Economy: 14.3 mpg
Thumbs Up: Super sporty handling, vast rear cargo space
Thumbs Down: Tiptronic levers on the steering wheel face, filling it with gas