2007 Porsche Cayenne
Nip and truck
*I screamed, yelled, kicked and otherwise threw a tantrum when Porsche announced it was going to build an SUV. The world didn't need another of 'those' cars, and the fact that Porsche was caving in to this mentality just threw gas on the fire. I was ready to hold my breath until this car went away-that'd show 'em.
Porsche's Cayenne has proven to be one of its most contentious yet successful models ever. From its inception more than five years ago, Porsche purists flagellated themselves at the idea of something other than the 911 hailing from Stuttgart. And yet, some 150,000 Cayennes have been sold, many to drivers who never owned a Porsche before. These are what car makers refer to as 'conquest buys' and they make top brass giddy as hell.
In an effort to get me breathing again, Porsche let us park a Cayenne in our garage for more than a year. I cast suspicious glances at it every chance I got. Then one day I drove it home. And actually liked it. It proved to be an especially capable car and not lacking in sporty appeal. Did it fool drivers into thinking it was a lifted 911? Sometimes, but many folks who drove the Cayenne didn't care about its pedigree. A good car is a good car-no matter who builds it. The Cayenne qualifies as such.
This year will see the three Cayenne models undergo moderate upgrades, making them more powerful, more agile and more comfortable. Porsche has begun using direct fuel injection (DFI) in all its Cayenne engines, which both improves performance and increases fuel efficiency. It makes for an especially big improvement on the standard 3.6-liter V6 unit (enlarged from 3.2), which now produces a respectable 290 bhp and 283 lb-ft of torque. Outfitted with a six-speed manual transmission (yes, you can spec one out with a manual tranny), the 'base' Cayenne proves to be a nice ride, one we flogged both on- and off-road. A clear stretch of pavement let us see speeds in excess of 140 mph, quite a feat considering the vehicle's size. Porsche has smoothed the Cayenne's edges to improve its profile and significantly reduced its drag coefficient to a smaller 0.35. Like its predecessor, the ride quality is exceptionally smooth and the car possesses a tank-like solidity. So it surprises more than a few people when this fairly stout piece of work behaves like a proper, albeit big, sports car.
We drove the Cayenne S next. Porsche has revamped its V8 with VarioCam Plus infinitely variable valve timing and DFI. This produces some 40 more horses, for a grand total of 385 bhp and 369 lb-ft. It is one of the sweeter-sounding V8s out there and I wouldn't mind hearing it completely unmuffled. Porsche claims the S will breach zero to 62 mph in 6.8 seconds and top out at 156 mph. Paradoxically, its behavior off road is remarkable. Dropped into low gear via Porsche Traction Management (PTM), the Cayenne S assumes a stump-pulling 2.7:1 drive ratio, good enough to climb formidable inclines. An electronically controlled multi-plate clutch can place up to 100 percent power to whichever set of wheels can best use it. Should the ground be exceedingly rough, with individual wheels lifting off the ground, PTM will switch to 100 percent lock-up. It's almost scary how well the Cayenne covers steep terrain, scary because you've got to descend what you've climbed (and getting down is the tough part of off-road excursions). As one of our off-road magazine editors said: "The Cayenne is a very capable off-roader. You wouldn't think so, but this thing can really climb."
Each transmission-manual or Tiptronic-has been assembled with gears cut from stronger material. Throw Porsche's air suspension with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) in the mix and you've got an incredibly capable vehicle. Fully lifted, the Cayenne's air suspension provides almost 11 inches of ground clearance. Not quite Rubicon material, but still mighty impressive nonetheless.
By Porsche's own admission (and my personal experience), few if any Cayennes will ever see the type of off-road activity we saw on the launch. A fighting bull ranch provided a full range of off-road challenges including 40-degree inclines, water crossings and angry bulls. In my dad's Jeep, our bodies would have been thrown from side to side, but it wasn't the case here. This Cayenne was equipped with PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), a system comprised of active anti-roll bars. PDCC integrates a hydraulic swivel motor into the front and rear anti-roll bars and manages their torsional forces through various sensors and a dedicated computer-Skyhook. When Skyhook senses lateral movement, it counters the motion with opposite force. The Cayenne tip-toes over obstacles like a waiter serving drinks during an earthquake. PDCC works on smooth pavement as well, providing countering load forces up to 0.65 g, after which PDCC gradually progresses to normal lean.
Power freaks will rejoice as the new Cayenne Turbo has achieved the 500-bhp mark. It has gone from fast to scary-fast, and its 5000-plus-pound curb weight does little to crush its spirit. With a torque band that seems to be everywhere, I was passing other drivers six at a time. The Cayenne Turbo also features distinctive aerodynamics and a quad-exit exhaust-no one will ever mistake your Turbo for a base Cayenne. Moreover, its 171-mph top speed and scorching 4.9-second zero-to-60 dash will leave it in a class by itself. Nothing this big should be this fast.
You could say the Cayenne has been over-built, infused with capabilities most owners will never, ever use. I'd expect nothing less from Porsche.
2007 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.8-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Six-speed automatic (Tiptronic S)
Double track control arm front axle, multi-arm rear, PASM
Two-circuit system with ABS
Length x Width x Height (in.): 188.8 x 75.9 x 66.7
Wheelbase: 112.4 in.
Curb Weight: 5193 lbs
Peak Power: 500 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.9 sec
Top Speed: 171 mph
Why we love it: Sports car ride, off-road prowess
Why we don't: SUV stigma with the associated fuel economy
The price tag: $102,770