A likely best-seller, stripped of its soul
The Porsche Cayenne. When it was launched towards the start of the century, I said I wished it had never been built.
I acknowledge now what I failed to see then, namely that its success would enable Porsche to go on building the kind of car I hope it continues to make forever. And successful it has been: all by itself last year it sold 30,000 more units than Porsche sold in total the year before its introduction. Today it outsells every other Porsche model put together. Like it or not, it is this car that now defines the brand. By comparison the 911 is a niche product.
So forgive Porsche for appearing to change the Cayenne so little for the mid-life refresh of the current generation. There are minor modifications to the bonnet, wings and bumpers but, inside and out, it seems very much business as usual. But as ever, Porsche has been unable to resist the urge to tinker. All engines that have been carried over have been mildly massaged to improve economy and performance, while it has better suspension, a more comfortable rear seat and some new colours, too.
None of which would be enough to earn it a place in these pages. But there is one major change I thought you’d like to know about, namely the deletion of the 4.5-litre V8 motor in the Cayenne S and its replacement by a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6. On paper it’s better in every way: it’s a few tenths quicker to 62mph and has a fractionally higher top speed. Economy and emission have improved too, though not by much.
So that’s all good, then?
Actually, no. Technically Céline Dion might be a better singer than Janis Joplin, but I know which one I prefer. Porsche has taken one of the most rousing engines of any mainstream production car and replaced it with one of no discernible character at all. It’s smooth, its power delivery is even and it gets the job done. It does not urge you ever onward just so you can hear it howl, it does not make you drop three gears and lower the windows every time you enter a tunnel. It does not jump a spark to your heart whenever the key is turned.
It turns the Cayenne S from a car of considerable charm to a working tool and, if you want a Cayenne for those purposes, you can save more than £10,000 and get a basic Cayenne diesel that has more torque, will cost far less to run or tax and go much further on a tank of fuel. Or you could spend an extra £1250 (less than the price of a sunroof) and buy the Diesel S, which not only provides better performance and fuel consumption and enough torque to reverse the rotation of the earth, but also provides eight thundering cylinders and all of the personality now sadly lost to its petrol-powered brother. Either way the case for the petrol Cayenne S now seems closed.
Engine: 3.6 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged
Power: [email protected] rpm
Torque: 405lb [email protected] rpm
Transmission: eight-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 161mph