A fresh start for Stuttgart’s most profitable invention
Increasingly these days, manufacturers grow impatient waiting to show their wares at the next motor show, not least because they’ll have to compete for column inches with their rivals. So we are now used to a steady drip of teased images, leaked materials and official briefings in advance.
Porsche has now taken this to the next step, which is how I find myself in the improbable position of being able to bring you proper driving impressions of the new Porsche Cayenne some time before the car receives its global unveiling at the Frankfurt Motor Show in mid-September.
The Cayenne is the most lucrative car Porsche has made, so while this third-generation model is new from the ground up, it’s probably not too surprising to learn it performs its new role with a completely straight bat.
There were no diesel versions available for me to drive and Porsche is not even admitting to the hybrids the whole world knows are coming, but I did spend a number of hours driving both the standard petrol Cayenne and its quicker sister the Cayenne S.
Like the Bentley Bentayga and Audi Q7, the Cayenne is based on VW’s MLB platform, but it’s the first to use the short chassis version, abbreviated in the wheelbase by 100mm in the interests of agility. Porsche will provide no outputs for the two V6 engines I sampled, but nor do they need to, for not even they deny these are the same engines already in the new Panamera and Panamera S. In those cars they develop 325bhp and 434bhp respectively. I can’t show you an interior either, but if you look at all the TFT screens and button-free, pressure-sensitive piano black surfaces that make the Panamera cabin such an extraordinary place to sit, you’ll have a fair idea of what the Cayenne has to offer.
The driving position is predictably high, the view out appropriately expansive. And they’re quick: even the base Cayenne will hit 62mph in under 6sec, an improvement of at least 1.5sec compared to the current car. The S will knock at least a further second off that time, which when you consider the still quicker GTS, Turbo and Turbo S models still to come, is genuinely quite something.
Oddly I preferred the sound and response of the less powerful engine as the S motor felt a little coarse and strained at maximum attack, but you cannot argue with the results. Interestingly I also preferred the handling of the cheaper car, which was fitted with standard steel springs. With optional air suspension the S rides fabulously well, but feels rather aloof and more like a conventional large SUV, albeit it a rather quick one. On steel – and strange though it seems to write it – the Cayenne is not only a two-tonne SUV, but also something of a driver’s car.
Although I did travel in it, I can’t tell you whether the same applies to the Turbo. The available car was one step further back on the development path and Porsche’s engineers were not confident it would give a representative account of itself. So while I loathe those reviews brought to you from the passenger seat – especially when journalists go fumbling around for conclusions that simply aren’t there to be had – I can tell you without fear of contradiction that it is immensely fast. And with a likely 542bhp it would seem strange were it anything else. Beyond that, I’d not like to speculate.
I’ll bring more reviews of other models when they become available through more conventional means. For now, however, I’d say Porsche’s plan simply to reinvent what it already had looks on course for success.
Porsche Cayenne S
Price £tba Engine 2.9 litres, 6 cylinders, turbocharged Power[email protected] (approx) Torque 405lb [email protected] (approx) Weight 2100kg (approx) Power to weight 207bhp per tonne (approx) Transmission eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 0-62mph 4.8sec (approx) Top speed 155mph (limited) Economytba CO2 tba