Cape Town - If you look at the new Cayenne from the front, at a glance, you would be forgiven for thinking it is a mild facelift of the old car.
It is only when you see the behemoth from the rear that you get a glimpse of a light bar that runs across the tailgate in a very 911-esque fashion; signalling that it is in fact the newest one.
Now in its third generation, the Cayenne has proven a hit amongst motorists around the world, basically because it blends the performance that people expect of the Stuttgart nameplate with the practicality of a big-bodied day-to-day SUV.
Wet roads, hail and glints of sunshine along some parts of the west coast of South Africa allowed me to explore the dynamics and refinement of the new Cayenne, of which three derivatives were made available to sample.
Powerful turbo engines, a new eight-speed automatic gearbox and a new chassis, coupled with innovative digital displays and a natural language processing (NLP) voice control concept.
It is a technical masterpiece even at ‘entry-level’. The NLP system, for example, allows you to raise the temperature of the cabin by simply saying to the car, ‘I’m feeling cold.’ NLP tools read this command and increase the climate control by two degrees Celsius.
Under the hood, there are two newly developed six-cylinder engines to choose from in the Cayenne and Cayenne S. The Cayenne is offered with a 250kW, three-litre turbocharged unit that delivers 29 kW more than the previous version. A 2.9-litre V6 biturbo engine in the Cayenne S is blessed with 324kW; an increase of 15kW compared to its predecessor.
If you select the optional Sport Chrono Package in your Cayenne S when purchasing one, it will enable the car to sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in less than five seconds using the system’s performance start function. Both cars feel fast, but the Cayenne S naturally gets up to greater mischief as it is capable of around 265km/h at full taps. And, it is not the speed that is overwhelming in the new Cayenne and Cayenne S; it is the way the pair ride and handle (considering they weigh as much as baby orca whales).
Sure, steering feel is all but void here, but there’s plenty of grip and plenty of accuracy in the steering itself, allowing you to go fast with confidence in the twisty stuff. It’s no 911, but it’ll do things that aren’t considered ‘normal’ in large family estate-type vehicles.
The biggest benefit of the latest range however comes in the standard Cayenne, now turbocharged, making it a properly entertaining car to drive. Where the old Cayenne felt like a huge car with a tiny engine, this new Cayenne feels light, nimble and able to overtake without having to wring its neck (at Gauteng altitude).
The Cayenne and Cayenne S exterior length has increased by 63mm, but its wheelbase remains unchanged at 2895mm. Roof height has been reduced by nine millimetres (compared to its predecessor). The vehicle therefore comes in at 4918mm in length and 1983mm in width (excluding mirrors).
Most handy, if you do plan on using the Cayenne as a family car, is that Porsche has increased the luggage compartment volume by 100 litres, now offering 770 litres of cargo-carrying capacity.
Also, wheels are one inch larger in diameter compared to outgoing models, with wider tyres on the rear axle for the first time to emphasise the athletic driving dynamics of the model.
Both Cayenne and Cayenne S run on air suspension and will be at home in the dirt (with off-road tyres) thanks to a variety of off-road driving programmes, similar to the systems used in the new Volkswagen Touareg.
One of the coolest new features on the new Cayenne range, however, is the four-wheel-steer system that comes in the 911 and Panamera. I experienced the technology on the new cayenne Turbo, which is powered by a new 404kW biturbo V8 engine.
To say that the Cayenne Turbo is fast is an understatement, because it can blitz the 0-100km/h sprint in less than four seconds when fitted with Sport Chrono. It tops out at 286km/h.
Like the Cayenne and Cayenne S, the Turbo is dripping with technology, luxury and convenience. Heck, the Turbo even comes with a nifty rear spoiler that’s able to deploy at various angles (depending on speed) to deliver aero stability. The spoiler will even work as an airbrake under extreme stopping circumstances.
At this point it’s also worth mentioning that all Cayenne derivatives are now built on 48-volt architecture, which allow for much more powerful electric motors and pumps to be used in its body-roll mitigation and suspension systems.
This is why the Turbo corners flat, and then it’s able to soak up bumps. It truly struck me as a best of both worlds car in that it can be blisteringly quick and yet at the same time practical enough to be used on school runs.
In terms of fuel consumption, our launch drives were quite brisk, which led to higher than claimed figures, but if you drive ‘normally’ there’s a good chance that Porsche’s claimed figures can be achieved. The manufacturer claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 9l/100km for the Cayenne, while the dual-turbo Cayenne S is claimed to sip 9.2l/100km. The Turbo, driven with restraint, can sip as little as 11.7l/100km.
Porsche will be introducing a hybrid version of the Cayenne in the new future and you can also expect GTS and maybe even a Turbo S model later on. For now, prices start at a shade over R1.1 million.
If you want one, there’s really nothing wrong with the base model anymore, but the S model also represents great ‘value’ without having to stretch your budget for the breathtaking Turbo derivative.
R1 142 000
R1 296 000
R2 158 000
R1 690 000
All new Porsche Cayenne derivatives come with a three-year Porsche Driveplan as standard to cover your vehicle maintenance costs.