Road tests / 28 December 2018, 07:30am / Pritesh Ruthun
Johannesburg - Porsche calls its new Cayenne SUV a sports car for five. It’s wide, tall, long and it can even climb rocks and dig through mud trails. It’s the kind of car that’s perfect if you and your friends enjoy riding mountain bikes, or if you have a family to accommodate, and you enjoy driving fast whenever you can.
In a time where cars are becoming more autonomous, it’s refreshing to drive a premium, sporty vehicle that isn’t festooned with self-drive gimmicks. Sure, the Cayenne is laden with safety technologies, but I’m talking about the lazy self-steer systems and auto-cruise functions that are allegedly going to become commonplace in vehicles.
So what is the new Cayenne S like to drive then? Well, it’s a rather large vehicle to begin with, so it’s not as nimble as the 911 it seeks to replace in your garages, dads.
Measuring in at 1696mm in height, 1983mm in width, with a 2895mm wheelbase, it’s buff. Bumper to bumper it measures 4918mm in length, so you know you’ve got to watch out for tight parking spaces and narrow entrances into undercover parking lots.
Fortunately, the steering system on the new Cayenne S is simply sublime. Light and easy to rotate at low speed and then firm and meaty as speeds pick up. It’s genuinely well-damped too, and the ride comfort was shockingly good for a non-air suspension model. Unless you plan on taking your Cayenne S offroad in a serious way, there’s really no need to spend extra dosh on air suspension.
If you’d like to spend some cash on options, rather trick out your car with larger wheels. Our car had optional 20-inch units, but you can get up to 21-inch if you prefer full ‘baller’ status.
From the driver’s seat, the view is excellent. Relatively thin A-pillars give a good view at intersections and the view over the shoulder to check blind spots is also comfortable. I did battle to park the Cayenne sometimes, though, as we have a tight parking tower to negotiate at the office. Fortunately the test car came with cameras all round for fine-tuned manoeuvring.
On the road, thanks to a free-revving 2.9-litre biturbo V6 engine, the Cayenne S feels fast, and it overtakes with ease. Much of the cars finesse and pace is thanks to a slick shifting eight-speed autobox. No fancy PDK type tech here, just a good old-fashioned torque converter at work.
Different driving modes also help the Cayenne along the way. Sport Plus, as you would imagine is best for spirited driving. You could use Comfort mode, but seriously...just leave it in Sport Plus and enjoy the responsiveness and boost of the turbo engine.
0-100km/h takes just 5.2 seconds, and top speed is pegged at 265km/h. Power, well, that’s rated at 324kW. Torque is 550Nm.
On test, I managed just under 15 l/100km, which is not bad considering I drove it more like a 911 and less like a Cayenne. Driven sensibly, you can achieve sub 9 l/100km on the highway.
Porsche not only makes a great-to-drive car in the latest Cayenne, the company also delivers on the interior. It’s plush, soft touch leather, even on the dash in our test car, with quality plastics and metals everywhere; it’s a great place to be in traffic.
I particularly enjoyed fiddling around with the Cayenne’s voice control system, which responds to natural language processing inputs. Simply say ‘It’s getting cold in here’ after pressing the voice control button on the indicator stalk and the car will raise the climate control’s temps by 2 degrees. Other voice inputs work too...such as, ‘Where’s the nearest McDonalds’, if you’re feeling peckish.
In terms of space, you’ll have at least 700 litres of trunk room before you start folding its seats flat and whether you’re an adventurer or an executive, you will enjoy this vehicle’s blend of sportiness and usefulness.
So, is the Cayenne S really a high-riding 911? No, it’s not. What it is, is one of the best-handling large SUVs on sale today. When bounding along at reasonable highway speeds, you may as well be in a Panamera or a Bentley GT car of some sort.
It really is that comfy. And, when the roads get twisty, rotate that steering mounted Drive Mode switch and you can attack corners like you’re in a rear-drive sports car. Ok, it’s big and heavy and not as dynamic as a 911 will ever be, but it is a very good vehicle, at a very reasonable price compared to what else is out there at this level. Prices start at R1 296 000 if you take it with a three-year Driveplan maintenance contract with Porsche South Africa.