FEATURE STORIES

More Than Just The Badge

More Than Just The Badge image

Text: Jude Morte / Photos: Jude Morte | posted October 06, 2008 00:00

The Porsche Cayenne Festival

For many a Porsche Cayenne owner (and those lucky enough to get behind the wheel of Porsche's only SUV), taking the unit on surfaces other than tarmac and loose (but dry) earth - or just the thought of doing the aforementioned action - is scary. After all, the potential damage when taking a Cayenne off road doesn't justify its equivalent-to-a-small apartment price tag.

But if you take a look at the Cayenne itself, it does have the ability to go off road, even through mud and hip-deep water. A platform (and air suspension) shared with the Audi Q7, horsepower, torque and power curve levels that better sports cars priced significantly less, tall approach/departure/breakover angles and ground clearance, a myriad of underchassis structural reinforcements and a variable/lockable rear differential makes wallowing in the mud (and the occasional forest/river crossing) possible.

If you still think that the Cayenne is not a true off-roader, maybe the Cayenne's participation in the Transsyberian Rally - a 14-day, 7,200-kilometer road race through some of the most hostile terrain known to man, via the backyards of Russia and most of Mongolia, ending up in the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Bator - will arouse your curiosity and pique your interest. Last year alone, 23 Porsche Cayennes (both works and privateers' units) participated in the grueling race, starting at Moscow's St. Basil Cathedral. Competitors drove through the swampy Siberia lowlands, going through 70 centimeter deep Russian mud due to rasputitza (the seemingly incessant autumn Russia rains), Siberian forests that can destroy SUVs' undercarriages, the Ural and Taiga Mountains, the 1,000,000-square kilometer Gobi Desert, a bevy of rock covered marshes and no less than 15 river crossings just to finish at Ulaan Bator. The Cayennes saw competition from works teams and privateers (including former World Rally Championship driver Armin Schwarz) in Mercedes Benz ML Classes, Volkswagen Touaregs, various Land Rover variants and Toyota FJ Cruisers, only to fall by the wayside and look on helplessly as Porsche Cayennes took all three podium positions. "We passed through all sorts of terrain, sometimes going 100 kilometers on a special stage, sometimes going 1,000-plus kilometers on transport and special stages combined. Temperatures can go as high as 45 degrees centigrade to as low as five degrees centigrade during the night and early morning. The Mongolian terrain is very hard on tires, and in certain places there (Mongolia) trying to maintain the speed limit wasn't easy. Some competitors got caught by the police, and spent a great deal of time explaining to them that they were in a race. Last year, two participants had to be airlifted out due to severe back problems sustained while going through the Siberian forests. The rally changes you inside and out," said Porsche Transsyberian Rally works driver Eddie Keng.

Just to demonstrate the Cayenne's off-road ability, PGA Cars recently took a select number of motoring journalists on a specially constructed off road course at McKinley Hills at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. With the aforementioned Eddie Keng as the event's head marshal, participants were made to go through the mud-and-water course using a 2008 Porsche Cayenne V6 shod with street tires (Michelin Latitude 255/55R18s).

With the air suspension raised to the highest setting and the part-tine four wheel drive set to 4L or Four Low (for quicker torque delivery to the wheels that need more traction, just as long as there's even a remote semblance of wheel-to-ground contact), the Cayenne eased itself through the mud until it arrived at a small water-filled crossing about knee high. Maintaining momentum while keeping the revs below 4500 rpm, the Cayenne managed to go through the crossing without water getting into the cabin and the wheels spinning.

Then the vehicle passed through another crossing - this time composed of loose and packed, mud, plus a number of unevenly-placed logs - meant to display the sound active damping ability of the air suspension coupled with Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM). PASM uses a series of sensors to monitor the Cayenne's movement under acceleration (both longitudinal and lateral) and braking as well as on non-asphalt surfaces, steering angle, brake pressure and engine torque. Once calculated, PASM modifies the damping force on each wheel in accordance with the selected four-wheel-drive and air suspension modes, resulting in reduced body movement, greater driver control and occupant comfort.

Once past the log-and-mud crossing, participants were made to climb up a 35-degree incline, then stop in the middle of the ascent, then put the SUV in reverse and let go of the brake pedal. When this writer followed the said instruction, the SUV remained motionless, with just the faint drone of the V6 and the gentle whoosh of the cold airconditioning permeating the cabin. This was meant to demonstrate the Cayenne's Porsche Hill Holder function, which uses engine braking to keep the vehicle stationary on inclines.

After accelerating from the incline to the top of the makeshift hill, scribes were then made to drive down the hill without touching the gas pedal. This showed the Cayenne's strong engine braking and Porsche's Hill Control PHC technology. A slow and steady descent occurred, with none of the occupants (this writer included, since he was the behind the wheel) getting dizzy. This is because with PHC, should one of the one or more wheels begin to lose traction, PHC compensates by applying increased engine braking on those that retain contact with the ground. This helps the driver concentrate fully on steering.

This unique Cayenne festival shows that Porsche isn't just about sportscars and going fast on tarmac. Said PGA Cars managing director Robby Niemann at the event, "There are more fun dimensions to driving than just on road."