Jude P. Morte / Ramon Sy, Jude Morte | November 09, 2007 00:00
Hotter and spicier the second time aroundWhen the Porsche Cayenne first came out, people weren't really sure if the concept would work. After all, even Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson admitted that the VW and Porsche-developed vehicle defeats the purpose of building an SUV with the soul of a sportscar, much as "non-alcohol lager defeats the objective or Land Rover building a rear-engined sports car."
But even the naysayers didn't doubt the sales charts. Worldwide sales of the Cayenne are running at double the rate of 20,000 units per year that Porsche originally forecasted.
But with a slowdown in sales by 2006's fourth quarter, the little German sports car company deemed it fit to skip the 2007 model year and introduced an all-new model for 2008's entirety. What can it bring to the SUV table this time?
Hop inside and you'll notice that not much has changed from the previous model, with only audio entertainment design perhaps the only negative. In fact, the OE head unit looks too much like those Pioneer head units with multiple FM preset buttons that were en vogue in the early 90s. Storage-wise, there are lots of places to throw in small items and the rearmost section fits in a balikbayan box plus four to five large duffel bags. The bad news is that rear door storage is narrow, the glovebox is small, and opening/closing the rear hatch takes time and effort. Yes, the key fob has a button that allows for automatic opening of the said hatch and a button on the right rearmost part of the luggage area that allows for automatic closing, but it takes too long, deterring the family man in a hurry to get home with the groceries.
Not much has changed with the exterior either, with a revised front end and squintier headlights the most obvious changes. For the Porsche purist the design may look revolting, but for the casual observer a Porsche is a Porsche, and when they see the unique badge their facial expressions are all agog with wonder (and occasional envy).
Just because it's a Cayenne (a P6.35 million base model V6 in particular) doesn't mean that it's not as fast as its sports car siblings. At 3000 rpm there's a slight surge under your seat, and delivery is linear (but not steep) that its tested 230 kph top speed can be reached easily. In fact the six-speed Tiptronic manual mode (which is a big help on emergency lane changes) was rarely used due to the strong engine. The only drawbacks? One is the thirsty V6; four days of mixed driving yielded 8.5 km/l. The second is the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters with raised bumps; using them to shift gears could hurt your thumbs after awhile. Now if they were designed similarly to those found on the Honda Jazz CVT, then sprained thumbs would be less frequent.
Hurl the SUV on sharp turns and it stays composed on turn-in and exit. The Michelin Latitude 255/55R18s break grip at 105 kph, and there's little body roll. Overall the ride is comfortable, but the normal and sport settings of the adaptive air suspension are a bit harsh but tolerable. Steering is sharp on turn-in and a bit blunt on exit, but overall the steering is light and precise. It may not have the light feel of the Audi Q7, but the feedback is more precise than its four interlocking-ringed close relative.
There's no doubt about the Cayenne's safety measures. The brakes display minimal fade, with the ABS waking up at three-fourths effort. Exterior lighting is bright, and the side mirrors (which have power-assisted folding) have a sight line that extends to the second outermost lanes from the SUV's flanks. Deactivating the footbrake is a problem, as the exterior lighting knob obstructs its location. Another irritant are the front/rear sensors, which are sensitive from 1.5 to three feet and have a hard-to-find ceiling mounted on/off button.
It's possible to question whether the new Porsche Cayenne really represents a second-generation leap or just a technology transfusion, but it's clear that even a chili pepper of an SUV is hotter and spicier the second time around.