Ferry Porsche once said: "If we built an off-road vehicle according to our standards of quality, and it had a Porsche crest on the front, people would buy it."
True enough, the third generation Cayenne comes behind the footsteps of tremendously successful predecessors; arguably Porsche's most successful model and best business decision ever.
And so Porsche brought us to the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia for the regional launch of the third-generation Cayenne; a venue especially chosen to highlight the sporting heritage and DNA of the German automaker. The first wave comes in three versions: (standard) Cayenne, Cayenne S, and Cayenne Turbo.
In terms of styling, the new Cayenne loses the hefty appeal and now comes with a sleeker and sportier profile. It gets a wider look thanks to application of width-oriented profile and more horizontal accents on the bumper grills. The headlights feature Porsche's current signature 4-LED daytime-running-lights.
The rear gets a very Panamera Sport Turismo appeal, from the small quarter panel glass to the one-piece design tail lights.
Size-wise, it sits on the same 2895mm wheelbase as its predecessor, Porsche has stretched the body by 63mm and lowered the roof by 9mm, while width remains the same. This minor adjustment offers 100-liters more cargo space.
Inside, you still have the signature Cayenne 'grab handles', but most of center controls buttons are now manipulated via the touch sensitive glass panel interface. The instrumentation also gets a glass panel display which has a one-piece look as the blacked-out design extends to the opposite end.
Really though, five things make the new Cayenne unique: the rear-axle steering, the Porsche Surface Coated Brake (PSCB) with hard tungsten-carbide coated rotors, the adaptive roof spoiler (Turbo variant), the Sport Response Button (overboost function for Sport Chrono equipped models), and five programmed on and off-road modes.
Under the hood, the new Cayenne initially comes with a trio of exclusively turbocharged gasoline engines. The choices are a 3.0-liter V6 which puts out 340 PS and 450 Nm, 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 rated at 440 PS and 550 Nm, and a smaller but more potent top-range 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 rated at 558 PS and 770 Nm. All engines are mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox. E-hybrid and diesel versions are expected to follow later on.
First order of the day was to put the new programmed off-road modes to the test. We set off in a fleet of Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne S models to a special off-road course outside the circuit. These simulated different terrains which a 'very adventurous' Cayenne owner would actually be willing to bring their usually on-road SUV to. It was shared that less than 5% of buyers actually take their vehicles off-road despite the capability and technology.
The Cayenne does boast of 240mm ground clearance, a ramp angle of over 21 degrees, and a water wading depth of 525mm. Selectable off-road modes include: gravel, mud, sand, and rocks.
We drove mostly on 'mud' mode and tackled mild obstacles which sampled the ground clearance, all-wheel drive system on a sidehill, downhill assist with selectable speeds of 3km/h to 6km/h, and a slight sample of 'rock crawling' on 'rocks' mode. We also got to use the optional 'Surround View' mode which gives you a look of what's ahead instead of just the sky while approaching the top of a hill.
An optional 'Offroad Package' adds additional displays such as steering angle, transverse gradient and longitudinal incline. But this is unlikely to be availed by buyers unless they're part of the 'less than 5%'.
To sample the new 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 on the S version, we went out for a lapping session on the circuit. It felt quite responsive and the tiptronic transmission seems well-matched to the task. It was more like driving a sportscar than a hefty SUV. The track session also allowed us compare three differently configured Cayenne S models: one with PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), one with rear-axle steering, and one with neither.
It's odd that we started with the PDCC equipped car; every time we moved to a vehicle without it, it felt like you suddenly sucked at driving. It just felt so much more confident with the active anti-roll system on corners. It's also supposed to reduced lateral sway on rippled road surfaces. With rear-axle steering, turning felt a bit lighter with a bit of roll (without PDCC), requiring less steering input. Without either of the two, the Cayenne felt less agile and required a lot more attention. Never spec your Cayenne without these.
The new 'Sport Response Button' gives an overboost effect, giving 20 seconds of 'ultra-high responsiveness' which is useful of overtaking or when you feel the need for speed, ideally on long straights. Since we were on a former F1 track, DRS automatically came into mind.
Because you're not on a racing circuit all the time, we were able to feel the difference between a Cayenne Turbo with and without rear-axle steering. Simulating day-to-day driving conditions on a slalom course, turning radius is significantly reduced when making u-turns or full turns. Maneuverability was also significantly better with the option.
The final exercise was the brake test where we got to sample the new Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PCSB). The hard tungsten carbide coated rotors are coupled with ten-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers for the rear.
Being the last group to actually test the brakes, it was a real surprise to see that there was no brake fade in any of the attempts to stop the car from high speeds. According to Porsche, the specially designed brake pads also leave a polished effect after 600-kilometers of 'normal' driving. Since the car we tested was subjected to more 'extreme' conditions, it did have a mirror-like finish for a nice 'selfie'.
To prove that the brakes produced significantly less dust, the calipers are finished in white. PCSB is standard on the Turbo and available as an option for other models, think of these as a more cost-efficient bridge between conventional cast iron discs and the PCCB. The more expensive ceramic composite brakes are still available as an option.
The new engineering, technological innovations, new styling and ability to seat more passengers truly define the 'Sportscar Together' tagline for the all-new Cayenne. It won't be long before it officially arrives in the Philippines.