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Third Generation of Porsche’s First SUV Porsche Cayenne e-Hybrid

The first generation Porsche Cayenne was controversial in many ways. It was an SUV from a brand that was built on sports cars and racing. Many said it would be the end of the brand; a dilution of a winning formula. Others said Porsche was ‘selling out’; following the trends of the market rather than staying true to their core. Then there were those who criticized the platform it shared, calling it a glorified Volkswagen Touareg. Many magazines were equally scathing with the looks too with ‘what happens when you leave a 911 in the kitchen too long’ - jokes.

Porsche took no notice, as expected. The Cayenne was a tremendous success, so much so that it established a niche, all on its own, for the premium, performance SUV. Those who drove it, and pushed it to the limits while doing so realized that physics could indeed be defied with intelligent engineering. Not only did the Cayenne hold its own as a product, but also enhanced the brand value of Porsche, with sales in newer markets and among those who never considered a Porsche before simply because they couldn’t take their family with them. Other brands took notice and began to follow suit. The second generation built on this winning formula, and here we are with the third generation today.

Naturally, we were thrilled when Eurocars (Pvt) Ltd, the Porsche agent for Sri Lanka, asked Motor over to the Porsche Centre in Kelaniya to check out the 3rd Generation Cayenne and put it through its paces, although we did get a little distracted when we got to the showroom, especially by the immaculate ‘gelb’ (yellow) 993, the last air-cooled Porsche 911.

 

Exterior

First impressions are generally overrated, in many cases, but the Cayenne was an exception. True I had seen pictures online, but this was the first time seeing it in the flesh; and it did not disappoint. Our tester was finished in Biskaya Blue Metallic, named after the Bay of Biscay. Known for its dark blue seas, generally stormy and dangerous, it was apparent that Porsche got the colour fairly accurately. Unmistakably Porsche, the Cayenne looked more athletic than the previous generation, while being more aggressive, especially with more pronounced twin ridges on the bonnet, albeit subtly so. The change that was most apparent, appearance wise, was the tinted lamp clusters and the changes in LED placement, especially the rear lamp cluster. Fresh, yet pure Porsche, reminiscent of the new Panamera.

The overall shape of the Cayenne was in line with the previous generations, carrying over a few characteristics such as the large vents placed beneath the headlamps which open up electronically in stages, the accented shoulder, curves typical of a representative of the brand. The bumpers however, seemed more squared off in this iteration, echoed the new 992 911, which has remarkably boxier features.

The 21 inch alloys complemented the specification of this particular Cayenne, beautifully, and being an e-Hybrid model, featured contrasting lime-green callipers. The rear was finished off with rectangular exhausts finished in chrome. This Cayenne also has a rear wiper, which is a very significant feature for Porsches, as they were the first manufacturer to fully embrace the rear wiper after listening to customer feedback, offering custom kits for previous models as well. The rear spoiler sits beautifully in-tune with the lines of the car.

With Porsche, generally form follows function, but the execution of this concept is delivered so beautifully, that every single characteristic has a proper, definite purpose sans superficiality. This is quite apparent with the Cayenne as well.

 

Mech & Tech 

The Cayenne featured is the e-Hybrid variant, which has a petrol-fed 2,995cc turbo V6, combined with an electric motor, ant the combo pushes out 456bhp at 5,300-6,400rpm, and a mammoth 700 N.m (516 lb⋅ft) of torque at 1,340-5,300rpm. This is mated to an 8 Speed Tiptronic (Automatic) Sport Transmission with Paddle Shift and multiple drive modes switchable through the central display, or a knob on the steering wheel.

The Cayenne also has Porsche Traction Management (PTM, an active all-wheel drive system with an electronically variable, map-controlled multi-plate clutch, automatic brake differential (ABD) and anti-slip regulation (ASR). While we would need the expertise of Tech Torque guru Vimukthi to properly decipher this, I shall explain how this all translates when driving the car later on.

The suspension features Aluminium multi-link axles both for the front and rear. The car has six-piston aluminium monobloc fixed brake callipers at front, with internally ventilated disks, four-piston aluminium monobloc fixed brake calipers at the rear, again with internally ventilated disks, Porsche Stability Management (PSM) with ABS, ASR, ABD, MSR and trailer stability management, should you ever fancy towing anything; jet skis, trail-bikes or a small building (700Nm!).

The Cayenne has a low drag coefficient of 0.34 Cd. Ground Clearance is 190mm in normal height with air Suspension but can be raised to achieve 245mm ‘Off-road height’. Cayennes with Steel suspension have ground clearance of 210mm.

 

Driving Experience

If the mechanical specifications mentioned above are anything to go by, one would feel this would make for a decent driver’s car. It doesn’t. It is a brilliant driver’s car, especially considering the fact that it is first and foremost an SUV! Let me explain.

Our mission (which we accepted) was to get to the highway to stretch the Cayenne’s legs a bit, which meant getting through weekday morning traffic in Kelaniya. The Porsche handled it like a champ. In Eco mode, trudging along effortlessly, the Cayenne never felt overpowered at all, not too eager to use all that power like a dog straining at its leash. Instead it was calm and collected, waiting to unleash the power when required. The height helped navigating through chaos as well.

Once on the highway, we managed to get a few glimpses of the sheer power lurking beneath. The 3.0 litre V6 turbo coupled with the hybrid motor, delivered power in such buttery smoothness that I could hardly believe we were moving at the rate we indeed were, given the fact that this was a luxury SUV with 3 adults on board, listening to a Miami Vice playlist in supreme leather-comfort. While my passengers were being wafted along, as the driver, I felt the Cayenne communicating, giving me feedback, until I realised I was STILL IN ECO mode! While I still fail to see the logic of a Sport mode when there is a Sport+ mode, both are on offer on the Cayenne.

Switching to Sport+ is eventful, in that you feel adjustments being made to the suspension; almost tangible; ‘something in the air’ (with apologies to Phil Collins). Exhaust notes become a little more audible, mixed in with the drums of ‘In the Air Tonight’ and the power was much more forceful, handling was firmer, more composed with massive grip from those super wide tyres, as I dealt with the sweeping bends on the highway, turn in was sharper and more focused and the power was back on with zeal back on the straight. I could see two sets of eyes in the mirror enjoying the drive as well. In that moment I felt that the Cayenne truly embodies the Porsche Slogan ‘Sports car Together’. Surreal, as only when I looked in the mirror was I reminded that I was in an SUV and not a typical sports car. I just wish the exhaust note was a little louder…

 

Living with the Cayenne e-Hybrid 

Furnished, is a good adjective to use when describing the quality of the Cayenne’s interior. Wood, leather and soft-touch materials, combined with piano black and brushed steel-look surfaces really give the cabin the highest level of luxury expected in a premium vehicle. Yet, nothing is overly-superfluous. What a strangely beautiful cabin; luxurious yet practical.

The seats were leather, and very comfortable with good bolstering for spirited drives as we discovered. The door handles were nice and chunky, perhaps placed a bit too forward in the door, as closing would be made easier with a secondary recess closer to the edge of the door as well, built in to the leather arm-rest. Two handles in the centre console were beautifully finished, a legacy from the first-gen Cayenne brought forward. While the previous generation Porsche, following the theme at the time, had a host of buttons on the centre console, this iteration was a lot cleaner, featuring touch sensitive controls and well dampened toggles to change settings regarding dampers, AC and traction control. There is also a cockpit style overhead console, with controls for the sunroof, Parking sensors, and interior and map lights. This console was pleasing to look at as well, somehow reminded us of the ‘Porsche shape’ and the 356; maybe it was just us.  

It was also welcome to see economy with the use of screens. The centre display was generous in size, easy to understand, and very responsive to touch controls. Crisp and informative, and only undermined by the Sport Chrono meter which was given prominence on the dash, it was a pleasure to use to set the car up and get information like drive mode, overall economy, phone, e-hybrid status, navigation and work through the audio system, which was a Bose Surround Sound system. As you may have already noted, we played a host of 80s music through 9 amplifier channels, 14 loudspeakers, and a 200-watt active subwoofer, with a total output of 585 watts. It sounded very impressive.

Porsche’s steering wheel is a benchmark in our opinion, especially with the unobtrusive placement of buttons and controls, which never distract you from maintaining control of the vehicle. The paddles feel luxurious and purposeful, might be a bit small for some, but we thought they went well with the whole concept of the ‘unlikely hero’ vibe of the Cayenne.

The gauge cluster was a thing of beauty, with a mix of digital and analog displays, 5 circles staring back at you, but never overwhelming you with information. The two gauges on the far sides showing time and temp, and the three in the center showing vitals (G-force meter as well if selected), with the tachometer placed dead centre, featuring a digital sub-display with speed, drive mode and gear. All you need when you are focused on the road ahead. 

There was a lot of space at the back as well aided by the large windows which made the cabin seem airy and welcoming, with good visibility all around for the driver as well. Both leg room and head room was generous, although an adult in the middle seat will have some challenge with the transmission tunnel, as well as the flat middle seat. Ideally this is more of a 4 adults and 1 kid arrangement. The door bins can accommodate large water bottles, and the cargo nets behind the seat can hold sundry items and your latest copy of Motor with ease. Just under the grab handles in the rear, passengers can switch of reading lamps for their convenience as well. The Rear passengers also get AC vents and controls, as well as USB ports and a 12v power outlet for device charging.  

The luggage area was engineered just like any other SUV, with 648L of space (rising to 1,610L with rear seats folded down), wide loading bay, ample lighting from within and from the edge of the tailgate along with twin reflectors, and a retractable, removable cover as well as hooks to fasten items down. The power tailgate buttons were places on the edge of the tailgate to ensure one gets enough distance before closing it. There are also buttons inside the boot area on our test car to lower the rear suspension height, allowing better ease of placing large and heavy objects inside the boot without needing to lift them as high as normally required.

The Cayenne is loaded with a variety of useful features, designed with practicality and usability in mind, beautifully finished in luxurious materials in a technology laden, spacious cabin.

 

Safety 

The Cayenne scored 5 stars in the Euro NCAP safety tests, in standard guise. With the list of traction control and stability programs on board, as well as the impressive brakes like anti-lock brakes and stability and traction control. The car is equipped with front, front side, and full-length side-curtain airbags. The multi-collision brake system automatically applies the brakes after a collision occurs to help prevent secondary impacts. Other safety features you can add to the Cayenne include are Front and rear parking sensors, Rearview camera or a surround view camera, Porsche Dynamic Light System, Auto Dimming Rear View Mirrors Adaptive Cruise Control with a Collision Warning System.

 

Fuel Econ & Price 

Porsche rated the fuel economy of the Cayenne at 3.2L/100km or 31km/l; granted this would be in an ideal scenario under controlled test conditions, and Sri Lankan traffic conditions are far from ideal. Nevertheless, on our short test showed 12.8 km/l which was a mix of highway and start-stop traffic driving. This too is an impressive figure, with 700Nm and 462hp on tap, it is only bound to improve with engine run in, and wiser route planning. The car is designed to run on 95 Octane, which is available across the island as well. 

The team at Eurocars recommends the following options for the Sri Lankan buyer. Adaptive air suspension with level control and height adjustment incl. Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), ParkAssist (front and rear) including Surround View & 4-zone climate control; all worthy options to consider for this market. Pricing at the time of testing of our test car was Rs. 55 million, which includes the added “luxury tax”.

 

Final Words

Has the latest Cayenne stayed true to the original formula that made it a success? Indeed it has. The Cayenne is not the only player in the niche that its predecessor created, and yet somehow it still has the potential to dominate with ease. Irrespective of the competition, even those developed on the same platform, the Cayenne has characteristics unique to only Porsche, honed through years of auto racing, competition and manufacturing fine sports cars. Not only have they instilled SUV basics like practicality and usability, but also infused character into a car that defies the impression created when you first lay eyes on it. A true marvel of engineering, it is not wonder that the Cayenne nameplate is essentially the backbone of Porsche sales, and truly lives up to the 70 year heritage of the company, a meld of practicality and performance, to create a Sports car that is also Sports Utility Vehicle, truly enabling one to sports car together

 

Tech Specs

Engine

2,995cc, V6

Turbocharged

Electric Motor

456bhp @ 5,300–6,400rpm

700Nm @ 1,340–5,300rpm

 

Transmission

Eight speed tiptronic

Paddle shifters

All-wheel-drive

 

Suspension

Front Multi-link

Rear Multi-link

Air suspension

 

Brakes

Front Vent. Disk

Rear Vent. Disk

ABS, EBD

 

Wheels & Tyres

Front 285/40ZR21

Rear 315/35ZR21

 

Performance

0-100km/h in 5.0s

Top Speed 250km/h

*manufacturer figures

 

Misc

Length 4,918mm

Width 1,983mm

Height 1,696mm

Kerb Weight 2,425kg

Fuel Tank 75L

Boot Volume 648L