Porsche purists have never been terribly fond of the Cayenne. They feel that it defocuses the brand and chips away at the racing pedigree of the Porsche name. To a certain extent, one can understand this view. For a large SUV to suddenly become one of the biggest sellers of a company synonymous with sportscars is a rather odd development, and one that is sure to irk aficionados. But this view of things isn’t terribly fair. As we all know, the SUV segment has grown rapidly over the last decade or so, and one can hardly blame a company for sticking a toe into these profitable waters, especially when that company’s product line is narrow in scope and at the (very) pricey end of the spectrum. Nowadays, a lot of people with the sort of money needed to afford a Porsche actually want a luxury SUV. So why not give them both? And to Porsche’s credit, it didn’t abandon its focus on sportiness when it penned the Cayenne. In fact, the Cayenne remains one of the few truly sporty SUVs available on the market. Yes, it sells well because it is plush and flashy and carries the Porsche name, but it also sells well because it offers a great drive. Of course, it is big and heavy, so it will never handle like a road-hugging sportscar, but still does tremendously well.
It would not be unfair to say that the Cayenne has been instrumental in the creation of the performance SUV segment. Had Porsche’s SUV not turned out to be such a success (and when it was launched in 2002, it must surely have been seen as a tremendous gamble by top-level execs), vehicles such as the BMW X6 and Range Rover Sport probably never would have materialised.However, competition is growing. It seems increasingly likely that Lamborghini will create some sort of SUV in the not-too-distant future. It also appears fairly certain that Mercedes-Benz will start producing a sporty X6-like vehicle in 2015.
The most imminent new threat to the Cayenne’s throne, though, is the all-new Range Rover Sport. The previous model already set its sights on the Cayenne, and brought some sportiness to the Land Rover brand, but it didn’t quite have the dynamic handling and flair needed to tackle the Cayenne. The new model seems like a different story altogether. We had an opportunity to test a prototype vehicle at Land Rover’s UK test track a while ago, and the Sport left us very impressed. It handled incredibly well and was very brisk. It also sported all sort of impressive gizmos and gadgets to assist with handling, such as Adaptive Dynamics, which monitors vehicle movements 500 times a second, providing an incredibly flat and composed ride. In terms of comfort, elegance, handling and design, the Sport appears on par with the Cayenne. Its striking design is likely to be its greatest asset, as a lot of people have never been terribly fond of the Cayenne’s looks. That said, it will have a shortcoming. Firstly, only two engines will be available at launch: a three-litre V6 oilburner that offers 215 kW, and a 375 kW five-litre V8 petrol powerplant. Now, the Cayenne is available with similar engines (a 180 kW diesel and 405 kW V8 petrol), but it has a whole bunch of other engine options in between. Those looking for something a bit meatier than a V6 diesel, but not as burly as a V8, won’t have anything to opt for when looking at the Range Rover Sport. The Cayenne has a Diesel S model, for example that generates 281 kW, and GTS model that offers 309 kW. The Sport also promises to be a bit more expensive than the Cayenne, though once you start ticking all those optional extras on the Cayenne, there won’t be much of a price difference. It also seems likely that other engine options will follow once the vehicle has been launched. Overall, the Range Rover Sport seems like a great-looking SUV that offers a fantastic ride. It promises to offer the Cayenne some real competition!