When it comes to the business of building epic cars, Porsche is currently head and shoulders above every other manufacturer.
We’re fully aware that the blurb above is a contentious statement, but we urge you to have a look at Porsche’s current line-up. There isn’t a single car that isn’t a segment leader, which is a colossal achievement and kind of annoying in a way.
Like many other South Africans, we were astonished when the Guild of Motoring Journalists announced the Panamera as the 2018 car of the year. In a country where we sell more bakkies than cars and where the average purchase cost of a new car is around R300 000, the Guild seemed completely out of touch with reality by selecting a car that costs more than a million.
Here’s the thing though: outdated as that competition may be, the Porsche should have been the winner. Within the competition’s archaic rules, there could be no other victor. What we’re trying to say is that the competition was flawed, not the car.
The latest addition to Porsche’s stable is the new Cayenne and let’s not beat around the bush, it’s magnificent. It’s the best interpretation of a sporty SUV on sale in South Africa at the moment, which is another big statement but allow us to justify why we made it.
The boring bits
Let’s get the pricing out of the way so we can move on to the good stuff.
The Cayenne wears one of the most coveted badges in the business, so you’d expect it to be priced way above its direct rivals, right?
In a rather awkward move (for its rivals), the Cayenne is reasonably priced and, in many cases, actually cheaper than cars from arguably less prestigious brands. An entry-level Cayenne costs around R1.1 million with pricing going up all the way to R2.2 million. These figures seem huge, but they are on par with the rest of the segment.
The interior is beautiful, is equipped with a lot of kit as standard and, naturally, there’s an options list you can delve into should you wish.
The quality is exactly as you’d expect it should be on a Porsche but we feel it necessary to highlight the comfortable seats and that beautiful steering wheel. What a joy it would be to put your hands around it on a daily basis.
Sportscar for five
We hate to use a manufacturer’s marketing slogan in a write-up, but in this case, Porsche is spot on. Back when the Cayenne was first launched, many called it the end of the famous German brand, but it ended up being Porsche’s saving grace. The money it made out of this car funded all the brilliant vehicles that followed, and Porsche never compromised on its promise that it would always build only sporty vehicles.
Every Cayenne, from the very first ugly generation, drive beautifully. They’re engaging, effortlessly fast and, for a lack of a better description, very Porsche-ish.
Every model has that inherent sportscar composure, which allows the driver to cover ground at an alarming rate without scaring himself silly. They go around corners beautifully as well, thanks to a host of electronic trickery and good old-fashioned mechanical grip.
All you have to decide is how fast you want to cover said ground.
The range kicks off with the standard Cayenne, equipped with a turbocharged petrol V6 which delivers 250kW and is good for a 0–100km sprint time of 5.4 seconds. Even this base car is fun and the go-to model if you’re interested in ditching your hot hatch for something a bit bigger.
Next up is the Cayenne S, which features another two turbos bolted to the meaty V6. Power increases to 324kW, the sprint to 100km/h drops to 4.9 seconds and the top speed increases to 265km/h.
These figures would have been enough on a range-topping performance SUV five years ago, but we live in the era where 400+ isn’t unheard of.
Enter the Cayenne Turbo, fitted with a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 producing 404kW. It’s good for nearly 300km/h and a 0–100km/h sprint of 3.9 seconds. The performance is astounding, to say the least. We drove the 540kW Jeep TrackHawk recently and the acceleration feels quite similar. The Jeep offers a more mechanical experience whereas the Porsche is a prime example of refined brutality. Like getting sucker-punched in the pancreas by a Disney princess.
We were fortunate enough to be behind the wheel of the Turbo on the famous Franschhoek Pass. Thanks to the grip provided by the four-wheel drive system and a host of smart electronic systems, the Cayenne never felt scary. In those conditions, it would have left a rear-wheel drive supercar for dead. The fact that its performance is so easily accessible is probably the most impressive feature across the entire range.
All of them can go way beyond the national speed limit, at which point they feel as steady and stable as a well-sorted performance sedan.
As for handling, it’s better than good news. The previous two generations were at the top of their game and this trend continues on the all-new Cayenne. The steering is precise and it’s a joy whether you’re doing less than 10km/h in a parking lot, or double the recommended speed on a mountain pass.
To find the limits in this car would take a very brave man. We tried our best to see whether exuberant driving results in understeer, but, honestly, the Cayenne just keeps on gripping harder and turning sharper. It feels – and we hate to say this – magical.
It all boils down to proper engineering. To understand more, we turned to Porsche South Africa’s spokesperson, who confirmed that Porsche indeed has a large number of engineers working for it. Around 6 000 to be precise, most of them with doctorate degrees… and that’s just in the research and development department. With that in mind, how could this car be anything but brilliant?
Near the end of our test drive, we started looking around the cabin to find some issues, if only to keep this write-up from sounding like a Porsche advertisement.
At one point we nearly found one. The large screen in the centre console is nice, but it would have been nicer if there was a colour display with a navigation feed within the instrument binnacle. The new Touareg has it, so it’s not too much to ask. But then we pressed one of the buttons on the steering wheel and there it was. Gosh darn it.
With nothing to criticise (even the fuel consumption is reasonable), we’ll simply say that the sunroof cover closes a bit too slowly for our liking. Not that we’ve ever noted the speed at which these things close, but it feels like the Porsche should do it faster.
So, there you go. Epic car, Porsche. Yet another segment leader in the bag. But please ask the team of magical engineers to make the sunroof a bit faster on the facelift.
Porsche Cayenne R1142000
Porsche Cayenne S R1296000
Porsche Cayenne Turbo R2158000