Ever since the Porsche Cayenne debuted in 2003, it has faced a tough question: how to hold its niche in the luxury SUV market without jeopardizing the character of the Porsche brand.
Most critics and drivers agree that in terms of drivability and comfort, the Cayenne succeeded in meeting the public’s expectations. But seven years later, even though the Cayenne is now one of the company’s top-selling vehicles it still stands out as something of an anomaly in the Porsche family — like the one black sheep in a herd — and the company is looking for ways to bring it deeper into the fold. The new generation of Cayennes that entered the market this summer shows how Porsche plans to streamline this transition.
The bodywork of the Cayenne and Cayenne S Tiptronic, Cayenne Turbo, Cayenne Diesel and Cayenne S Hybrid all show noticeable development and look more in line with the Panamera — Porsche’s first four-door luxury Sedan — than their progenitors in the Cayenne line. The bodywork has taken a more forward-leaning, muscular design, incorporating elements of a sports car into what has otherwise been a utilitarian vehicle.
But the changes to this new generation of Cayennes are not just cosmetic — far from it, in fact. The specs for the new Cayenne read like a user’s manual for the Hadron Collider: “Tiptronic S automatic transmission,” “Auto Start Stop,” “recuperation of the on-board network” and “variable overrun cut-off” are but a few of the highfalutin features the Cayenne boasts.
So what does this complex jargon mean when it comes to performance? In industry terms, 23 percent higher fuel efficiency than that of earlier generations of Cayennes. To put it colloquially: more bang for your buck. Like a lot of auto manufacturers these days, Porsche has enrolled itself in a serious weight-loss regime. They’re trimming excess mass wherever it can be found, shifting to lighter-weight materials — carbon fiber in particular — and pioneering intelligent technology to capture energy, conserve expenditure and transfer power to rechargeable sources. That process has shaved the new generation of Cayennes down by almost 200 kilos.
Easy on the gas
Fuel economy is particularly an issue as Europe prepares to begin enforcing stringent CO2 emissions caps and the United States mulls over its own fuel economy standards. Porsche’s response to this is the upcoming Cayenne S. Hybrid, the company’s first fusion gas-electric vehicle. In terms of mechanics, the company had been at pains to draw attention to its Tiptronic 8-Speed Automatic transmission, available in two of the new Cayenne models. The tiptronic transmission operates in generally the same manner as an ordinary automatic transmission, but offers the driver a manual override feature to force-change gears on their own. This gives the driver control over faster acceleration, engine breaking, gear holding going in and out of curves, downshifting before passing or early upshifting for cruising. Veteran Porsche drivers may wonder why the new Cayennes don’t include the dual-clutch transmission of the Carrera and Panamera, which has proven a favorite feature among drivers; the company claims that the dual clutch module does not fit size-wise with the Cayenne’s mechanical make-up.
The new Cayennes are only slightly larger, but there’s a noticeable difference in space from inside the vehicle. A number of subtle interior adjustments, including a slight tip to the angle of the passenger seats, gives a little more legroom in the already ample interior.
Do the new generations fundamentally redefine the model’s personality? No, probably not. But they do suggest a clear direction that the Cayenne, and Porsche in general, is taking. The new line is increasingly efficient, and has taken notes from other Porsches from both ends of the spectrum, adding subtly to drivability, luxury and power. While priority has clearly been given to a higher standard of fuel economy, it is also clear that Porsche doesn’t want to lose touch with its sports car roots, and is moving forward with a clear vision of a unified image for all its cars, whether they be SUV, sedan or sport.