Porsche Cayenne – a family sized exotic

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

When Porsche announced around the turn of the century that it was going to jump on the SUV bandwagon and build a sport utility vehicle a collective groan could be heard from the automotive press and Porsche lovers all over the planet. (Please, somebody fetch cold compresses. Headaches are imminent).

The sports car company of the world was going to prostrate itself on the alter of SUV-dom. Truth is they just didn’t want the space next to the 911 to be anything but a Porsche.

Well, folks, five years into this experiment we must say Porsche was right — at least from a business standpoint. Look at the sales. Look at the Porsche bottom line. The German company’s cash registers have been singing profitable tunes for the past five years.

Since the first full year of Cayenne in 2003, it has accounted for about a third of Porsche sales in the U.S. ranging from 17,000 in 2004 to 11,000 in 2006. With a new-generation 2008 Cayenne in showrooms, Porsche will sell more than 12,000 units in calendar 2007.

But most of all you have to drive the Cayenne and marvel at its sports-car-like attributes that “…blend magnificently,” — so we’re told — into luxury SUV abilities thereby deserving that space next to that 911.

If you loved the first generation, you will simply adore this second-generation Cayenne. Love plus!

Styling has been ever so slightly tweaked to give the sport utility a more aggressive look, engines have been upgraded with massive injections of horsepower and torque and the on road/off road equipment has been enhanced with such features as active stabilizer bars that make adjustments for any driving conditions.

Of course, the question is do we need a vehicle with serious off-road pretensions that can conquer a quarter mile of hard asphalt in speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour?

If your answer is yes, than this is the vehicle for you.

But who, really, is going to take their Porsche onto the rocks and into the water? Porsche owners probably have a Jeep Wrangler in the garage for those weekend frolics.

There are three Cayenne choices. Pick your price point and horsepower from a V-6 and two V-8 editions. If you want neck-snapping thrills, go with one of the V-8s. But the new 3.6-liter V-6 with an increase of 43 horsepower to 290 and a gain of 54 pound-feet of torque to 283 is no slouch either when compared to your garden-variety luxury SUV.

Porsche says it made the base engine more Porsche-like. Base price is $44,245 for the manual transmission and $47,295 for the Tiptronic automatic.

We didn’t drive the V-6, but Porsche says it will accomplish the obligatory 0-to-60 run in 7.5 seconds with the manual and 7.9 seconds with the Tiptronic, a noteworthy performance for a vehicle that weighs in at more than 5,000 pounds.

The Cayenne S, such as our test truck, starts at $58,795 including destination. It features a new 4.8-liter V-8 dispensing 385 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. That’s a 50-horsepower jump over the previous edition.

It will run from zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds, Porsche says.

An in-your-face twin-turbocharged V-8 now makes 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. For a starting price of $94,595 you get the power to soar from 0-to-60 in around five seconds. Our local constabulary wouldn’t allow us to find out for ourselves.

The aforementioned prices represent only a small increase over the 2006 editions — there is no 2007 Cayenne — which we figure is good news for those who want to trade their older Cayenne for a new one.

But we discovered that with Porsche, the base price is only a suggestion. Yes, the base vehicles come handsomely equipped. But the options list is staggering — and expensive — if you start adding things that you think will make your statement or add to your driving experience.

We added up a mind-boggling 118 available options. Of course some are redundant if you bundle some stand-alone features into more expensive packages. But, egad, what a dazzling display of automotive candy, ranging from such low-cost items as a $140 fire extinguisher to such high-dollar stuff as a panoramic roof system ($3,900), a 21-inch sport wheel package ($5,195) and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control ($3,510); the list, as we noted, goes on and on and on.

The Dynamic Chassis Control is a new feature that continuously adjusts the stabilizer bars to any driving condition whether it be hard cornering or boulevard cruising. When the vehicle is put into low range, the stabilizer bars are completely decoupled. That option was not included on our test vehicle, but the driving experience was exhilarating, nevertheless.

Not only will this big beast leap off the line, it has enormous power reserves for passing and merging and simply driving real fast. And don’t fret those on ramps or those rural-road curves. The center of gravity is obviously not the same as a 911, but we were disbelieving at times how aggressively we were driving an off-road-capable vehicle with 63 cubic feet of storage room behind the front seats.

You can hammer your Cayenne during your family vacation and give the kids something to tell their friends.

The Cayenne is Porsche-like inside, too, which means an instrument cluster with large, clear gauges, materials of first quality, seams that neatly fit and excellent front seats. But there are too many small, look-alike audio and climate control buttons. They take some getting used to.

While there is a generous 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, accessing the maximum space by folding the second-row flat is a chore. Several steps, including removing the head rests, are involved in obtaining a flat load floor. It shouldn’t be this hard in a high-dollar vehicle.

Even though there are a lot of options, there is a good measure of standard equipment including several standard safety features. Antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, stability control and a rollover sensor all come at no extra cost.

Our test vehicle was remarkably devoid of options and we enjoyed it immensely. The most costly option at $3,070 was Porsche Communication Management, which includes DVD-based navigation with upgraded audio system. It also came with a $1,900 sunroof. Bottom line was $66,330.

The Cayenne makes it possible to enjoy a Porsche WITH your family. That may be almost as good as it gets.

And you will easily be able to outrun the environmentally crazy egg throwers.


Base price, $58,795; as driven, $66,330
Engine: 4.8-liter V-8
Horsepower: 385 @ 6,200 rpm

Torque: 369 pound-feet @ 3,500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed Tiptronic

Drive: all-wheel

Seating: 2/3

Turning circle: 38.4 feet

Wheelbase: 112.4 inches

Length: 188.9 inches

Curb weight: 4,950 pounds

Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds

Luggage capacity: 19.1 cubic feet

Cargo capacity: 63 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 26.4 gallons (premium)

EPA rating: 19 highway, 13 city

0-60: 6.4 seconds (Porsche)

Also consider: Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, BMW X5

The Good

• Exhilarating performance
• Handles like a sports car

• Quality interior materials

The Bad

• Enjoys stopping at the neighborhood gas station

The Ugly

• Unbelievable number of options can lead to unbelievable price