I spent hours not minutes in the car and, most importantly, most of those hours were behind the wheel of the new, yet to be unveiled, Porsche Cayenne.
The Cayenne is no longer Porsche’s biggest-selling model, but the forthcoming version is still under pressure to deliver against large SUV rivals. We’ve had an early taste
Porsche is nervous about this. In the past, it has invited the odd journalist to sit alongside a test driver while a car was being signed off, but never actually to drive.
Or at least to be able to admit as much in print. I once spent consecutive nights on the same aircraft to have a few minutes in the passenger seat of a new 911 as it was signed off by Porsche’s top brass near Cape Town. This trip was rather more fruitful: I only had to go to Barcelona, I spent hours not minutes in the car and, most importantly, most of those hours were behind the wheel of the new, yet to be unveiled, Porsche Cayenne.
Porsche’s understandable sensitivity means there’s much I can’t share about this third-gen Cayenne. When I asked one engineer about the hybrid versions to come, the reply was simply: “What hybrid?”. I can’t show you any images of the interior and Porsche even went to the effort of removing all the tiny Stuttgart shields from the wheel centres, though, oddly enough, not the bloody great one in the middle of the bonnet.
Nevertheless, there is plenty about this Cayenne you will have surmised already, so I won’t dwell on it. It sits on the VW Group’s MLB platform that already underpins cars such as the Audi Q7 and Bentley Bentayga and will also form the basis of the Lamborghini Urus.
Its engines largely mirror those already launched in the Panamera and will therefore feature two V6 petrol motors for the base Cayenne (335bhp) and S (434bhp), a four-litre twin turbo V8 (540bhp) for the Turbo and (while Porsche made no mention of either) Audi-sourced V6 and V8 diesels as well. The latter 414bhp unit features the electric compressor charger present in V8 diesel Q7s and Bentaygas, but not the Panamera.
And, of course, there will be hybrids, both the ‘standard’ 456bhp hybrid based on the 2.9-litre V6 from the Cayenne S and the presumably berserk 670bhp ‘Hybrid S’ powertrain based on the V8 Turbo. I am required to stress that these outputs relate to engines in the Panamera because Porsche won’t say what they produce in the Cayenne, but nor was there any suggestion that they might be different.
Porsche had assembled all the purely petrol-driven cars in Spain, but I could only drive the two V6s – not, I am told, because I was not to be trusted with the Turbo, but because it was a lot less ‘finished’ than its little sisters and not representative of the production cars. In all other respects, the cars are finished, pre-production prototypes built on the line with production tools.
I’d like to say Porsche had brought them to Barcelona just for me, but the truth is they’re in the middle of a two-week sign-off drive, being driven relentlessly around Europe just to see if there’s any tiny detail or niggle that might need addressing. I can’t tell you much about the interior design, either, but I think it’s safe to say that anyone who’s had a nose around the cabin of a new Panamera is not going to drop to their knees in shock and awe when they see the Cayenne.
I can tell you it has a similarly imperious driving position to the old Cayenne, almost unchanged space for passengers on board (despite a distinctly lower roofline) and a usefully bigger boot.
If it looks smaller than a Q7 or Bentayga, that’s because it is, and not just because of that tapering roof. It’s also the first car to use this platform’s short chassis configuration, with fully 100mm less metal in the wheelbase. “It makes the car lighter, more sporting and agile,” explains SUV director Oliver Laqua, “and, for Porsche, that is critical.”
I ask if there’s going to be a longer wheelbase car with seven seats and get a rather old-fashioned look by way of a reply. Clearly not.
After a brief spell in the Turbo’s passenger seat – monster thrust, mesmeric ride, slightly muted engine note – I’m ushered into the driving seat of a Cayenne S.
Its 2.9-litre ‘hot turbo’ engine is among the newest to see service in a Porsche. This car also has optional air springs and PASM active damping. I’d say it was a good rather than great powerplant for such a car, which, like all large SUVs, feels like what it needs more than anything else is a thumping great diesel under the bonnet. But while you have to work for it, there’s no doubting it delivers the goods: thanks to its aluminium intensive structure, the Cayenne S is about 60kg lighter than the car it replaces and has the same power as a current Cayenne GTS.
It should hit 62mph in less than five seconds, which is pretty rapid for a merely mid-range two-tonne SUV. More impressive given its size and weight is its ability to cover the ground on give-and-take roads. Porsche has deliberately taken a different route to Audi and Bentley by eschewing a Torsen centre differential in favour of its own clutch-based system, which it says is quicker to react and results in more neutral handling – a trait I can confirm. Indeed, you can sling it into quick curve at brain-boggling speeds for such a car and it will find a way of scrabbling round. It’s not as agile as a Macan but nor could you expect it be. I was also delighted to discover its electric power steering was at least as linear as the old hydraulic set-up and I’d say more accurate. My only slight disappointment is the car felt more …read more