First Drive: 2018 Porsche Cayenne

We test the third-generation Cayenne’s off-road capabilities in the Middle East

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Are you sure this isn’t just another facelift?
Okay, it may look a tad too familiar from the front. But look round the back and it becomes obvious this is a new SUV from the ground up, with the new light strip bridging the taillights being the biggest giveaway. It’s a much sleeker car beside the older Cayenne overall. And it’s lighter too. In fact, the base model is the first Cayenne to tip the scales under two tonnes with a kerb weight of 1,985kg.

What engines are available? 

Currently, the range is made up of the Cayenne, Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. The engine line-up is similar to that of the second-generation Panamera, with the base model getting a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, the S getting a lighter 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and the Turbo leading the pack with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. All engines are paired to Porsche’s new eight-speed TipTronic S which delivers power to all four wheels, naturally.

An E-Hybrid variant should be in the works, but whether it’ll make it to Malaysia once production commences is another story altogether.

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Gunning them in the Middle East must have been fun…
Contrary to popular belief, roads in the UAE are strictly governed by speed radars. This capped much of our drive below 100kph, during which both models sampled – Cayenne and Cayenne S – exhibited high levels of comfort and refinement which daily drivers will appreciate. At low speeds, the gulf in performance between the two is almost indiscernible (the S has an extra 100hp at its disposal). With their outputs expertly regulated by the silky eight-speeder, both engines are capable of maintaining quiet, gentle cruises and speed up effortlessly on demand.

We did let loose a little on some obscure sections of B-road, and the 440hp Cayenne S is easily the more aggressive of the two when rallied. The throttle is razor-sharp, even with the car’s Sport Response toggle left in its default comfort-biased driving mode. Factor in the new Cayenne’s engagingly calibrated steering and road-hugging AWD chassis and you have a full-fledged SUV that’ll give nimbler sports coupes a run for their money. And we mean that aurally as well because the bi-turbo V6 sings quite an inspiring soundtrack at higher revs.

The base Cayenne may be a full second slower than the S in a straight line (4.9 secs vs 5.9 secs), but it’s still sufficiently swift and dynamic for an entertaining weekend drive up the highlands of your fancy.

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You mentioned something about going off-road…
Our drive took us from the Emirate of Fujairah in the UAE to the off-road trails of Wadi Bih in Oman, where Porsche was keen to demonstrate the Cayenne’s latest advancements in off-road technology. This includes the aforementioned lighter chassis, five new driving modes (On-road, Mud, Gravel, Sand and Rocks), rear axle steering which tightens the Cayenne’s turning radius by 60cm and new Porsche Surface Coated Brakes (PSCB) which claim to offer better responsiveness and up to 30 percent more service life.

Unfortunately, none of our testers were equipped with PSCB, but the standard brakes survived two hours of punishing rocky terrain nonetheless. Apart from some squeaks in the interior trim and the occasional jolt from under the seat, the Cayenne breezed through a series of blind inclines and steep drops while having to find its footing on many kilometres of loose gravel. Unsurprisingly, units fitted with the optional air suspension and PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control) were more pleasant to be in during this section, but there was never really much discomfort in the Cayenne to begin with.

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What’s in it for a Cayenne fan who isn’t interested in getting his hands dirty?
Now’s probably a good time to tell you about the interior, which is where much of the new, fancy tech is located. The Cayenne gets the Porsche Advanced Cockpit first seen in the second-gen Panamera. This means a semi-digital instrument cluster (the centrally positioned tachometer stays analogue, which is a nice touch), Direct Touch Control centre console and 12.3-inch full-HD touchscreen into which most of the cabin controls are embedded as part of the Porsche Control Management (PCM) system.

In the new Cayenne, these features are integrated alongside some of the model’s traditional design cues such as the rugged grab-handles and vertical air-con vents either side of the dashboard. Some physical toggles for selecting off-road driving modes would have complemented nicely, but they’re all integrated into the screen as well. One oddity we noticed about the touch panel is how it teases all possible options, even when they’re not equipped. For example, you can roughly make out ‘E-Power’ under the glass surface in a non-hybrid Cayenne, but the text isn’t illuminated and cannot be depressed. Back in the day, this would just have been a blank button.

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Any driver aids to prevent me from crashing while playing with these features?
First of all, you shouldn’t be fixated on the screen while driving. Porsche has a new Voice Pilot system to overcome that problem. But well enough, the third-generation Cayenne is the first Porsche to get Emergency Assist, which autonomously triggers the brakes if an impending collision is detected. This is packaged with systems such as Lane Change Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Night Vision Assist to keep the Cayenne on-par with other semi-autonomous SUVs in the market today. The same sensors make ParkAssist, another Porsche first, possible in the new Cayenne.

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All of this is beginning to sound expensive…
Well, a Porsche isn’t exactly something you purchase on a shoestring. Local distributor, Sime Darby Auto Performance, has hinted at an estimated price of RM790,000 for a base-spec Cayenne. With options, you’re looking at close to a million Ringgit for a nicely-kitted Cayenne, which is a lot of dough. But considering the versatile all-terrain vehicle infused with Porsche’s sporty DNA and latest technologies you’ll be getting in return, all packaged with the security of a manufacturer’s warranty at that, we can’t think of many better ways to spend a million bucks.

Author: Daryl Loy

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