It’s no secret that Porsche remains one of the most profitable car companies and when you understand the DNA of the company, it makes sense. Ironic as it may appear, I’ve chosen to demonstrate this by using the most unlikely candidate of the range: the new Porsche Cayenne S V8 Diesel.
The new generation of Porsche Cayenne differs greatly from the inaugural SUV. The car has adopted a safer design and is more at home within the wider Porsche family range. It is one of the better looking SUVs on the road, but perhaps not from a macho viewpoint, like a Land Rover Discovery or Toyota Prado. In true Porsche spirit, form follows function. The sharp bonnet, slimmed flanks and flowing mirror design hint at the fact that it was designed to be a sports car, and the rear spoiler pays homage to the iconic and jaw-dropping Carrera GT—all this for an SUV.
Although you would never guess it judging from the outside, the Porsche Cayenne is larger than its predecessor. From the inside, your guess would change, as the airy cabin provides ample space, especially for rear seat passengers. The rear seats can be moved forward or dropped to reveal a cavernous 1,336dm3 of load space. The cabin is typical of Porsche, with solid metal pieces and inserts for door handles, seat controls and air vent surrounds. The control panel rises to meet your hand, very much like the Panamera models. As beautiful as the design is, the ergonomics are spot-on with everything simply laid out and easy to use.
What must be stressed with the Porsche Cayenne S and other Porsche models, is the extent to which the owner can tailor the car to suit their taste. This so-called Porsche Exclusive experience allows for the personalization of each car. Most brands provide a list of exterior and interior appointments from which to choose, but Porsche allows you to craft your own unique Cayenne with options not commonly found on brochures. Think embossed seats and armrests in your own name; backlit doorsills or outrageous paint schemes, such as painting the inside lining of the wheels. Imagine it and Porsche will do it. Of course, this exclusivity comes at a cost because vanity has a price tag.
The jewel of the Cayenne S Diesel is the 4.2 liter twin-turbo V8 engine. With a whopping 850Nm and 281kW torque, it is the most powerful diesel engine in its class and is superb. It will outperform and outgun most cars. The time it takes to accelerate from 0-100km/h (5.7 seconds) shouldn’t be relevant in this type of car, but it is because it’s a Porsche after all. It is a beast to drive especially when you have the optional PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) system in Sport mode. This electronic damping control system makes the car run like a sports car. It is planted, surefooted and composed, even in the most dire of circumstances. Another option is the Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system that enhances the overall dynamics of the car by varying the torque to the engine and chassis to optimize handling. It’s brilliant when you consider that this is still an SUV that weighs more than two tons.
In Normal mode the car is everything you would expect in the way of comfort and road manners. I found the ride a little harder than the likes of a Mercedes-Benz ML, but not uncomfortably so. The model I test drove was fitted with 20-inch wheels, which would affect the ride to some degree. It’s a car that is as at home in comfortable driving situations as it is when driven with a bit of gusto.
That being said, the off-road capabilities would come into question when considering its sporty dynamics and impeccable road holding. While less than 10% of Porsche Cayenne owners use their cars in serious off-road conditions, that hasn’t stopped Porsche from producing a car that is as capable off the road as it is on.
This car is packed with off-road ability and Porsche has made it as easy to use as all the car’s other features. You can raise the ride height; engage Off-Road mode and Hill Descent Control (HDC) with just a few clicks of the rocker switch on the console. The immense torque will do all the heavy lifting and the system distributes the most power to the wheels with the most traction. I’ve tested all of the Porsche Cayenne models in serious off-road situations and I was genuinely impressed with its prowess.
The Porsche Cayenne S V8 Diesel costs around $96,000 and is good value for money. This particular car is the pick of the entire range but it must also be a consideration across all other SUV brands. It is Porsche South Africa’s best-selling model with more than 110 sold every month.
The car remains true to the traditional sports car enthusiasts but also lures many of the non-traditionalists. It’s flanked by a classy and personal ownership experience and is backed by an impressive piece of engineering.