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Porsche Cayenne: Velvet Hammer of the Highroads and Highlands

Porsche’s forthcoming entry in the ever-popular Sport Utility Vehicle market is no rookie-effort, but rather a seasoned veteran, poised to school the competition in how a luxury utility vehicle should perform.

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While the notion of Porsche building an SUV might be surprising to some, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise, especially when you consider the auto manufacturing icon has been building all-wheel drive vehicles since the early 1900’s. With so much history and experience behind them, it’s no wonder the Cayenne’s AWD system is nearly perfect.

In fact, much of the Cayenne is nearly perfect – Porsche has been designing, testing and refining the super utility vehicle since the mid 1990’s. Engineered primarily in Weissach (Porsche’s Research and Development Center) and assembled at Porsche’s “diamond plant” (Leipzig), the Cayenne has undergone thorough testing in various real-world environments around the globe to ensure that the vehicle is able to maintain its composure, even in the most severe environments.

Due to be unleashed on American soil sometime in early December, Porsche is prepared to produce and deliver nearly 20,000 Cayennes annually, thanks to their brand new Leipzig assembly facility.

With an overall length of 188.4 inches and poised on a 112.4 inch wheelbase, the 5,000ish pound Cayenne seems to fit the stereotypical profile of a traditional SUV. Luckily, the comparisons stop on paper, because thanks to innovative and trend breaking technological developments, the Cayenne offers the perfect balance of sports car performance, SUV practicality and off-road tenacity.

The heart and soul of the new Cayenne is an all aluminum, 32-valve 4.5L V8, and it presents potential Cayenne buyers with a painstaking decision – make the responsible decision and order the very capable 340hp and 310lb-ft of torque V8, or choose the potent bi-turbo’d version which serves up a very gratifying 450hp and a whopping 460lb-ft of tire burning torque. The milder V8 should whisk the Cayenne from 0 to 60 in just around 7.0 seconds, while the twin turbo will rocket the Cayenne to 60 somewhere near the low side of five seconds.

To help manage that all of that power, Porsche has equipped the Cayenne with a six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission, which when snicked into manual mode is poised and ready to execute shifts as you see fit. Mated to the transmission is Porsche’s most sophisticated drivetrain, complete with intelligent all-wheel drive.

The Porsche Traction Management (PTM) system combines a lockable center differential that adjusts power to the front and rear wheels through an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch to ensure optimum traction in even the harshest of conditions.

Through Porsche’s Cayenne website, they go through great trouble to convey to the potential buyer that the Cayenne has been thoroughly tested both on and off road; Porsche sent Cayennes to all corners of the globe and tasked them with tackling extreme conditions, including mud, snow, ice, sand, heavy rains and other traction challenging environments. They’ve even built an off-road course at their Leipzig plant, and anyone taking delivery of a Cayenne in Germany will be given an opportunity to take a few laps on that track (complete with an instructor).

All too often, large vehicles compromise handling in the name of brute force and cavernous cabin size – not true with the Cayenne. While the suspension is fully adjustable (you can vary the ride height approximately 4 inches with the flick of a switch), it is by no means “soft”. Phrases like, “it handles like it’s on rails” and “very flickable” come to mind after the first few corners become distant blips in the rear view mirror. Someone should tell the Cayenne that for a vehicle that’s carrying nearly two-and-a-half tons around its waistline, it shouldn’t be able to out handle the majority of today’s “performance” cars.

Porsche approached building an SUV differently than most manufacturers would have. Traditionally, an auto manufacturer grabs a heavy steel truck frame from inventory (which is usually of the ladder-type design), slaps a big body on it, throws on some truck suspension pieces, a truck motor and sells it as an SUV.

Porsche chose to build the Cayenne as if it were a performance car, by constructing a street version of a racing monocoque chassis. They then built a race inspired, double-wishbone suspension system that offers active management and carefully mated it to the chassis. Finally, they wrapped all of these pieces in a body that was painstakingly designed to minimize excess weight.

Braking is equally impressive, with large rotors that are clamped by six piston monoblock aluminum calipers on the front, and four piston monoblock aluminum calipers on the rear. Thanks to the ultra-stiff monoblock calipers and their behemoth hub-mates, we estimate 70-0 braking distance to destroy the luxury SUV competitors, and we won’t be surprised if the figures give a few sedans a run for their money. Porsche has developed an all-new air channel cooling system for the brake assemblies, which should greatly reduce the potential for brake fade.

The interior of the Cayenne works hard to remind you that you’re in a Porsche vehicle. The ignition is located to the left of the steering wheel, and the gauge cluster mimics that of it’s brethren, however, instead of a large tachometer staring the driver dead on, you’ll find a driver information center, complete with temperature and fuel gauges. An 8,000-rpm tachometer sits left of the information center, and the speedometer sits to the right.

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Order a Turbo Cayenne, and you’ll be offered Porsche’s Communication Management system, which is able to control all of the navigation, communications, audio and data applications from one central location.

All of this is adorned with some of Bessie’s best hide, as the leather is supple and luxurious. But then again, we would expect nothing less from Porsche. The cabin is comfortable and quiet, and it offers a great view of the road ahead.

Speaking of the road ahead, we’re sure that Cayenne drivers will have plenty of opportunity to survey the oncoming landscape – the Cayenne promises to be a blast to drive, and it’s certain to cause some pretty big waves in the luxury SUV marketplace.

Stay tuned to Club Roadfly, as we hope to share our driving impressions with you very soon – we can hardly wait to get the Cayenne out on the road and put it through its paces.

Porsche

Written by Roadfly Charlie

Charlie is Roadfly’s founder and publisher, and was taught to drive by his father in a 1974 Porsche 914. That made poor Charlie a Porsche fanboy for life, and after driving a 911SC at 16, he bought and campaigned a variety of 944s at racetracks up and down the East Coast, earning awards and track records in his twenties. Charlie never really got over the car bug, and after a career in real estate development he founded the Internet media firm that became Roadfly. Charlie lives in McLean, VA with his wife and two daughters, and between the demands of family and business doesn’t have much time to play with cars anymore, excluding the machinery we review.

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