2006 Porsche Cayenne S
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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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Let’s get one thing straight. The Porsche Cayenne S is a real Porsche. This premium SUV, along with its turbocharged and V6 brethren, are perhaps the most important vehicles in this most hallowed marque’s stable.

No dear readers, I have not lost all my marbles.

For sure, when Porsche entered the SUV circus a few years ago, cries of derision echoed across the land as Porschefiles worldwide denounced the arrival of the Cayenne as heretical pandering to the fat-cat Americans.
And maybe it was. But like it or not, the huge success of the Cayenne has kept Porsche solvent, independent, and able to develop and produce the sports cars we love them for.

So bow down and pay homage, for without the Cayenne there may not have been a Carerra GT. And that would truly be tragic.

The Cayenne S is powered by a 4.5-litre 32-valve V8 putting out “only” 340 horsepower and 310 ft/lbs of torque. I say only because the new Cayenne Turbo S churns the tarmac with a crazy 520 hp. Despite my tester’s 2245 kg heft, the S felt plenty quick, and in true Porsche tradition, ultra-legal speeds can creep up on you before you know it.

The transmission is a silky six-speed Tiptronic that electronically adapts to your driving style. Gears can be manually selected by flicking the shifter to the left gate and tapping it forward for upshifts, back for downshifts, or by using the rocker switches on the steering wheel.

Dynamically, the Cayenne is further proof that Porsche can engineer a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
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In the case of the iconic 911, they’ve run with a basically flawed design (engine hanging out behind the rear axle) for 40 years. But in spite of this (or maybe because of this) the Darwinian march of the world’s greatest sports car continues unabated. There is currently a purple 355-hp 2006 Carrera 4S in my driveway that is the best 911 I’ve ever driven. Period. But I digress�

With the Cayenne, Porsche has managed to make a heavy all-wheel drive SUV go, stop and corner with surprising alacrity. Okay, you’ll never mistake it for a Boxster (the trademark Porsche feedback from the controls is somewhat muted), but for a big ute, it’s darn impressive. It also proved to be a supremely comfortable cruiser.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
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My tester featured the optional $4190 air system suspension with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) which offers three stiffness settings (comfort, normal, sport) and six ride heights (the lowest for stationary loading, the highest only for low-range off-roading). It automatically drops to the lowest level at 125 km/h, and the sport damper setting will kick in if you start driving like Paul Tracy.

Set the dampers to Sport, lower the ride height, keep the sweet-sounding V8 on the boil via the Tiptronic toggles, and the Cayenne S will eat up a country road like no porky SUV has any right to. You’ll think Porsche has struck a special deal with Sir Isaac Newton. The $5360 optional 20″ wheels with Michelin Diamaris 275/40ZR 20 tires certainly help in this regard.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
Click image to enlarge

Braking is what you’d expect of the Porsche. The front 350 mm vented discs employ alloy calipers with six pistons – the rear 330 mm vented discs have four piston units.

The interior of the Cayenne S is quite handsome and ergonomically sound. It’s luxurious in a very Porsche-businesslike way. You couldn’t call it sybaritic, but the build quality is unsurpassed, and the feel of the controls and firm 12-way adjustable chairs send the message that this SUV is more than just a boulevard cruiser. Lots of bright titanium-look trim and the optional ($4250) Stone/Steel Grey Smooth Leather dress it up, but why does Porsche continue this love affair with drab grey interiors? This vehicle in tan leather looks 100% more inviting and classy.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
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Standard are dual front and side airbags with 2-level dual side-curtain airbags. The automatic climate control is dual-zone and the multi-function steering wheel can be manually adjusted for reach and rake.

Incredibly, my tester did not have self-dimming mirrors, as that is an $850 option (bundled with automatic headlights).

The centrepiece of my tester’s dash was the $4290 PCM 2.1 (Porsche Control Management) which includes satellite navigation, trip computer, audio interface etc. Initially, the PCM can present itself as a PITB (pain in the butt), but spend ten minutes with the quick reference guide and you’re on your way. It’s easy to program and intuitive.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
Click image to enlarge

My kids loved “TJ”, the name they gave to the gentle British female voice emanating from the dash that kept us on our assigned route. Any woman (besides Mom) telling Dad where to go proved to be a great source of entertainment, as did the colourful maps on the 6.5-inch screen.

And I thoroughly appreciated the killer 14-speaker, 350-watt Bose sound system.

If you do venture off road in this thing, by all accounts it will climb a tree if you ask it. Porsche Traction Management is a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that gives 62% of the power to the rear wheels under normal conditions, but through a multi-plate clutch will feed 100% to either end if needed. A map-controlled front-to-rear lock and optional rear axle differential lock respond to a battery of sensors measuring vehicle speed, lateral acceleration, steering wheel angle and throttle position to provide the ultimate traction.

Select the reduced-ratio gearbox, and the PTM changes to an off-pavement control map that jacks the car up on its tippy-toes, alters the ABS to a special traction control mode, changes the throttle sensitivity, locks the differentials and replaces TJ’s voice in the sat/nav with Steve the Crocodile Hunter. “Crikey! Look out for that boulder!” Okay, that last bit I made up.

Porsche Stability Management (the big-brother electronic stability control) is standard fare on the Cayenne S as well.

Although I’m not a big fan of SUVs, I always come away liking this 2 1/2 tonne Teuton. It is such a hugely capable vehicle in all aspects, one can’t help but feel a sense of awe at the sheer engineering prowess required to produce it.

2006 Porsche Cayenne S
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The S is my favourite Cayenne, as the V6 version (with a breathed-upon 3.2-L VW engine) is somewhat gutless, and the Turbo is way over the top. The fact that the bottom line of my tester swelled from a base of $80,100 to $106,070 with the addition of a few of options is further proof of its Porscheness. If you think the Germans don’t have a sense of humour, you’ve obviously never seen a Porsche options list. Granted, these cars aren’t built for mere mortals such as I with proletariat monetary concerns, but it doesn’t take much to picture a couple of Porsche guys coming up with this stuff over a few steins of Bitburger.

“You know, I bet we can charge zem $880 for a trailer hitch!”

“Ya Deiter! Goot one! Unt ze self-dimming mirrors? 850 smackers!!!”

“Oh Hans. Stop it! You’re killing me! Pass ze pretzels.”


Pricing

  • Base price: $80,100
  • Options: $24,755 (Titanium Metallic paint $690; Stone/Steel Grey Smooth Leather $4250; 20″ Wheels $5360; Bi-Xenon Headlights w/Washers $1740; PCM 2.1 $4290; Driver’s Seat Memory $510; Front and Rear Floor Mats $185; Air Suspension with PASM $4190; Trailer Hitch $880; Moonroof $1610; Roll-Up Sunscreen $270; Front Seat Heater including Steering Wheel $780)
  • Freight: $1,115
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $106,070 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications

  • 2006 Porsche Cayenne S


Crash test results


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