December 10, 2007
Toronto, Ontario – The Porsche Cayenne has taken a fair beating since its launch in 2003. Initially thrashed by certain factions of the motoring press and reviled by hard-line Porschefiles, this SUV from the purveyors of the purest driving machines has managed to weather the storm and emerge a champ. The critics who count the most – the buyers – have turned the Cayenne into a major sales success, filling the Zuffenhausen coffers with loads ‘o truck bucks.
For 2008, the five-passenger Cayenne has undergone an extensive freshening (there were no 2007 models), getting increased power across the board, an optional active suspension system, and revised front and rear styling. The somewhat googly-eyed look of the original is replaced with a sleeker snout sporting leering headlamp clusters and a grinning grill flanked by large straked inlets. Out back, the stylish exhaust tips protrude through the rear valance.
It’s the humblest variant of this SUV, the Cayenne V6, that may still cause some teeth gnashing amongst the purists. Indeed, the very notion of a Porsche truck powered by a narrow-angle Volkswagen V6 probably has the good Dr. Porsche doing cartwheels in his crypt.
But before we get all uppity, let’s have a closer look at the revised 2008 Cayenne V6.
The Cayenne and VW Touareg are kissing cousins, and as such, the VW’s engine is the most cost effective way to bring a V6-powered Cayenne to market. The good news is the overworked 247-hp 3.2-litre unit from the previous V6 Cayenne is replaced with a more robust and more fuel efficient FSI direct-injection 3.6-litre that has been massaged by Porsche to kick out 290 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine makes 276 hp and 266 lb.-ft in the Touareg.
Despite this tweaking, the V6 still has to work at moving all 2170 kg of this SUV, but it’s a big improvement over the previous model. With an advertised zero to 100 km/h time of 7.9 seconds, the Tiptronic-equipped V6 is certainly brisk enough for those who don’t need to compress their eyeballs every time out.
In fact, I had no problem accepting the V6 Cayenne’s more relaxed pace. Hm, a Porsche that doesn’t jeopardize your license on a daily basis… what a concept.
A brainy six-speed Tiptronic S transmission comes standard although a six-speed manual is a no-cost option. The Tiptronic swaps gears smoothly and can be shifted manually by bumping the floor shifter or flicking the thumb toggles on the steering wheel. With this stronger engine, the transmission is no longer hunting around the top few cogs as in the previous generation V6 Cayenne
That said, half the experience of any Porsche is the engine, and in this V6 ute, the underhood experience is largely flat. Yes, it gets the job done, but it just don’t do that Porsche thang.
However, the other half of the Porsche equation – dynamics – is largely intact here. For a tall, heavy SUV, the Cayenne V6’s road manners are quite remarkable. The steering is accurate and communicative, turn-in is immediate, and body motions are kept in check. It corners flat and true, and in pure Porsche tradition, the chassis keeps your backside aware of its every move.
This tester was equipped with the standard steel spring suspension and optional 18-inch wheels ($1,670). There is a price to be paid for this athleticism, as the ride can get pitchy on bad urban surfaces, but again, an improvement over the previous model. The optional air suspension would fix most ride issues, but then you’ll lose much of the tactile connection with the contact patches – and $4,190.
As would be expected, braking power is strong with six caliper front vented discs and four caliper rears hauling the big rig down with authority.
Inside, the Cayenne is elegant and well laid out. Close the door and the reassuring “thunk” reinforces the feeling of high quality and safe-like solidity. The black interior of my tester looked a little sombre, and while the surroundings might not be as sumptuous as some competitors, there’s an air of timeless quality and functionality here. The textured plastic looks fab, and all tolerances and trim show the highest standards of execution.
The 12-way power adjustable seats proved comfy and supportive, and the big three-spoke, leather multi-function steering wheel feels good in the hands. All gauges are big and legible, and the HVAC and stereo controls are easy to figure out. At night, dash illumination is effective but lacks any artistic flair or cool factor; minor point, granted, but for this money, how ‘bout a little nocturnal interest?
As with any Porsche, you can go crazy on the à la carte options list, but this one was relatively retrained (interior-wise) with just heated front seats and steering wheel ($780), moon roof ($1,660), driver seat memory ($510) and the Light Comfort Package/Memory ($850). Navigation and its attendant gizmos (Porsche Communication Management 2.1) will set you back $4,290. Rear-view camera with park assist is an astounding $3,740!
It should be noted that my wife, who has driven most of the SUVs to come through here, absolutely loved this V6 Cayenne because of the way it drove, its vault-like feel and the fact that it wasn’t loaded down with a confusing sat/nav/computer interface.
New for all 2008 Cayenne models is a powered liftgate with programmable opening height. With the rear seats up, there’s a substantial 540 litres of cargo space back there.
The V6 Cayenne’s towing capacity, with the optional $880 trailer hitch, is a worthy 7716 pounds.
If you do venture off road, this Cayenne has some serious dirt bashing cred. As in the V8 versions, Porsche Traction Management (PTM) and Porsche Stability Management (PSM) are standard. The former distributes engine power in a 62:38 rear to front split, with 100% available at either end if needed. The latter is an elaborate stability control system that will brake individual wheels and reduce engine power if the battery of sensors indicate things are going badly.
A toggle on the centre console activates low range, where PTM and PSM adjust the antilock braking, traction control and centre differential to special off road settings. The centre diff can also be locked.
So where does this modestly powered SUV fit into the Porsche line-up? Fiscally speaking, right on the bottom rung, as its freshly dropped base price of $55,200 (down from $58,900) undercuts the base Boxster by just under three grand.
In the grander scheme, it makes Porsche ownership available to a demographic that otherwise couldn’t consider the marque. If you’re a family guy looking at a loaded Acura MDX, the Cayenne V6 is more or less in the ballpark as long as you go easy on the options. Yes, on paper, the MDX gives way more bang for the buck, but it’s not a Porsche, is it?
And since the V6 is essentially a dead ringer for its more powerful brethren (especially with this tester’s 18-inch footwear) only keen observers will know you’re driving the V-Dub-powered offering from Zuffenhausen.
Oh, and you don’t have to worry about removing the V6 badging. There isn’t any.
Pricing: 2008 Porsche Cayenne V6
Base price: $55,200
Options: $ 7,760
(Crystal Silver Metallic Paint $960, 18” Cayenne S Wheels $1670, Driver Seat Memory $510, heated front seats and steering wheel $780, moon roof $1,660, Light Comfort Package/Memory $850, trailer hitch $880, coloured crest wheel hub covers $260, floor mats $190)
A/C Tax: $ 100
Freight: $ 1,115
Price as tested: $64,175
Manufacturer’s web site