2008 Porsche Cayenne
2008 Porsche Cayenne. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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Photo Gallery: 2008 Porsche Cayenne

San Antonio, Texas – In the state of Texas, trucks – conventional pick-ups and big SUVs – are everywhere. On the road it seems that every second vehicle is a large vehicle. At dealerships, the trucks are lined up along the street three deep. Texas is the truck state.

One might think that Texan’s preference for trucks and SUVs might be the rationale behind choosing San Antonio to reveal the second generation Porsche Cayenne to the North American media, but the local preference for the offerings of domestic manufacturers contradicts that assumption.

In truth, Texas was chosen because that is the location of Continental Tire’s Uvalde Proving Grounds, an amazing 5000-acre vehicle testing facility, consisting of a 13.7-km high speed oval, 1.72-km road course, 1.5-km wet handling road course, ten off-road courses and a variety of other traction and handling installations.

2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Click image to enlarge

But the Texan and, in reality, American preference for trucks and SUVs underscores how important the Cayenne is to Porsche even if the Porsche SUV is only a minor player. Since its introduction in 2003, Porsche has sold more than 150,000 Cayennes in North America. North American sales, made up mostly of Cayennes, now account for more than half of Porsche’s world-wide sales.

As a result, Porsche has seen new clients attracted to the brand, existing owners adding a second Porsche, new investment in dealerships and a new source of revenue to support its other products.

For 2008, the Porsche Cayenne gets new front styling, with headlights moved to the corners and covered by clear glass lenses. The Cayenne and Cayenne S have a pair of body-colour horizontal bars fit into the outer air intakes. The Cayenne Turbo has a massive centre air intake. All versions get round fog lamps set into the lower front fascia.

2008 Porsche Cayenne S
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne S (top) and Cayenne Turbo. Click image to enlarge

Out back, changes to the spoiler, tail lights and centre brake light are significant. Both Cayenne and Cayenne S get oval tail pipes, while the Turbo has four large pipes. With its huge red six-piston calipers, there is no mistaking the Turbo from the side.

Inside, it might be difficult to spot any difference between the 2008 and 2006 models (there is no 2007). Cayenne and Cayenne S models still have a typically spartan Porsche interior while the Turbo has a rich-looking leather wrapped dash panel and soft suede-like alcantara roof panel.

It would be easy to describe the new Cayenne as a face lift, but those that know Porsche know that the visual impact of Porsche designs change only slightly from one generation to another and that the real change is often not in what the eye perceives but in what the driver experiences. Such is the case with this second generation Cayenne that introduces a host of new technology and improvements.

All three Cayenne engines have, for the first time, direct fuel injection which improves power and fuel economy, and “Vario Cam Plus” – variable valve timing and lift on the intake cam. This helps the twin-turbocharged 4.8-litre V8 in the Cayenne Turbo generate 500 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 96 km/h flashes by in only 4.9 seconds, while zero to 100 mph can be achieved in a shade over 12 seconds which we experienced in a drag race test at the Uvalde Proving Grounds. Top speed on the test track has been recorded at 275 km/h (171 mph).

2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo (top) and Cayenne S (covered in mud). Click image to enlarge

Direct fuel injection and Vario Cam Plus also improve the power output of the Cayenne S’s normally aspirated 4.8-litre V8. The new version of this engine generates 385 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 45 horsepower and 59 pound-feet of torque over the 2006 model. Equipped with the six-speed Tiptronic S transmission, the Cayenne S can accelerate to 96 km/h in 6.4 seconds and has reached 250 km/h (155 mph) in testing.

The base Cayenne receives an all new 3.6-litre V6 which produces 290 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, 43 hp and 44 lb-ft of torque more than the outgoing 3.2-litre V6. Equipped with the standard manual transmission, the V6 will accelerate to 96 km/h in just 7.5 seconds.

Focussing on technology, standard equipment on all versions of the Cayenne includes stability management with new functions such as pre-loading of the brake system. A new roll-over sensor will activate seat belt tensioners and side-curtain airbags. A power tailgate is also standard.

Of course, a full-time all-wheel drive system, called Porsche Traction Management is standard equipment. In standard mode, PTM delivers 38 per cent of power to the front wheels and 62 per cent to the rear. An electronically controlled multi-plate clutch can re-direct up to 100 per cent of the power to either the front or rear depending on conditions. In difficult terrain, a switch operated low range comes into effect.

Our test on a very rough high-speed off-road track showed that the Cayenne is a formidable off-road vehicle despite being intended primarily for highway driving. On a surface that felt like ball-bearings, where normal vehicles would have been shooting off into the brush, the Cayenne – a V6 in this case – stayed true to its course thanks to a variety of technological interventions, including stability management, traction management and off-road ABS, a new feature this year.

2008 Porsche Cayenne S
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne S (top) and Cayenne Turbo. Click image to enlarge

When sensors detect application of the brakes on a loose surface, the off-road ABS system permits more wheel slip during brake cycles, which in turn allows a wedge of material – whether that be gravel, sand or snow, to build up in front of the wheels providing additional braking power.

Speaking of brakes, all Cayennes receive 6-piston fixed calipers on the front wheels and 4-piston calipers at the rear. Brake discs range from 330 mm (13 in.) on the V6 to 368 mm (14.49 in.) on the Turbo. In spirited on-track driving, the Turbo’s brakes, with their big red calipers, slowed the 2,354 kg (5191 lb.) SUV effectively allowing a measure of threshold braking, just tickling the ABS, without causing the ABS to fully implement, and maintaining the kind of control sports car drivers like to have.

All Cayenne models also receive a new sport mode which re-calibrates the throttle for more aggressive tip-in, forces the transmission to start off in first gear, rather than second, and delays the point at which the stability management system intervenes.

Some new optional extras include dynamic curve lights (standard on Turbo) to enhance night driving, 21-inch wheels, a rear cargo management system and XM satellite radio. The standard transmission on V6 models now has Porsche Drive Off Assistant (PDOA), which prevents the Cayenne from rolling backward when setting off on an uphill gradient.

The most significant new bit of technology is Porsche’s Dynamic Chassis Control, a $4,890 option on all models. It is an option well-worth considering. PDCC uses active anti-roll bars to limit the amount of body roll in turns.

2008 Porsche Cayenne S
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo
2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo (top) and Cayenne S. Click image to enlarge

The system can completely offset body roll under lateral acceleration up to .65 g, a figure few drivers will experience on even the most winding country roads. The vehicle simply stays flat in the corners. Comparing an old model and the new side by side, the effect is visibly noticeable, while the enhancement in the driving dynamics of the vehicle is also apparent.

As with any Porsche, personalization is as easy as placing check marks on the lengthy list of optional equipment. A base 2008 Cayenne retails for $58,900, but you may feel the need to add a few items such as metallic paint ($960), Bi-Xenon headlights with washers ($2,180), 21-inch wheels ($7,580), a 12-way power adjustable seat with memory ($1,800), heated front seats and steering wheel ($780), Bose surround sound system ($2,330) and DVD-based navigation and rear entertainment system ($4,290). It can add up.

The Cayenne S starts at $78,500 with a similar list of options, while the Turbo includes many optional items at a starting price of $124,300. Still, check off all the optional items and the price of a 2008 Porsche Cayenne Turbo can escalate to just a shade under $140,000.

The 2008 Porsche Cayenne is on sale now.

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