With a crunch of gravel and the faint whoosh of boost, the Cayenne easily ascends the steep gravel hill and then stops right in the middle to hang limpet-like, free of any input from the driver. The off-road instructor barks an instruction and I clutch the SUV’s standard heated steering wheel and roll into the throttle – the Cayenne responds without a hint of wheelspin, trucks up over the hillock, then down to the right with the wildness of BC’s coastal mountains stretching out in a valley before me.
It fords a pool created by a trickling mountain stream, heels over on an angle and then cuts up and through a patch of steep and slippery scree with the on-board electronics carefully portioning out the power to create a near-supernatural surefootedness. It’s amazing. It’s astounding. It’s jaw-dropping.
That’s right – Porsche has included a feature like heated steering as standard instead of charging you for it.
The off-road stuff? Oh, that’s to be expected I suppose. It seems a bit ridiculous to be trailing down this narrow gravel path, with the instructors admonishing us to keep to the middle lest the branches scratch the paint. Some hope: the scrubby sides of the road reach out like the fingertips of some grasping Ent, eager to have a go at pinstriping the optional metallic paint.
No, what surprises isn’t the Cayenne’s prowess, it’s that they’ve packaged a few things on the car that you might actually need and aren’t charging you an arm and a leg for them. Well, I suppose the standard pricing is a bit limb-removing, but at least you get navigation, heated seating up front, a power rear tailgate, the heated steering wheel, and a few other niceties like that. Plump for the Turbo and Porsche will even throw in standard air-suspension and dynamic lighting. For nearly $130K. How nice of them.
Freshened for the 2015 model year, the “new” Cayenne benefits from not so much a facelift as some subtle makeup. If you’re eagle-eyed enough to spot the differences, you’re probably a dab hand at Where’s Waldo, but the designers actually massaged quite a bit of the sheetmetal. There’re a few new scoops up front to improve cooling, a reshaping of the rear tailgate, and new four-light taillights. Porsche claims the feedback from customers was not to change too much. So they haven’t.
On the inside, everything’s pretty much as it was before, albeit with a few tweaks to available features. As mentioned, the navigation is standard, and it works just fine in that Porsche way that’s not quite as intuitive as others, but straightforward once you get used to it. Audiophiles have a choice of three stereos to pick from, depending on the depth of your pocket.
2015 Porsche Cayenne Turbo, steering wheel, gauges. Click image to enlarge
The rest is subject to the same criticisms that the Cayenne always faced, namely, that it’s not as big inside as it looks. Passenger comfort is good for four, cramped for five, and a young family will find the trunk space a bit of a challenge for a weekend getaway. Aside from that, the ergonomics are very Porsche, with a cockpit-like feel complete with all the buttons you could ask for, and possibly a few more than you really need. But that’s all the same as it was before.
If the design department’s been shackled, then at least Porsche’s engineers have been given a bit more free reign. Almost the entire range of Cayennes is now turbocharged, with the exception being the base 300 hp 3.6L V6 model to debut at this year’s Los Angeles auto show. Just like the Panamera range, everything else gets twin-turbocharging, though we must pause here to doff our hats for the Cayenne GTS’s former lovely V8 (now a 3.6L V6 turbo making 440 hp). If you want eight cylinders in your Por-shuh crossover, you have to go for the Turbo.