Rush-hour traffic is never fun. But the vehicle I was test driving -- the Porsche Cayenne -- along the bustling freeways of Southern California made it as palatable as possible until I could shed the city and head for the hills, where snaking tarmac two-lanes beckoned.
I've been a fan of the Cayenne since it first came to market as a 2003 model. This midsize luxury crossover utility vehicle, marketed by the German marque known for exhilarating sports cars, was powered by the first V-8 engine built by Porsche since 1995, when the Porsche 928 was discontinued.
I remember my first drive in the Cayenne like it was yesterday; we started on a race track, where I was in a state of blissful shock when I hit three digits on the tarmac -- and the CUV handled like a sports sedan, hugging the corners with no head-toss or body roll. Next, it was on to an authentically rugged 4WD course, where the Cayenne's performance was flawless and beset with some Star Wars technology, like Hill Hold, a system that was novel at the time; great off-road grunt and growl; and enough ground clearance to roll over ruts and rocks.
Cayenne was built to meet the growing demand from high-end buyers who wanted it all -- and especially Porsche owners who wanted a vehicle with sporty looks, crisp handling, and invigorating power that would make their heart race. But, at the same time, they needed enough space for a family and all of their assorted gear, and then a healthy dose off-road capability, in case it might ever be called into service. Enter the Cayenne -- an anti-midlife-crisis car -- a utility vehicle that allows its owners to maintain the professional appearance of adult responsibility, while still offering the ability to make their hair stand on end when motoring a twisty ribbon of road, or skirting through rush-hour traffic.
We drove the newest 2015 Cayenne S that's been updated with more power, improved handling, greater comfort, upgraded driver's assistance systems, and improved efficiency. Another of Porsche's main goals was to give the luxury CUV a more aggressive look, penned to better suit its sporty personality. Designers took a few pages from the new Macan's styling handbook by adding enlarged air intakes on the front bumper, a rear spoiler, and LED daytime running lights across the entire model range.
Additionally, the height of the rear tailgate has been raised, allowing the quad-exit tailpipes to be integrated into the lower valence of the rear bumper. These tasteful alterations give the newest Cayenne a wider and more anchored stance on the road, a significant improvement to the overly generic and rounded-off styling of the pre-facelift model.
The interior remains largely unchanged, save for some added bolstering in the rear seats, as well as an elegant updated three-spoke sport steering wheel. The metallic wheel mimics the three-spoke design in the 918, a reminder of Porsche's sporting ancestry when you're at the helm.
The 2015 Cayenne S starts at $74,100 and is powered by Porsche's new bi-turbo V-6 that runs with 420 horses and 405 lb.-ft. of torque, promising best-in-class handling, says Porsche. Like its stablemates, it is set up with shift paddles and boasts racecar-spec automatic launch control, with a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds (5.1 with the sport chrono, 0.4 seconds quicker than the outgoing V-8 model) and a top speed of 161 mph.
All Cayennes are equipped with adjustable air suspension for better ground clearance, as well as three different selectable modes for the adjustable Porsche Active Stability Management System suspension and traction control to help you tackle myriad surfaces, wet or dry. The Cayenne S also receives added off-road capability through an electronically controlled, variable rear differential with Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus; this allows all of the differentials to be fully locked for serious 4WD traction. Combined with the virtual overhead view generated by the new-for-2015 optional Park Assist system, driving off road is an almost video-game-like experience.
The 2015 Cayenne S is a fast Porsche that will carry your family, your dog, and your gear; and, it goes off road
Copyright © 2015 Motor Matters
|Base price||$74,800 (as tested: $75,795)|
|Curb weight||4,597 lbs.|
|Engine type||24-valve twin-turbo V-6 w/DI|
|Epa mileage rating||17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||26.4 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||420 at 6000 rpm|
|Overall length||191.1 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||406 at 1350 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger midsize AWD CUV|
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