2011 Porsche Cayenne - First Drive

Well it did not originate in France as the aforementioned dance form, but the Teutonic goliath from Stuttgart has just received a fantastic new avatar that makes it dance through all possible demands with flair and pomp. Adil Jal Darukhanawala kicks up some serious sand in Dubai

Did you know that the second generation Porsche Cayenne was launched at the Geneva Motor Show this year? Well how could you when its thunder was stolen by none other than the 918 Spider which also went on to be the undisputed star of the show. It was pretty much impossible to try and make mindspace available for the Cayenne's second coming, so enticing was the prospect of the 918 but then the Cayenne is a total anathema to Porsche purists. It was butch and huge and defied the laws of physics to go quick in a straight line and hang on tight through the corners, just like a svelte Porsche sportscar could and this more than anything else has made it hold its head high, not just in the sports car maker's line-up but also as one of the most capable SUV's in the world. Heck, with over 270,000 units sold of the first generation offering and with orders for 10,000 of the new car already in hand, the Cayenne can be looked at but in only one way - as a stunning success!

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Porsche had invited a select bunch of Indian automotive hacks for the official first drive of the new Cayenne in Leipzig but with Iceland's Eyjafjallaj?kull volcano blowing its top, the trip to colder climes was changed to the sandy wastes of Dubai's Big Red, replete with sand dunes and long stretches of straight tarmac. In fact the latter was a no-brainer because with any of the Cayennes capable of top speeds in excess of 250km/h, this SUV just thundered over any and everything in sight, smothering everything in its wake and one could only admire the car's body control, poise and yes, of course, its immaculate ride quality but more of that later.

So what's with the second generation Cayenne one might well ask and the most important bit is that the largely evolutionary changes have made a good product even better. And everything starts with its new look which sits on the vehicle very comfortably, so much so that its proportions make it look smaller visually than its predecessor. Now for a vehicle which has actually grown in length by 48mm to be deemed this is praiseworthy but the new nose and the overall detail around the bonnet and the new lights makes the second generation Cayenne come out far prettier and less aggressive than the original. Factor in the new glass house treatment and the Cayenne makes a most positive impact on the mind.



What has gone behind making the new Cayenne seem smaller despite increased dimensions is some serious sculpting with the clay knife of the designers. The behemoth has ditched all its 911 inspired rotundity and gone on a serious fat-to-muscle diet which has it look like an SUV that is much closer to the grand touring Panamera in its visual approach as opposed to looking like an elongated 911 sportscar. That certainly is a good move since the new car now has a distinct design identity of its own which banks on being more approachable and should appeal to an even wider audience. The toning treatment is also in cue with the engineering approach that the boffins at Porsche AG took for the new Cayenne which involved severe weight loss. They have done well given that their flagship V8 powered Cayenne Turbo has lost a good 185 kilograms between generations

The weight reduction treatment hasn't stopped just at the visuals considering the fact that the new engine itself is much lighter than its predecessor. The drive had us sample two of the variants from the new Cayenne lineup both of which were powered by massive V8 engines. On the first variant which is the Cayenne Turbo, that makes for a much more quick revving engine with a colossal 500PS of power coming in only to be harnessed with an eight speed automatic gearbox and then to be fed to all four wheels through a permanent all-wheel drive system. The figures are mind blowing as they should be for any turbocharged Porsche and this behemoth manages to hit the 100 km/h mark from standstill in 4.7 seconds and then thunder on to a top speed of 278 km/h if Porsche is to be believed. I certainly have no doubts after driving this new baby on the ramrod straight and silky smooth roads in Dubai.



The acceleration is vicious and the lightweighted nature of the new engine thanks to an all-new weight optimized crankshaft fitted to boot is obvious as soon as you step on the gas pedal. Porsche's aim behind making the entire new car and the engine itself lighter was two fold, not just to improve performance but also to take the SUV's range further by offering better fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. Fuel consumption figures released by the company are very encouraging since the new Cayenne manages to cut down guzzling of the Gulf's finest by a good 23 percent. In case it interests you the entire lineup of refreshed models apart from the entry level variant has also been fitted with automatic start/stop systems to boost this aspect even further.

Porsches are known for their exemplary road holding and composure and the last generation Cayenne typified this by almost redefining the way a big sport utility vehicle should feel. With the standard fit traction management system and four wheel footing, the Turbo obviously showed excellent road hugging but what really sets the new Cayenne apart when it comes large SUVs of its size is the exceptional body control that the German giant displays. With the suspension dialed in to comfort mode the car is well suited for most corporate honchos willing to type away on their laptops but that's not what this car will be known for. Once switched into the hardcore sport mode the car transforms itself into a new beast altogether and corners as flat as a skipping stone which obviously has everything to do with Porsche's long history of developing and dishing out conquerors of the Nurburgring.



Once through with experiencing the raw power of the Cayenne Turbo it was time to shift over into the naturally aspirated version of the V8 on the Cayenne S. This was a great time to also notice the innards of the new Porsche at length. The interiors have been sufficiently 'Panamerised' as well which is a great thing since they have grown even more luxurious and plush. A high centre console between the driver and co-driver seat help create a cocoon that even the most unenthusiastic drivers will find difficult to get out of. Tall aluminium trim surrounding the aircon vents and a TFT screen to allow the driver to fiddle with the myriad controls are all in line with modern gadget laden luxury SUVs. All in all the interiors are sorted out and sophisticated without trying too hard in very typical Porsche manner.

It was in this powered-down 400 PS version of the Cayenne that yours truly really got to experience the off-roading prowess of this behemoth. Despite the low profile tyres meant to obviously indicate and enhance the car's on-road capabilities the car in itself did not disappoint. Innovations abound in order for the Cayenne to achieve this which include smart electronics combined with the eight-speed automatic gearbox instead of the low-range transfer box that its predecessor came with. Two offroad modes not only control gearshifts smartly and also bring in the electronically managed rear differential which Porsche likes to call Plus Torque Vectoring in order to deliver even better traction in tricky conditions through the all-wheel drive system.



The new Cayenne doesn't have the low-range transfer box offered before, but instead uses the eight-speed transmission and clever electronic management to ensure impressive off-road ability. A thoroughly competent hill descent control was put to excellent testing sliding this heavyweight down the slopes of the Dubai dunes. A third offroad mode even results in completely locking the rear differential making the Cayenne a truly capable off-roader, even if its primary intent will be to carry the affluent around in a big wheeled luxury.

Even though we got to drive only the V8 powered Cayenne monsters, the new range also comes with a V6 petrol and diesel options, which will begin to go under the hammer from Rs 65.82 lakh ex-showroom. The Cayenne S-Hybrid has also been added to the lineup in line with Porsche's newfound focus on having sporty intentions and eco-consciousness exist side by side in one package - as we have already seen in the 918 Spyder concept - the very car that seemed to steal the Cayenne's thunder back in Geneva. The new SUV from Stuttgart however has nothing to worry about for while the 918 may be a techno-sportstar in its own right, when it comes to real world use without compromising on quality, practicality, style or marque value, the new Cayenne should have not just outsell its outshiner from the show stand, but also have a large part of the luxury SUV market in thorough binds.

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