- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

By now, anyone with an interest in Porsche products knows that this well-known manufacturer of premium sports cars has focused its attention on the production of its first SUV entry, the Cayenne.

Developed in a partnership with Volkswagen, the Porsche Cayenne and the VW Touareg share a body structure, as well as a number of powertrain and suspension components. When Porsche announced the introduction of a V-6-powered Cayenne, skeptics and critics accused Porsche of diluting the brand by putting a Volkswagen engine in the Cayenne. They said the new model was nothing more than a Touareg with a Cayenne body.

The critics are both right and wrong about the new Cayenne model. Except for its engine and a few other components, the 2004 Cayenne is identical in design and construction to the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo. The only visual cues that differentiate the new model from its siblings are its black-colored brake calipers, standard 10-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a “Cayenne” script on its rear hatch without an “S” or “Turbo” suffix.

It’s true that the engine block is supplied by Volkswagen, Porsche’s partner in the Cayenne’s body and chassis construction. The 15-degree, 3.2-liter V-6 engine has been extensively reworked by Porsche to produce 247 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 228 foot-pounds of torque from 2,500 rpm. That compares to 220 horsepower and 225 foot-pounds for the comparable Volkswagen engine.

That 27-horsepower gain was accomplished with an entirely new variable-length intake manifold system, four overhead camshafts, and continuously variable intake and exhaust valve timing. And, the exhaust system was reworked to provide the sound that immediately identifies the Cayenne as a Porsche.

Porsche engineers also modified the V-6 engine with enhanced cooling for improved towing capability, and the accessory belt drive arrangement was revised to allow the Cayenne to be driven through water as deep as 20 inches. For added off-road capability, the engine lubrication system with its deeper oil pan and lower oil pump intake allows the Cayenne to be driven uphill, downhill, or side hill, as steep as 45 degrees.

The six-speed automatic transmissions in the Cayenne and Touareg are identical, although the electronic programming for each is tailored to the specific vehicle. The advantage of the Tiptronic S is that it provides the driver with the option of intervening while the transmission is in automatic mode, such as when descending hills or downshifting for curves in the road.

Porsche owners have very high expectations, and even though most will never take their Cayennes off paved highways, they expect them to handle just about any off-road situation. It’s not that they will — it’s that they can. To satisfy those expectations, all Cayenne models are equipped with Porsche Traction Management, a permanent four-wheel-drive system, and Porsche Stability Management. A two-speed transfer case delivers engine power to the drive wheels through electronically controlled multiplate differentials.

During normal driving, PTM feeds 62 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels and 38 percent to the front wheels, achieving the feel of a rear-wheel-drive car.

However, when necessary, PTM can direct up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque to either the front or rear wheels. PTM incorporates sensors to measure vehicle speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle, and accelerator position in order to calculate the optimum locking action on both axles and spread drive forces as needed to the front and rear wheels.

By coordinating the systems associated with ABS, Automatic Slip Regulation and automatic brake differential, PSM can instantly go into action when the Cayenne enters critical oversteer or understeer conditions, signaling PTM to open the differential locks in order to restabilize the car by applying the brakes specifically on individual wheels. If that isn’t enough, PSM can reduce engine power. Both PTM and PSM use the same hardware as the Touareg’s 4XMOTION and ESP, but the software that controls the various system components varies slightly.

With the introduction of the 2004 Cayenne, Porsche offers an Advanced Offroad Technology Package for the most extreme off-pavement conditions. It includes special side protection, skid shields, and a fully controllable rear differential lock. The package also includes “anti-roll” bars on the front and rear axle. The front and rear sway bars are equipped with hydraulically operated clutches that separate the two ends of the sway bar so it does not function. This allows increased axle articulation, which improves ride comfort by minimizing body sway.

There’s much more to say about the capabilities of the new Cayenne, but perhaps the best news is the price. At $42,900 it overlaps into the $35,000-to-$45,000 price range of the VW Touareg. Money is always a consideration, but in this price range, the buying decision could come down to answering the question: Would you rather be seen in a VW or a Porsche?

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