- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

To some Porsche purists, the idea of a sport utility vehicle under that label may seem sacrilegious, but to others the Cayenne SUV spices up the mundane off-roading scene. Purists can take heart, though. The new Cayenne is closer in structure and performance to a sports car than to a truck. On the road it can compete easily with the best of sports sedans, and off-road it can venture into the rugged wilderness and get you back comfortably.

Cayenne, which recently went on sale, arrives in the United States after six years of development with Volkswagen AG. VW has created its own off-roader called Touareg on the same platform. Both the VW Touareg and most of the Cayenne are made in a VW factory in Bratislava, Slovakia. That plant ships the Cayenne, minus a powertrain, to a Porsche factory in Leipzig, Germany, where the engine, transmission and axles are installed.

Porsche engineers have loaded the Cayenne with dozens of new technical innovations that give the vehicle sports-carlike performance on the highway and rugged durability for off-road exploration. The Cayenne has the biggest V-8 engine Porsche has ever put in a vehicle. Cayenne also has the biggest brakes that Porsche has ever used. In addition, Porsche engineers have designed suspensions and stability-control features that ensure Cayenne stays upright even under the most extreme understeer and oversteer conditions.

Like other Porsche engines, those in the Cayenne use VarioCam technology. This optimizes performance and reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. The new naturally aspirated 4.5-liter V-8 produces 340-horsepower in the Cayenne S. The Cayenne Turbo engine cranks out 450-horsepower, just under 100 horsepower per liter.

Cayenne S has a top speed of 150 mph and the turbocharged model can reach 165 mph. The 4,949-pound Cayenne S accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds. An astonishing 5.6 seconds is all that it takes the turbocharged Cayenne, which is 200 pounds heavier, to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph. This performance is even faster than the Boxster S by one-tenth of a second.

Such speed requires strong brakes. The Cayenne has superb brakes. Both Cayenne models have a two-circuit system with separate brake circuits on each axle, standard ABS, and a vacuum brake servo. The front brakes have six-piston monobloc calipers with 13.78-inch inner-vented discs.

Rear brakes are four-piston monobloc calipers with 13-inch inner-vented brake discs with pad-wear sensors. The Cayenne Turbo has similar rear brakes, but its calipers are also titanium colored. Stopping during a test drive was smooth and effortless. The Cayenne stops more like a passenger car than most similar jumbo-sized SUVs.

A new six-speed Tiptronic S transmission is used in both Cayenne models. The transmission and engine are bolted together to form a single drive unit. Though the transmission is customized for the high torque and power level of the Turbo, Porsche says it is also ideal for the Cayenne S. A driver can access a wide range of gears by using the lever on the center console or pressing the thumb switches on the steering wheel to shift up or down.

One especially nice feature of the transmission is that the actual gear that’s selected is displayed on the instrument panel. Of course, the driver can override automatic mode by shifting the gears manually in much the same way that a Formula One driver does. When the driver deploys a manual gearshift, it remains activated for at least 8 seconds. However, this is extended when the car is in “overrun,” that is, when using engine braking on a downhill, or when downshifting before entering a curve.

What’s more, the transmission has a memory that learns the driver’s style of piloting the car in automatic mode. The transmission uses these data to instantly find the right gear for the vehicle, switching to the optimum point for any given driving situation.

While Porsche engineers have naturally given the Cayenne optimum sports-car driving features for the highway, they have not forgotten the rugged requirement for off-road travel. A large percentage of high-strength steel is used to make the Cayenne durable even after it takes a pounding on rocky trails or is driven over fallen tree trunks.

The high-end Cayenne Turbo also rockets into the price stratosphere for this class of vehicle. Its base price is about $90,000, but if you load it with options, the price can soar to six figures. The base Cayenne is $56,000.

Regardless of its lofty price, the innovative Cayenne further blurs the lines between car and truck, offering the best of both types of vehicle with panache and style.

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