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First Oz drive: Porsche's spicy new off-roader

Stove-hot: Cayenne, also a pepper with bite, meets the Aussie Outback.

Cayenne, the world's fastest SUV, is Porsche's first shot at the off-road market

20 Jun 2003

PORSCHE purists may cringe, but the world's fastest and most expensive off-roader has finally arrived Down Under.

Australians are among the last in the world to gain access to the sports car maker's hyper-SUV, but that won't stop Cayenne doubling Porsche sales volumes locally.

Such is the Aussie fascination with both the Porsche brand and off-roaders in general that the anticipated 100 per cent sales increase Cayenne will generate here should eclipse any other market - including the US where Cayenne is expected to grow Porsche sales by 60 per cent.

In a first for Porsche - which has typically represented a third car for many owners - Cayenne will be purchased as a first car for many and will shore up the company's long-term economy of scale by increasing global volumes to around 75,000 units.

To do so, Cayenne will directly target large luxury off-roaders like the popular BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-class, however Porsche admits it will remain an exclusive niche player in a large, mature market.

With an entry level pricetag of $136,500 for the Cayenne S, it's no wonder Porsche Cars Australia is banking on selling just 750 examples in the first 12 months. First Cayenne deliveries are expected to begin during the first week of July, before ramping up in August and September.

A six-speed manual version of the base Cayenne S - to join what is the world's first SUV with a six-speed automatic transmission - will become the new range opener at $129,500 next year, with a new entry level, sub-$100,000 Cayenne V6 likely to follow.

For now, however, the Cayenne S is expected to comprise around 75 per cent of sales, with the Cayenne Turbo flagship - with standard six-speed tiptronic transmission - attracting the other quarter of sales with a 911 coupe-beating price of $203,400.

Cayenne S is powered by an all-alloy 4.5-litre V8 with dry sump lubrication, double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder

We've covered Cayenne's major technical details previously, suffice to say that Porsche's first off-roader shares its car-like monocoque chassis with the soon-to-be-released Volkswagen Touareg, with which it also shares components like door panels and windscreen wiper motors.

A concept described as being halfway between Volvo's XC90 or the Audi Allroad and X5/ML, in reality Cayenne has a wheelbase similar to LandCruiser but is 100mm shorter overall.

Featuring a 911-style grille treatment, headlights and rear haunches, its low-slung five-door wagon bodyshell has an unimpressive aerodynamic drag figure of 0.39Cd and is said to have a glass-to-metal ratio similar to 911.

Claimed to match the best off-roaders and better any SUV on the road, Cayenne features fully independent suspension, low-range gearing and Porsche Traction Management, including stability control and a dynamic mechanical centre differential lock that distributes drive to the front or rear axles as required. Cayenne's torque split in normal conditions is biased to the rear at an X5-like 62 per cent.

Cayenne S is powered by an all-alloy 4.5-litre V8 with dry sump lubrication, double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder.

The oversquare engine uses VarioCam inlet cam timing adjustment, four oxygen sensors, 11.5:1 compression and eight individual ignition coils to produce 250kW at 6000rpm and 420Nm of torque from just 2500rpm on premium unleaded fuel.

Braking comprises six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers, alloy wheels measure 18 x 8.0-inch with 255/55-section Bridgestone tyres and both Cayennes get a 100-litre fuel tank, 825kg payload and best-in-class 3500kg towing capacity.

Despite a porky 2245kg kerb weight, Cayenne S completes the 0-100km/h dash in just 7.2 seconds, has a top speed of 242km/h and combined EU fuel economy figure of 14.9 litres per 100km.

Standard Cayenne S features include twin front, side thorax and full-length side curtain airbags, ABS, stability control, Porsche Traction Management, alarm, full leather upholstery, remote central locking, power windows/mirrors, power front seats, trip computer, four-zone automatic climate control and 10-speaker CD sound system.

Visually differentiated by larger front air inlets, a pair of bonnet flutes, body-coloured bumpers and quad exhaust outlets, the Cayenne Turbo flagship adds twin turbochargers, twin intercoolers and a lower 9.5:1 compression ratio to produce a whopping 331kW at the same 6000rpm and some 620Nm of torque at an even lower 2250rpm on PULP.

With the aid of a shorter final drive ratio (3.70 to 4.10 for the S), the 110kg heavier (2355kg) Cayenne Turbo blasts to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds and to a remarkable top speed of 266km/h. It does so with claimed 15.7L/100km combined fuel efficiency.

Significantly, in place of the Cayenne S's traditional dampers and coil springs, the Turbo comes standard with Porsche Active Suspension Management.

Comprising Range Rover-style air spring struts and integrated adjustable dampers, it allows Turbo drivers to select from six positions of ride height (from a low 157mm to a LandCruiser-beating 273mm) and from three damper settings (comfort, normal and sport).

PASM includes an air outlet for pumping up tyres, air mattresses and the like, and is optional on Cayenne S, which has 217mm of ground clearance, at about $7000. Turbo also adds a leather wrapped instrument binnacle, Bi-Xenon headlights with dynamic side lights that illuminate during cornering, multi-function 6.5-inch TFT screen and a multi-function steering wheel.

Significantly for serious off-road enthusiasts, in about six months Porsche will offer an off-road pack comprising a rear differential lock, larger radiator, sump guard and a tailgate-mounted full-size spare wheel carrier in addition to the standard space-saver.

Not surprisingly, there are a host of other optional Cayenne extras - even for the Turbo flagship - including parking sensors, power steering wheel adjustment, heated rear seats, "comfort" front seats (comprising memory and heating), Porsche Entry & Drive (which enables full key functions without using the key), sunblinds, a tyre pressure monitor and 19 and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Cayenne S manual (2004) $129,500
Cayenne S tiptronic $136,500
Cayenne Turbo tiptronic $203,400


PORSCHE has targeted no mean feat in attempting to create a whole new echelon of SUV performance for the bitumen while at the same time matching established off-road leaders like LandCruiser and Range Rover away from the blacktop.

A testing two-day trek through the rugged Flinders Ranges - including both high-speed bitumen and gravel, as well as some reasonably challenging trails - is not enough to conclude it has succeeded at both ends of this considerable spectrum.

But it is clear Porsche has produced a seriously capable off-road device that happens to be the quickest, fastest and most sporting SUV yet seen.

While it took a platform-sharing deal with Volkswagen - which will offer perhaps the biggest challenge to Cayenne in the shape of its forthcoming, cut-price Touareg - to bring it to reality, it is both commendable and crucial that, at this price, Cayenne retains the traditional Porsche hallmarks of solidity, balance, poise and performance.

The overgrown 911 styling is far less curious in the metal and on the road Cayenne takes on a tough, unique stance that is clearly recognisable as a Porsche yet different enough to invite double-takes from onlookers.

Similarly, the interior carries many Porsche design cues - such as the stylish, overlapping dials in the instruments cluster - and although there are many nice touches such as the Turbo's stitched leather dash material, the Cayenne cabin is classy but no more upmarket than, say, BMW's X5.

Nor was Cayenne without its foibles during the local media launch. The optional parking sensors on two examples continued to malfunction, a rear-vision mirror detached from another's windscreen and the centre diff lock "overloaded" on a third vehicle during a steep downhill section.

A hard thump against a Spinifex clump during sand dune work also split one car's lower radiator, requiring a hasty dash to a remote repairer and revealing a soft spot in between Cayenne's impressive approach and departure angles.

Just as the forthcoming optional off-road pack's sump guard should rectify this for serious off-roaders, so too should its full-size spare wheel increase the standard, space-saver equipped vehicle's ability to venture off-road.

These glitches are all the more remarkable given Australia played a part in the development of Cayenne - particularly its hot, wet and humidity testing, as well as dust sealing, which proved outstanding even in the particularly dusty Flinders Ranges.

Moreover, they failed to take the shine off what is an extremely accomplished vehicle both on-road and off.

The Turbo offers a whole new level of performance over anything else, including the Cayenne S

In base Cayenne S form, the sweet and lusty V8 delivers seamless power right across its 6400rpm rev range and works well with the highly adaptive six-speed tiptronic transmission to provide effortless overtaking acceleration or steep hill crawling ability.

Perfectly matched to its equally sweet chassis, the engine makes the most of the driveline's rearward torque bias, giving Cayenne a distinctly sporting character.

Well-weighted steering and a refreshingly flat stance with amazingly little bodyroll makes Cayenne both predictable in sticky situations and a delight to drive on the throttle at speed. Never has such a large, heavy wagon felt so agile and confidence inspiring, both on sealed and loose surfaces.

Meantime, the Turbo offers a whole new level of performance over anything else, including the Cayenne S. Delivering devastatingly quick acceleration and a deceptively muscular wall of torque at just about any revs, the Turbo remains composed and equal to the handling task despite its considerable extra urge.

The Turbo's air suspension also increases its rock-hopping credentials substantially, its LandCruiser-beating ground clearance and dynamic centre diff lock making light work of the relatively challenging Ridge Tops trail to Sillers lookout near Arkaroola.

More serious off-road tyres, the off-road pack's extra underbody protection and rear diff lock will only improve the Turbo's adventurousness. The adjustable damping (also optional on Cayenne S) offers a noticeable difference in ride comfort, although even the softest setting felt a little on the firm side on the rough roads we encountered.

At around $130,000, Cayenne S lacks the air suspension of the similarly priced Range Rover and falls somewhere between BMW's 4.4 and 4.6is V8 models. As such, customers must pay a big premium for the Porsche badge, especially given items like a multi-function steering wheel and parking sensors cost extra.

Naturally, that goes for the $200,000-plus Turbo too. But if you are in the market for the planet's quickest, best handling SUV that also offers the widest breadth of on and off-road performance, look no further than the Cayenne Turbo.

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