New Cayenne honours long-standing competitive heritage
Even in entry-level guise, this Porsche SUV stirs more than an inkling of enthusiasm from the driver
Many Porsche pundits might begrudgingly agree that the 1996 Boxster saved the brand. Just ignore those mean-spirited quips related to hair-salon ownership.
The two-seater, with its engine in the middle, posed a more accessible entry into the marque - and there were many takers.
Another bottom-line boosting masterstroke was the birth of the Cayenne - though it may not have seemed like such a shrewd move at the time. It was 2002 and the sport-utility vehicle genre had yet to become what it is now, with a range of options for almost every price.
As we know, their foresight paid off even though that first-generation model was not the prettiest thing. The Cayenne is a sales mainstay for the company, ranking a spot behind the smaller Macan, which occupied best-seller status in 2018.
Discuss such matters with those who fancy themselves as ardent purists and they are likely to share the following consolation …
Porsche needs mass-market machines in order to generate the capital to keep building the traditional sporting wares. It's a myopic view, no doubt, because like any sustainable enterprise, Porsche will invest in expansion rather than pandering to a waning niche of customers who want manual transmissions and normally aspirated engines. Just Google the all-electric Taycan if you want a glimpse of the future.
But back to the present. We spent five days with the third-generation Cayenne, which led to serious musing about what makes consumers in this category spend their money elsewhere. It is quite good. Our test car was the basic specification model, sitting below the S, E-Hybrid and Turbo models on the hierarchy. It starts at R1,192,000.
Among the included essentials is a 30cm high-definition Porsche Communication Management (PCM) interface. Owners will find that the centre console is mostly free of buttons in the expected sense - these have been relegated to the outgoing decade.
Instead, you get a panel with a cast-in-glass look that gives haptic feedback when a finger touches the selected function. Though some conventional switchgear remains, like the climate control temperature and fan speed rockers, plus a rotary dial for the manual interaction with the screen, as well as a thumbwheel for the audio volume. They all function with satisfying clicks and the millimetric resistance one expects from a Porsche.
Obviously, there is an options list. Notable add-ons were 20" wheels (R28,200) over the standard 19-inch rollers, soft closing doors (R12,720) and a parking assistant with a surround-view camera (R25,650). Shoppers will decide whether to show madness or moderation in their building exercise.
The drive affirms that Porsche truly honoured the mandate of its long-standing competitive heritage, despite the inherent compromises associated with this body format. Even in entry-level guise, the Cayenne stirs more than an inkling of enthusiasm from the driver.
The sound of its 2,995cc, six-cylinder, turbocharged engine is decidedly characterful. With a claimed sprint time of 6.2 seconds (5.9 with the Sport Chrono package), it is brisk enough. But what truly inspired during this evaluation was its composure and ability to change direction with nimbleness that belies its 2,060kg quoted weight and 190mm ground clearance.
There's not much to be said in terms of looks, we suppose, other than it follows the typical Porsche styling philosophy of deploying incremental, evolutionary changes with succeeding models.
Generally, commentators appreciated the tastefulness of a Porsche in such a modest form — so powerful is the weight of that famed golden crest. But if you prefer a livelier aesthetic in your driveway, remember that the Cayenne coupé is on the way.