Sometimes, it takes something new and even a bit shocking to shake up the status quo and set new benchmarks. Porsche has been doing that throughout its 60-year history, perhaps never so shockingly than with the Cayenne. The 2009 models turned up the voltage.
With the Cayenne, Porsche did nothing less than redefine the meaning of “sport” in “sport utility vehicle.” Hyperbole? Not when you consider that “sport” in “sport utility vehicle” started out meaning things like fishing and hunting in your Willys Jeep or perhaps an International Scout. For outdoorsmen (and women), getting to the sport was the whole point – the vehicle was just the tool.
The term “sport utility” stuck, even as most really became family wagons. When Porsche found that many of its sportscar owners were driving SUVs as daily drivers and family haulers, its engineers wondered, “What would a Porsche SUV have to be like to remain a true Porsche?”
The question was the answer. A true Porsche SUV would have to be a stunning performer, but with the capability that Porsche owners were demanding from their other-brand SUVs. Meanwhile, some brands were installing big engines and tires on their SUVs and calling them “performance.” Those efforts, however, did not impress Porsche owners who could see through the “performance” veneers to the lackluster SUVs beneath.
When the Cayenne arrived, it blew away those “performance” SUVs, and it blew away perceptions of what a real sport utility should be. From then on, “sport” meant a true driver’s machine on the road, where the Cayenne easily outshone other luxury brand SUVs.
The big surprise was that, with the Cayenne, “sport” could still mean the great outdoors. That’s because Porsche felt an SUV bearing its name should do everything a full-capability SUV might be expected to do – including off-road driving, towing and carrying lots of gear. Cayenne does it with Porsche Traction Management (PTM) all-wheel drive, up to 10.7 inches of ground clearance with air suspension and a 19.7-inch fording depth.
Porsche even established racing cred for the Cayenne by winning one of the world’s most grueling races, the Transsyberia Rally, in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Running 4,500 miles from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, was no place for wannabes. Racers, for example, crossed many rivers by driving through them, not over bridges.
You don’t have to explore the Asian hinterlands to appreciate the Cayenne. The 2009 models are the most powerful and best equipped yet, from the 290-hp Cayenne to the 550-hp Cayenne Turbo S. The Cayenne (MSRP $45,000) tames the road or trail with a 290-hp 3.6-liter V6 and can be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed Tiptronic automatic. The Cayenne S (MSRP $60,000) features the 385-hp version of the Porsche 4.8-liter V8. All Porsche Cayenne engines employ direct fuel injection, which helps to increase power while reducing fuel consumption.
A 405-hp version of the V8, lowered air suspension and 21-inch wheels and tires focuses the “sport” in the Cayenne GTS ($71,600) to on-road adventures. Commemorating its Transsyberia Rally victories, Porsche offered 600 examples of the 2009 Cayenne S Transsyberia ($70,800), based on the Cayenne GTS and featuring paint schemes inspired by the race vehicles.
The Cayenne Turbo ($98,700) is entering serious sportscar territory with its 500-hp twin-turbo V8. However, no sportscar will carry five in such luxury. The Cayenne Turbo gets to 60 mph in under five seconds and, on the track, tops out at 171 mph. With Porsche, there always seems to be another level above “top.” In this case, that’s the Cayenne Turbo S ($124,800) that can bolt from zero-to-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Its special version of the 4.8-liter twin-turbo V8 produces a monstrous 550 hp and 553 lb/ft of torque.
Don’t think for a second that the Cayenne is only about straight-line speed. The Cayenne Turbo S comes with Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC) as standard equipment, and PDCC is available for other trims. PDCC actively controls body lean in curves for improved response, agility and increased passenger comfort. For 2009, the Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) system is optionally available on all V8-powered Cayenne models when equipped with 20- or 21-inch wheels.
If you’ve not yet driven a Cayenne, come in and we’ll show you how Porsche defines the “sport” in SUV.