I never liked the Porsche Cayenne. When the Macan came out, I thought that it was how the Cayenne should’ve looked like in the first place.
I recently saw one of the early models parked in the basement of the Shangri-La Fort, and I couldn’t believe how badly it had aged. It look hooked on meth. It was never handsome to begin with, and it does resemble an early Cayman with elephantiasis. I mean, who designed it, Stevie Wonder? It’s decent from the rear, but from the front, it looks like the village idiot. Trying to fit all the angles of a 911 into the proportions of an SUV is as good an idea as railing a line of Pablo Escobar’s finest at 4:45 in the morning, because you know, the sun isn’t up yet.
And then the second generation Cayenne came, although less stupid-looking, it came with a lot less presence. That’s partly because after the first Cayenne came out, every single manufacturer decided that what the world needed were more leather-lined SUVs equipped with engines from sports cars. This is probably why BMW were so hell-bent on putting an M badge on the X5 before it even reached their 7 Series. There still isn’t a full-blown M7. This new Cayenne is a far cry from its predecessor, and I haven’t salivated on this type of a vehicle since the BMW F15 X5 M Sport.
I have leaned heavily on the Macan as the SUV from Porsche that I would pick. Apart from the way it looks, which I think is decent, it also came with the best dual-clutch transmission in the world — the PDK. The unavailability of the PDK in the Cayenne was always the thorn stuck on its throat. By this time, Porsche had become synonymous with lightning quick upshifts and ultra crisp downshifts, none of which were available in the Cayenne. They say that the main reason they can’t put a PDK on a Cayenne is because many of its owners actually pull boats and jet skis with it, and a dual clutch setup simply cannot handle the load.
So whatever then. It’s a good enough reason to turn my back on it other than the fact that it looks pretty appalling at best. Now there’s an all-new Cayenne. Although the transformation isn’t as profound as the Panamera’s evolution from Manang Felicia to Emma Watson, this is a welcome effort from Porsche. The sporty proportions and wide stance look encouraging. It seems that this time around they’ve tried building a Cayenne instead of a 911 on stilts. What they’ve come up with a design that’s completely modern Porsche up front and a little Mitsubishi Space Wagon at the rear. You can’t have it all, but it’s the prettiest one yet.
The one thing that surprised me the most is that PGA Cars, the sole distributor of Porsche in the Philippines, handed me the keys to a base model equipped with a V6 gasoline engine. What happened to the diesel? It turns out, Porsche has completely halted the production of its oil-burners and are now fully petrol. If you want the most economical variant, you ought to go with a hybrid. Hard pass. I don’t like electricity and I hate Meralco. I did my rounds on the car and came to the conclusion that the base model, doesn’t look very base at all.
It actually looks like a mid-spec variant, which is a mega plus for their product planner and product strategy. At the end of the day, this is the model that we’ll see most of on our roads, and it would have been disastrous for the brand if they looked watered down. You want the kid sitting at the back seat of his dad’s Isuzu mu-X to aspire for a Cayenne. Unfortunately, most luxury base models we see on our roads are street whores tipped with a Gucci bag from a generous politician, but this isn’t one of them. The Porsche crest doesn’t mess about. Even the wheels are decent.
As soon as I stepped inside, I was impressed — but not at all surprised by the quality of the interior. Porsche never gets the build quality wrong. They just simply never put a foot wrong in fit and finish. The driving position — as good as it will ever get in an SUV. The traditional five dial setup has been digitalized, with only the tachometer at dead center left completely analogue — a nod to its motorsport roots. The infotainment screen is as endless as her legs. It goes on for miles. The quality and crispness of the display are second to none. This is one of the most impressive screens I’ve seen in any car, but I will admit that it isn’t the most intuitive — even if you’re allowed to customize it a hundred ways.
There’s too much information that’s buried deep in the bowels of the system, and it has no haptic feedback. There are, however, shortcut buttons on the center stack that do. I love how the touchscreen “buttons” are flushed in a sea of black elegance, only to realize that over time all the finger marks are bound to drive me insane. Except, I won’t really reach that point, because I’ll probably be dead after I fiddle with the settings on the highway. You see, the lack of physical buttons makes it very difficult to press the right thing without taking your eyes off the road. Actually, it’s quite impossible. It won’t take long before you turn it into sliced Schublig.
The one stand out character that I hardly mention when I test these cars is the rear legroom. It is massive on this one. I’ve no idea where the space is from, but there’s a lot of it. Actually, not just legroom. Space in general is very generous inside the Cayenne. I also love the Bose audio setup. Usually, I find Bose to be a bit meh in most cars, but they’ve built a very decent system for this Porsche. Of course, if you have spare cash to blow, there’s a ridiculous Burmester system available, but then again, if you had the dough — you’d find yourself in a Cayenne Turbo.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this turbocharged V6 engine. It was always bound to be good, as Porsche never really fails in this department — but I was thinking that the diesel Q7 would annihilate it on the road. I was wrong. As always, I was completely and utterly wrong. This engine pumps out 335 horsepower, which is a lot from a base model. It may not have the low end grunt of a fast diesel powerplant, but step on it a little bit more and you’ll blow the doors off the next idiot that races you — and you’ll have his girlfriend too.
More butterflies in more stomachs.
More impressive than the engine is the air suspension, which I feel most buyers in this country will really appreciate. You can adjust the ride height based on your preference, and there’s even an off-road mode if that’s your thing. It doesn’t offer a desensitized ride on a cloud like the Q7 does, but it absorbs a lot of the nasty bumps that smoothens out the road without making you ever feel disconnected from the car. It’s a fine line that Porsche has perfected. It’s a lovely SUV to drive on long winding roads, especially when you press that ‘Sport’ button. When you do, the usual things happen like increased throttle response, stiffer dampers and what not — but the biggest standout is how the Cayenne shrinks and attacks bends that are as tight as prom night.
No matter how late or how hard you chuck it into a corner, this SUV from Stuttgart manages to dance gracefully around the bend like a gliding ballerina. It stays balanced and neutral, where most cars would tumble off the ditch. The Cayenne seems to tick all the right boxes. It looks good (relatively), you can drive it or be driven in it (why would you that), you can do Manila to Baguio at 250 km/h in absolute comfort all day long (don’t do it), and even in this base V6 form, it makes a very strong case for itself as an ideal one-car dream garage — because truth be told this feels anything but entry-level. It is easily the most well-rounded and best built in its class. This is the Cayenne that Porsche always dreamt of building, except now — they have.