Porsche purists may be dismayed by the high-priced Teutonic sports car maker’s decision to join the SUV wars, but the Cayenne — named for one of the very hottest red peppers — delivers the goods on-road and off. Available in 340-hp S and 450-hp Turbo variations, it’s a technology showcase that should enhance both the marque’s market reach and its reputation for uncompromised performance.
Cayenne shares a platform with VW’s new Touareg SUV but boasts a recognizable Porsche face, a new 4.5-L 32-valve VarioCam V-8 engine and true Porsche design and development throughout. In naturally-aspirated S form (starting at $55,900), it sprints from zero to 60 mph in seven seconds. Twin-turbocharged (at a breathtaking $88,900), it’s a full second-and-a-half quicker. A self-leveling air suspension with variable damping — called Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) — and a menu of six different ride heights is standard on the Turbo, optional on the S.
Porsche Traction Management (PTM), billed as “a new generation in four-wheel drive,” normally feeds 62 percent of engine power to the rear wheels and 38 percent to the front.
Through a multiple-plate clutch, it can vary that split reacting to conditions and driver demand up to 100 percent front or rear. The map-controlled front-to-rear lock and optional rear axle differential lock respond to reduced traction at any wheel and to factors such as vehicle speed, lateral acceleration, steering wheel angle and operation of the gas pedal to determine optimum lock at both axles and distribute power as required.
Porsche Stability Management (PSM) communicates constantly with PTM but intervenes only when the vehicle reaches its limits. Coordinating ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), ASR (Automatic Slip Regulation) and ABD (Automatic Brake Differential), PSM cuts in immediately under critical over- or understeer conditions, commands PTM to open the locks and restabilizes the vehicle by applying brakes on individual wheels.
Activating a low-range mode with a console toggle switch, the driver can automatically prepare several control systems for off-pavement driving. PTM switches to a 2.7:1 reduced-ratio gearbox and a special off-pavement control map activating the differential locks. PSM responds by setting ABS and ABD to a special all-terrain traction mode, and the available air suspension automatically lifts the vehicle to its off-pavement level. Porsche says it’s the first carmaker to offer this combination of systems controlled by one central switch.
A six-speed Tiptronic S manu-matic transmission enables the driver to shift manually by tipping the shifter or pressing steering wheel thumb switches. Porsche Communication Management (PCM) uses light wave conductors to exchange multimedia data at the speed of light.
What We Think
We’re unsure that many off-roaders will pony up $60,000 to 90,000 for what may be the world’s most technically sophisticated SUV, and we doubt that many would seriously use it off road. But the Cayenne is safe and highly satisfying in any weather and, unlike any other Porsche to date, it will carry family and friends and a fair amount of stuff. We applaud Porsche for having the guts to do it, despite howls from purists, and for doing it exceedingly well.
|2003 Porsche Cayenne|
What is it? An AWD, 340 hp (450 hp turbocharged) V-8-powered premium crossover SUV.
Who’s it for? A Porsche lover who isn’t afraid to make a bold statement.
Where’s it built? Leipzig, Germany
Competitors: Acura MDX, BMW X5, Infinity FX45
Something very unusual for a Porsche