If the Cayenne Turbo is the plutocrats Porsche, the V-6 Cayenne is the peoples Porsche. The Volksporsche? The just plain Cayenne (with a V-6 engine) costs half as much as the big momma Cayenne Turbo V-8. But to the untutored observer, the Cayenne Turbo is virtually indistinguishable from the base Cayenne. Yet were still talking genuine Porsche here. Cachet plus. Ride comfort will fall short of the expectations of persons who dont belong in a Porsche. MSRP: $41,100; Warranty: 4/50,000.
First Glance at the Porsche Cayenne
V-8 equipped Cayennes target the guy who may already have a Porsche 911 or equivalent in his garage but "needs" something bigger. The Cayenne S comes with a 340hp naturally aspirated V-8; the Cayenne Turbo comes with a monster 450hp turbocharged version of the same Porsche engineered and built 4.5L engine thats in the S. Both of these vehicles stretched the price envelope for family-type SUVs. The result was queues formed outside Porsche dealerships. Then with the Cayenne mystique (money, money) firmly planted in the popular mind and with waiting lists for V-8 models still forming, Porsches marketing guys figured what Americans would really go for now was a discount model. Hence the plain ol Cayenne, which comes with a V-6 lifted from Volkswagens AWD European-spec R32 (Golf) massaged to haul the 4,800 lb Cayenne. At just over 40 grand a pop, the V-6 Cayenne looks like a steal from where Im sitting. Its virtually indistinguishable from the Turbo model (not just in appearance but, besides the engine, also technically) and costs half as much. So, why buy the outrageous Turbo or, for that matter, the pricey Cayenne S? If its just to impress the unwashed, the V-6 Cayenne will do the trick just as well.
In the Cayenne Driver's Seat
The full power adjustment of the driver's seat and the front passenger seat offers occupants a commanding view of the road. The roomy 60/40 folding rear seats are slightly elevated to give rear passengers great all-round visibility. The exquisite leather covering all the seats, the thick steering wheel, the dash and the door panels has the visual perfection and tactile sensuousness one more expects to find in a luxury sedan than in a rugged, go-anywhere SUV. Which, let us not forget, every Cayenne whether V-6 or V-8, still is. The V-6 Cayenne comes with all the same technology as its more expensive siblings including the superbly engineered and exceptionally rugged unit-body platform, the permanent 4WD, stability control and huge 4-wheel disc brakes (but with black instead of red callipers). Sunroof, decent sound system, 18 alloys, climate control are optional and not really needed. Except for the alloys, of course. Theyre essential, as the standard 17 look plain geeky. While youll love the attention you get in this vehicle, you wont much like the about-town ride because youre going to get cuffed around a bit. Not so much that youll hurt, but enough so youll wonder whatever possessed you to trade in the Lexus.
On the Road in the Cayenne
Compared with the big V-8s in the Turbo and Cayenne S, the Cayennes 3.2L V-6 producing 247 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque can seem overwhelmed by the stocky Cayenne. Both V-8 Cayennes are very fast, very spirited automobiles with unexpectedly fine handling characteristics. The V-6 Cayenne has all the same handling characteristics but lacks the brute power of the V-8s. Unfortunately, its that brute power that makes the other two Cayennes so much fun for Americans. In order to get decent performance from the V-6, youll have to use the shifter. And use it a lot. The problem is nothing happens power-wise until revs hit 2500. Since the 6-speed Tipronic normally starts off in 2nd gear, 2500rpm can take quite a while to arrive. So if you want to keep up with the Honda Civic in the stoplight drags, youll need to manually move the Tiptronic into 1st gear. This drastically cuts the time required to get to the magic 2500rpm. And when that happens, you go. My test car had the 6-speed Tiptronic but the smartest thing would be the 6-speed manual. Then you control the rpm. Porsche claims 15/19mpg city/highway. Even with the efficient V-6, those numbers look suspiciously optimistic to me, given the perceptible drag from the permanent 4WD.
The Cayenne is Porsches money machine. The V-8 models have been putting a smile on dealers faces for the past two years. The V-6 Cayenne is poised to broaden that smile. Its been selling like crazy here in Canada. Besides the almost certain lousy real world mileage, the only negative about this vehicle is its harsh in-town ride, which it shares with just about every Porsche ever made. The best thing about it may be that its a Porsche. Which to most people seems to suggest large sums of unallocated capital. Im actually astonished by the number of acquaintances who asked me to take them for a spin. The V-6 comes with most of the V-8 Cayenne tricks excepting air suspension and V-8. Some other equipment standard on the V-8s is optional with the V-6, including sunroof, a decent sound system and climate control. But I can live without these if the price is right. Which, with the V-6 Cayenne it certainly is. A final reminder: you probably wont appreciate your V-6 Cayenne unless you are prepared to drive it aggressively, which means using the shifter. If youre not prepared to do that, youre far better off with the excellent, but still very expensive Cayenne S. Dont even consider the outrageously overpriced Turbo.