Review and road test of the Porsche Cayenne (2002 - 2006)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
The Cayenne is the car that may have saved Porsche. With the Boxster growing old and sales of the 996-series 911 tailing off, the Weissach company needed a rapid injection of profitability and the Cayenne delivered. Designed to primarily appeal to the massive sports utility vehicle market in the US, the Cayenne is no great looker but it delivers a massive road presence, supreme badge equity and peerless engineering albeit at a price. Used examples are now filtering onto the market but residuals are holding up well.
(5 dr luxury 4x4 3.2, 4.5 petrol [V6, S, Turbo, Turbo S])
Although the Cayenne marked a radical departure for the Weissach company, it's not as if it's the first. The VW-engined 924 drew a barrage of flak from the Porsche purists, as did the wonderful 928 and the first water-cooled 911 models. Some of the complaints are understandable. After all, financial expediency brought us the less than stellar 924 and the Cayenne smacked of similar motivation. Like the 924, the Cayenne has been developed in partnership with Volkswagen to offset the cost of developing a new model. As a result, Volkswagen's Touareg 4x4 shares much of the underpinnings, but the styling has evolved independently, with only the doors and the windscreen being shared. At first only the 4.5-litre versions were offered, either in normally aspirated or turbocharged form, and it wasn't until January 2004 that the more affordable 3.2-litre V6 model was introduced to cater for those who didn't own a private oil well. A super subtle optional dechrome pack was offered in autumn 2004 tidying up some of the detailing around the bumpers and rear tailgate.
The Cayenne Turbo S was launched in January 2006 with a 512bhp output making it second only to the Carrera GT supercar in terms of horsepower in the Porsche range. The facelifted Cayenne arrived early in 2007. The entry-level 3.2 was uprated to 3.6-litres, the V8 S variant now offered 385bhp and the flagship Turbo offered 500bhp for those who could afford £75,000. A 405bhp GTS version of the V8 S was added to the range in early 2008.
What You Get
Porsche undertook a huge amount of off-road development at places like Moab, Utah, hot weather testing in Australia, cold weather trials in Canada and so on to ensure a rugged final item. Key rivals were benchmarked, Porsche aiming to improve on their off-road capabilities. Wheel articulation is enormous, there's a proper low-range gearbox and the air suspension can pump the Cayenne up to a lofty altitude, all boosting the Porsche's off-road credentials. With a maximum ground clearance of 273mm, the Cayenne can handle most obstacles. The optional off-road package allows the anti-roll bars to be decouple for another 60mm of ride height. Naturally, much of the Cayenne's off road ability is due to its rubberwear and you'll have to choose carefully in this respect, based on your likely intended blend of uses. Cars destined for regular off road work tend to come specified with chunky all terrain tyres, whilst those destined for mostly tarmac use will probably arrive on your driveway fitted with Pirelli P Zero Rosso rubber.
It's fair to say the styling has received a mixed reaction. Manifestly a Porsche from the front, the glasshouse looks somewhat 'shopping hatch' from the back whilst the bland rear is perhaps the Cayenne's least flattering angle. Oh well, function over form and all that. Porsche have thankfully resisted the temptation to attempt to cram seven seats into the Cayenne body and as a result the interior is pleasantly spacious with more luggage space than its direct rivals and plenty of leg and headroom for five passengers. The quality of fit and finish is superior to anything Porsche has produced to date, with a beautifully designed, if surprisingly conservative, fascia.
What to Look For
The Cayenne is, somewhat unsurprisingly, a seriously rugged piece of kit and owners have reportedly been very satisfied with the reliability and quality of the car. As with all 4x4s, check for damage caused by over enthusiastic off-roading, the alloy wheels being particularly vulnerable if fitted with road-biased low profile tyres. The differentials are very tough as are the engines. Check for kiddie damage in the back and check for panel fit and body alignment but otherwise it's tricky to get things badly wrong. Cayennes are quite colour sensitive and silver and black will be easier to shift than more lurid colours. Don't entertain buyers trying to reclaim the cost of expensive options fitted to the car.
(Estimated prices, based on a 2003 Cayenne S) You may need to have a cup of tea and a sit down should you break one of the Cayenne's xenon headlamps as a replacement is around £750. The conventional halogen unit is around £450. Front and rear exhaust boxes will be around £1,800 and a front brake disc will be a round £130. A starter motor retails at around £650.
On the Road
Four models are available to UK buyers, the entry-level 3.2-litre V6, the Cayenne S, the mighty Cayenne Turbo and the mightier Cayenne Turbo S. Although the V6 uses the familiar 3.2-litre engine used in the Volkswagen range, the other two versions both use an all-alloy 4.5-litre V8 engine developed in-house and, if you were about to ask, no, it isn't a rehashed version of the old 928 lump. The S ekes 335bhp out of this engine, using Porsche's VarioCam infinite intake system, but the twin-turbocharged Cayenne Turbo is the real headliner. With a massive 444bhp on tap, this is a car that will hit 60mph in 5.4 seconds and keep going until 165mph. What's more astonishing is its handling prowess. The Cayenne Turbo is slightly slower than a Boxster S to 100mph, yet in the hands of an experienced racing driver, both managed identical times around Germany's gruelling Nurburgring northern loop. Make of that what you will.
The Cayenne Turbo S develops 521bhp and can perform the 0-60mph sprint in 5.2s before hitting a 167mph top speed. Given the performance of the standard Turbo, we can probably assume that this model is faster round the Nurburgring than a Boxster S!
The steering is pleasantly quick witted, giving the driver the impression that the Cayenne is very light on its feet. This is helped by the air suspension which gives a well-damped feel and an almost roll-free cornering attitude. After even a short drive, it's apparent that a sports car developer has been at work on the Cayenne. Unlike its VW cousin, the Touareg, the Cayenne eschews a 50-50 split in drive between the front and rear axle in favour of a more sporting 32-68 ratio. Porsche's PSM stability control system is surprisingly lenient, allowing the impish driver to kick the tail end out a few degrees should they feel the need to showboat. This is a Porsche first and a 4x4 second.
If you've got the money and can live with the rather awkward styling, the Cayenne is an inspired choice. Yes, it is rather 'in your face' but so many of the qualities that have made Porsche pre-eminent in sports car manufacture have seeped into the Cayenne. It just feels a better engineered product than any of its direct rivals. There's something to be said for all three models but right now the first of the V8 S models looks to be the best used buy. Pick one in silver with black leather and it shouldn't cost a fortune in depreciation either.
Porsche Cayenne (2002 - 2006) review by ANDY ENRIGHT