The ballooning global market for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and so-called crossovers or soft-roaders is becoming increasingly competitive as more and more manufacturers – now including most of the niche, premium brands – enter this market segment.
Porsche, which has built its reputation as a manufacturer of top quality sports cars since 1950, rocked the automotive establishment – including many ardent Porsche enthusiasts – when Ferry Porsche, son of the founder, announced, in 1989, that the company was going to develop an SUV.
The automotive world was rocked again in 2002 when Porsche unveiled the first generation of its Cayenne SUV and it proved to be a refined and very capable addition to the range of these fashionable, versatile models offered by established brands.
It was an instant, sure-fire, top seller for the company which many thought had taken a wild gamble in going up the SUV route.
This “toe-in-the water” model was followed by an even more successful second-generation iteration in 2010, which sold 500 000 units compared to 270 000 examples of the first generation.
Since the appearance of the Porsche Cayenne, other premium niche brands such as Lamborghini, Jaguar, and Bentley have all launched models into this space, which has long included BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, Range Rover, and Infiniti models.
Now Ferrari and Rolls Royce are also set to join the fray while Geely, the Chinese owner of the British sports car brand, Lotus, is even talking about a Lotus SUV!
The world of off-roaders is certainly no longer holy ground where the specialist car brands have no desire to tread!
Since its ground-breaking launch in 2002, the Cayenne has become a major contributor to global Porsche sales, together with its smaller Macan sibling.
Last year Porsche global sales reached a record total of 246 000 units (4% up on the 2016 figure), which is apparently seen as an optimum volume for the current model line-up so as to maintain the brand’s badge of exclusivity.
Porsche has now released the third series of its popular Cayenne large SUV.
A range of three petrol-engined models will only arrive in South Africa in June, but the good news is that the prices of the even more advanced and better equipped 2018 models remain very competitive.
The top model Cayenne Turbo will nudge over the R2m mark in a market where top-end derivatives in some of the opposition’s ranges are now into the R3m+ range.
Newcomers such as the Lamborghini Urus and RollsRoyce Cullinan will obviously be far higher priced.
Porsche is obviously jealously guarding its patch in the SUV segment in the face of the onslaught from its rivals in the premium, niche categories of the global passenger car market.
The company is, therefore, currently involved in rolling out media events for the latest Cayenne worldwide.
Citizen Motoring was represented at last week’s event for journalists from the Middle East and Africa in the UAE emirate of Fujairah and we were able to put the latest incarnation of the Cayenne through its paces on tar roads and off-road.
The latter section of the route involved traversing rocky tracks and washaways in Wadi Bih (Oman) and Wadi Wurayah (Fujairah) on our way to a lunch venue perched spectacularly on the edge of a soaring cliff above a crescent of sandy beach on the Gulf of Oman.
The scenery in this area, dominated by the towering Hajar mountain range of craggy cliffs ravaged by centuries of erosion by wind and water, is most imposing while also being desolate with the only inhabitants being the odd goat clambering over the rocks.
This was certainly not the type of terrain where one would have seen a Porsche before the turn of the century!
Speaking during the launch event, Deesch Papke, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa, said: “We have been waiting eagerly for the arrival of the new Cayenne and are proud to demonstrate how it performs in a variety of driving scenarios.
Its versatility is impressive and exemplifies Porsche’s ability to take an already successful sports car concept to even greater heights.”
These were true words as the group of journalists was able to experience the dynamics of two derivatives of the latest model, the base Cayenne, and the higher specification Cayenne S.
The fire-breathing, ultra-high-performance Turbo model was not yet available for evaluation.
The latest generation of the Cayenne – the third – is a further example of the way in which Porsche evolves its models rather than drastically redesigning them. The new model is unmistakenly a Cayenne.
The car is bigger and more spacious – including 100 litres more room in the luggage compartment – despite the styling being sleeker.
However, under the skin there are major technical changes as well as significant upgrades in terms of equipment levels for comfort, safety, and convenience.
The Porsche advance cockpit concept brings the new Cayenne and its occupants closer through increased connectivity as well as intuitive controls.
The centre console, with direct touch control and a new, 12.3-inch touch display for the Porsche communication management (PCM), act as the driver’s interface with all vehicle functions.
In terms of dynamics, there are five, pre-programmed drive and chassis modes which can be activated via the PCM in accordance with the terrain.
Besides the default onroad programme, drivers can choose between mud, gravel, sand and rock settings to adapt the car to the prevailing surface conditions.
Depending on the driver’s choice, the control unit selects the optimal settings for the engine and chassis systems, including the new tiptronic S 8-speed automatic transmission, as well as the Porsche traction management (PTM) all-wheel drive system and the stabilisation programme.
The third-generation Cayenne features a brand-new range of vee-engines, now with a central turbocharger layout, which made their debut in the latest Panamera.
The three-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in the standard Cayenne develops 250kW of power and 450N.m of torque.
The Cayenne S is powered by a bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine with an output of 324kW and 550N.m of torque.
The four-litre V8 petrol power unit of the Turbo model churns out 404kW of power and 770N.m of torque, which are all substantial improvements over their predecessors.
As one expects in a vehicle of the calibre of the latest Porsche Cayenne, the fit-and-finish and level of materials used in the trim are beyond reproach and exhibit beautiful craftmanship in a restrained cabin design.
As usual, there are a host of options on a long list which permits the potential buyer to specify the Cayenne to suit his or her personal taste, whether it is in terms of performance, safety, or appearance features.
These options do not come cheaply and can add substantially to the purchase price if you select top specification items.
The base third generation Cayenne will be priced at R1 131 000, which is 14% up on the outgoing version.
The Cayenne S rises 10% from R1 154 000 to R1 272 000 and the range-leading Turbo will cost 4.5% more at R2 064 000, compared to R1 975 000.