Porsche can never sit still. Just when you think one of their models could not really be improved, they bring out a new version that you just know is better by the time you have driven a couple of miles.
For the 2015 model year, the second-generation Cayenne undergoes minor aesthetic and mechanical upgrades. As there was not much wrong with the car to start with, there are no earth shattering changes. But it looks crisper and is subtly better to drive.
The revised car receives a more streamlined nose with a new front bumper, wings, bonnet and lights. The main design lines now run outwards instead of towards the middle, giving a wider ad more purposeful look. All models now have bi-xenon headlights, and the Turbo comes with LED headlamps as standard, which include the Porsche Dynamic Light System and four-point LED daytime running lights.
At the rear, the styling refresh features new taillights with the distinctive four LED brake light pattern seen on other recent Porsche models. The new tailgate with flush roof spoiler integrates the licence plate recess and handle strip better, while the long, horizontal rear reflectors in the bumper also help to make the car look lower and wider. The exhaust outlets have also been redesigned.
In the cabin, the most radical change is the 918 Spyder-style three spoke multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters, first introduced to the mainstream Porsche range with the Macan, and the reshaped rear seat can now have the same cooling ventilation function as the fronts.
Other new features are the powered tailgate, tyre pressure monitor, and for cars with air suspension, a button in the luggage compartment that drops the vehicle 52mm (2.0 inches) when the tailgate is open. A new option is soft closing doors.
“With kerb weight the same for each updated model other than the new V6 bi-turbo-powered Cayenne S, and drag coefficient unchanged at 0.36, this facelift was aimed at improving overall efficiency in terms of power, fuel economy, emissions, and ride and handling,” explained chassis engineer, Matthias Mohr. “The floorpan is identical, but a lot of work was done to improve what we term functionality.”
“Our customers requested greater differentiation between the suspension’s Comfort and Sport modes, so we further improved the ride in Comfort mode and tightened up body movement in Sport mode, maximising the technical capabilities of the existing hardware.”
“The suspension arms and elastokinematics are the same, but the bushes, mounts and air suspension valves have been reworked to reduce friction and improve precision,” he explained.
“Our objectives were better handling, a smoother ride and lower NVH, for both air suspension and steel sprung versions. For the latter, the ZF Sachs electronically controlled hydraulic dampers have revised settings with the same improvement in mind.”
“Different people have different ideas of ride comfort,” Matthias continued. “At Porsche we believe that good ride comfort is fundamentally tied to good body control. This means good control over lateral stability, pitch and yaw.”
The electronically controlled system follows the Skyhook philosophy, looking at the position of the body and wheels, and applying the correct damper force for the exact amount of body control required.
The final ride and handling is down to calibration of the PASM electronic control unit, which makes thousands of calculations per second based on sensor inputs, comparing them to the system’s mapping and making adjustments accordingly. PASM is standard with air suspension on the Turbo and Turbo S, and an option on other models.
Entry-level models come with 18-inch wheels, while the Turbo sits on 8.5J x 19-inch wheels and 265/50ZR19 tyres. All models can have 20-inch and 21-inch wheels as an option.
My Turbo test car came on the very attractive 9.5J x 21-inch forged wheels, with Michelin and Yokohama supplying the Porsche specific 295/35ZR21 rubber. These Michelin Pilot Latitude Sport 3 high performance tyres were specifically designed for powerful, sporty SUVs like the Cayenne.
I expected such large wheels and low profile tyres to show up the worst of the roads on our test route around Barcelona, but the improved suspension set-up proved very civilised in its Comfort setting, and was still impressively supple in Sport mode.
Although you can feel that the ride is indeed slightly improved in Comfort mode, body control in bends is still excellent and most people may be happy to just leave the system in this setting in normal driving. Select Sport mode and everything tightens up, yet the secondary ride remains supple and absorbent. It is an impressive all-round performance.
When you start to push hard on a twisty road, the updated Cayenne chassis simply underlines Porsche’s undisputed mastery of the art of ride and handling. It is simply hard to believe that a car of this size and weight can handle this well yet still deliver a comfortable ride.
Its heft seems to shrink around you to the point where you soon forget about size and weight and simply revel in the lofty driving position and good visibility that helps you maximise the instant and substantial power and torque delivery of the turbocharged V8.
If I had to use one word to describe its chassis abilities, it would probably be “supernatural,” as Porsche comes closest to any SUV manufacturer in bending the laws of physics. No class rival even comes close. Period.
With an extra 20hp, the Turbo now delivers 520hp at 6,000rpm and the same whopping 750Nm of torque from 2,250-4,000rpm as before. Importantly, the 4,806cc twin-turbo V8 is as docile at one end of the scale as it is a serious weapon at the other.
The Turbo’s 4.4 sec 0-100km/h time in Sport Chrono Package form is so deep in junior supercar league territory that there is not much out there that can beat you away from the stoplights. Its 279km/h (173mph) top speed is equally impressive, and embarrassing for drivers of fast machinery on the autobahn.
Rico Fischer, an engineer from the motor department explained that a lot of work was done to reduce internal friction in the engines. “We use state-of-the-art coatings in the crankcase, on the new bearings and the valve buckets to lower frictional losses.”
The 420hp 3.6 litre bi-turbo V6 in the Cayenne S motor replaces the old 4.8 litre, naturally aspirated V8. It has 20hp more than the similar engine used in the Macan Turbo, with the same 550Nm of torque.
As before, diesel fans can choose the 262hp 3.0 V6 Diesel or its 385hp V8 brother. Both have undergone detail changes to optimise their efficiency and intake and exhaust notes.
All models benefit from updated gearbox control software aimed at improved shift times and smoothness, while engine ECUs have been optimised for improved power, torque, fuel economy and emissions.
Of course, not everyone wants to deal with the thirst for high octane unleaded that comes with Cayenne Turbo ownership. The more modestly priced alternatives are the V6-engined Cayenne S, and the adequately rapid and very economical 262hp 3.0 V6 Diesel.
The greenest alternative is the Cayenne S E-Hybrid, the plug-in Hybrid whose 3.0 litre V6 petrol motor now has an extra 17hp and 30Nm of torque thanks to a larger turbocharger. It ends up with the same 262hp and 580 Nm as the 3.0 litre Diesel. However, its extra weight and much higher purchase price are factors to be considered.
As with last year’s model, the pick of the bunch, the model that comes close to being all things to all men, and women, is the sensational Cayenne S Diesel that is not just brilliant on paper, but also heaps of fun to drive on a twisty road.
Given the slightly heavier motor up front, you go into a corner a bit slower then use the massive twisting force to hurl you out and down the following straight. And if you switch off the PSM, you can even exit bends with the 4WD system allowing progressive oversteer. As exploited by a good driver, this Cayenne is a real hoot to drive, and comes with an authentic, rumbling V8 soundtrack as standard.
With 385hp and a crazy 850Nm of torque from its 4,134cc twin-turbo diesel, this heavy oil burner blasts to 100km/h in 5.3 sec (0-60mph in 5.0 sec) and tops out at 252km/h (157mph). Those numbers are actually fractions better than a 911 Carrera 3.2 Club Sport!
The icing on the cake is a miserly average fuel consumption of 8.0L/100km, which equates to 29.4mpg (US), or 35.3 mpg Imperial. This car provides the best of both worlds for sure, and is the one that would easily win a long distance race against its Cayenne Turbo brother, purely on the time saved refuelling.
While the Turbo will always be the choice for owners who live where petrol is relatively cheap, like in the US and Middle East, for me the thumping V8 Diesel S is a most compelling argument wrapped in Cayenne shaped clothing.
The Cayenne is the most successful and profitable model in Porsche’s history, and the one that has contributed the most to the company’s continuously rising fortunes.
This bedrock of Porsche’s fortunes gives them the money to stay ahead of the game in four different segments of the sportscar arena, whilst allowing a Porsche enthusiast to stay with the marque when the family arrives.