“More than ten years have passed since the first Sea to Sky highway Cayenne introduction and it is still the handling and performance mid-size champ…”
In 2003, Porsche Cars North America shipped a number of its shiny, new Cayenne SUVs from head office in Atlanta to drive the Sea to Sky highway here in B.C.
The day started with a long explanation as to why the famed sports car maker was getting into the SUV game. History often repeats and here again in 2014, Porsche shipped roughly fifty new Cayenne S and SE Hybrids to the same scenic highway.
This time around there was no explanation as to why this second-generation model exists: the Cayenne currently accounts for roughly fifty present of all Porsche sales.
When the second generation Cayenne came out in 2011 it was a departure from the previous model. As head of design for the current Cayenne, Ingo Scheinhuette, told me: “Even though the new model was larger than the original, many people thought it looked smaller.” In an effort to make the new 2015 facelift look more masculine, the goal was to make the Cayenne look more planted and wider. To do this, the entire front end, including the front bumper, grille, headlights, and front fenders have a more polished look. The daytime running lights have four LED marker lights that are also mimicked in the tail lamps, plus bi-xenon lamps are now standard. The front air intakes are wider and the hood looks more integrated into the design. Around the back, the rear window spoiler, hatch, bumper and exhaust tips are all new. The lights are more sculpted, the bumper has been raised and widened and the exhaust tips now pop through the lower valance. If the goal was to make the Cayenne more masculine, mission accomplished.
What hasn’t changed, thankfully, is the interior. Three minor changes include a three-point sports steering wheel as standard equipment across the entire Cayenne line that includes paddle shifters and heat. The other changes include standard navigation and a slightly more sculpted rear seat. The rest of the interior is pure automotive perfection. The level of fit and finish has yet to be surpassed in this class and the logical multi-button layout looks intimidating at first but is easy to master after a few days. What Porsche has done in the industry is move the needle on what is expected in premium products. In many ways, the competition looks frumpy and rather dated, even after four years on the market, the Cayenne is still fresh.
With pressure on automakers to improve fuel economy and lower their carbon footprint, this latest 2015 Cayenne receives two new S models. The base S used to be fitted with a V8 engine, now a smaller 3.6L V6 with two turbocharges helps to produce an extra 20hp but saves fuel. This is the same engine that is used in the smaller Porsche Macan Turbo. Accelerating up through the mountains was a snap but the sound from the engine and interior vibration isn’t as smooth as the old V8. The second new drive system is the plug-in SE-Hybrid that can run on pure electric power up to 30kms before the supercharged Audi-derived 3.0L gasoline V6 kicks in. This model can run on the 95hp electric motor alone, for greatest efficiency, or the electric motor can be used for additional punch for spirited moves. The combined output is 416hp and 435 lb.-ft. of torque. This is the very first plug-in hybrid in this class of vehicle. Last year the Porsche Panamera sedan came equipped with this system and accounted for roughly 11 percent of overall sales but that was a rear wheel drive only car, this Cayenne is all wheel drive, which should appeal to more buyers.
The greatest challenge for the SE-Hybrid is the already practical and thrifty diesel Cayenne that delivers nearly as much torque and fantastic economy. Nothing can compete with pure electric driving for carbon reduction but it comes at a cost. The SE-Hybrid starts at $86,800 and the Diesel starts at $71,330, which leaves a ton of extra cash left over for those costly Porsche options. The new turbo V6 equipped Cayenne S now starts at $83,700, which poses a problem for buyers of the $82,200 Macan Turbo. Both start at roughly the same price but the Cayenne comes with boatloads more interior space, 20 more horsepower and the same Porsche crest on the hood. The smart money is on the Cayenne over the rather cramped Macan, there is actually room for the family dog in the back.
More than ten years have passed since the first Sea to Sky highway Cayenne introduction and it is still the handling and performance mid-size champ. Now with more features, a sumptuous cabin and efficient power to spare.
Power: 3.6L turbo V6 with 420hp or 416hp hybrid.
Fill-up: Hybrid can run up to 30km on pure electric power.
Sticker price: $33,700-$86,800